Those not making trip won't be missed

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:49 AM ET

No Mario Lemieux. No Steve Yzerman. No Jarome Iginla. You can add a few more names to the list if you want.

But the attitude of the people who are running Team Canada for the coming world championship is that they don't want to talk about the guys who aren't coming.

SENSIBLE

At a news conference yesterday, general manager Steve Tambellini and coach Marc Habscheid were happy to discuss the team that is, not the team that might have been.

It is a sensible approach, but they might have made their point a bit more forcibly because there is a perception that because of the defections, this Team Canada is somehow worse off than its predecessors.

But the fact is no fewer than 15 of the players on the 2005 roster were also on the roster for the World Cup 2004 version of Team Canada, perhaps the best team ever.

But that team had only 10 holdovers from the 2002 Team Canada that won the gold medal at the Salt Lake City Olympics. The turnover this time is no worse than usual.

In fact, it might be better.

In Canada, we are blessed with so many world-class hockey players we don't need to bring back the same ones time after time to have a chance of winning.

Certainly people such as Lemieux, Yzerman and Iginla would have been welcomed, but the first two probably will not take part in next February's Olympics in Italy whether they went to Austria or not.

As a result, their absence may be a blessing.

Canada can pass the torch in a gradual fashion, making sure the country stays at the pinnacle of hockey supremacy, rather than having to undergo the kind of full-scale retooling the Americans have found necessary.

Many of the American stars -- Chris Chelios, Brett Hull, Tony Amonte, Mike Richter, John LeClair and others -- got old together.

The Americans are now frantically trying to put together a team of relative neophytes in the hope that the international experience in Austria will stand them in good stead for Italy.

Canada, on the other hand, announced a team yesterday that has some new faces but no real weaknesses.

Young Rick Nash is in, but he certainly is no liability. He tied for the National Hockey League goal-scoring lead last year.

And Mike Fisher has long been an underrated player who has the kind of tenacity and intensity to make opposing forwards dread playing against him.

On defence, Canada added Sheldon Souray and Dan Boyle. Souray is one of those players who just keeps growing in stature and has played all season in Europe.

If you watched the past Stanley Cup playoffs, you had to be impressed by Boyle, one of the best two-way defencemen in the game.

Marty Turco has replaced Jose Theodore as the third goaltender, but that's hardly a problem. Turco probably won't see any action, but even if he does he's an excellent choice. Like starter Martin Brodeur, he is an excellent skater and stick-handler, always an attribute on the larger international ice.

Habscheid likes his teams to play an up-tempo, high-pressure game, the same kind that helped the Tampa Bay Lightning have so much success at this time last year.

He's not afraid to apply forechecking pressure and that often creates the kind of game that is both fast and entertaining.

Canada's biggest drawback is the fact that most of the competition will have been playing all season, whereas many of the Canadian players have been out of action.

But these days, hockey players never get very far out of shape, and with a training camp followed by four exhibition games, they should be ready by the time the tournament opens.

This is a quality team, and if it plays up to its ability, the fact that certain players aren't a part of it will soon be all but forgotten.


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