EDMONTON - The trouble with being general manager of Team Canada at the world hockey championships is quite often you have to make about 85 phone calls, as one previous person in the position claimed he did a decade ago, to find 20 skaters and three goalies to go.
Nagging injuries. Personal reasons.
Sorry. Can’t. No.
After Canada was ousted in the quarter-final last year, Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson lambasted an unnamed group of key players who he felt were no-shows for no good reason.
The move of Hockey Canada to give Steve Yzerman a chance to go for gold again in Sochi in 2014 and put his management team together to direct the two world championships prior to the Olympics, appears to be working to cure the problem.
Kevin Lowe says when he starts making the phone calls this weekend, he’s not expecting to hear no very often.
“We haven’t called and asked anybody yet, but reading the tea leaves, I think there are a whole whack of guys who want to go,” said the Team Canada GM to the 2012 IIHF World Championships in Helsinki and Stockholm.
“It looks like a lot of good players want to be part of it, a lot of great young players and even some older guys who want to be part of the run-up to 2014,” he said — players want to use the event on the bigger ice to audition for the Olympic team.
Lowe said a big part of the positive response — which is assumed to include Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Devan Dubnyk from his Edmonton Oilers — is because of Yzerman’s decision to put the management group for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics together now.
Lowe, the only member of the Olympic management group who has been a staple since the 2002 Olympic gold in Salt Lake, said word has been out to players that Canada, through disappointing performances at the last two world championships, has slipped to fourth in the world behind Russia, Finland and Sweden, and that affects which pool you end up in, practice times, dressing rooms, etc. at the Olympics.
“We’ve definitely been reaching out to them. We need a much better position for the placings going into Sochi.”
It was suggested to Lowe there are players who think there might not be an NHL season next year, due to the possibility of a work stoppage, and want in this year because they might not be playing hockey for a while.
“Well, if that’s the case, maybe they know something we don’t know,” said Lowe adding that neither management or players know if NHL players will actually be going to the Olympics until there’s a new CBA, either.
The management group — which includes Peter Chiarelli and Dave Nonis, who are aiding Lowe on the 2012 project, as well as Yzerman, Ken Holland and Doug Armstrong — had the first of their every-48-hours conference calls Monday and will be having the second Wednesday.
“Until this point we’ve been getting a bit of a temperature of who we’re going to ask and who we’re likely to have available,” Lowe said of the list, which already includes Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, who went on record in Anaheim saying they both want to be part of it this year.
Steven Stamkos, Eric Stall, John Taveres and last year’s captain, Rick Nash, would all be obvious invitees.
While it may be assumed Montreal goaltender Carey Price would be off the list due to a concussion that has him out until the end of the schedule, Lowe said Team Canada has been informed he might be cleared for consideration.
“We’re told he considers playing for this team this year to be important,” said Lowe.
Dubnyk, who has been No. 3 at the last two Worlds, is definitely in for consideration for the top-two goaltender tandem, suggested Lowe.
“Devan’s play the last few weeks has definitely escalated him up the charts. He’s now played himself into that mix.”
With 11 teams already eliminated, the management team will begin to put together The List today.
“We basically do it in terms of depth charts. We list what we’ll categorize as ‘A’ players, ‘B’ players and ‘C’ players. We’re going to stick to Yzerman’s format from the Vancouver Olympics and not look for fourth-line players but take our best available players made up of guys who are willing to play fourth-line minutes and roles.”
The first call will be to the GM of the club team. Then to the player himself.
“There are plenty of good coaches available,” said Lowe, the first-time Team Canada GM who, along with the management group, was possibly waiting to find out if somebody like Buffalo Sabres coach Lindy Ruff, who coached the team to the most recent medal — silver in 2009 — was in or out of the playoffs.
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