(CP PHOTO/Frank Gunn)
On Wednesday we will learn the identities of the 23 players who will
represent Canada at the Winter Olympics in Turin and I have to admit that
Wayne Gretzky and his assistants have to make some very difficult decisions...
One thing is certain - no matter who gets chosen, there will be second
guessing. Critics will point to the statistics and wonder why one player got
the nod over an another. Itís inevitable.
What about Rick Nash, whoís been injured this season? You know what he
brings to a team when heís healthy.
It will be a tough call on the three goalies. Marty Turco and Curtis Joseph
are both playing well.
Turco participated in the last world championship as an auxiliary goalie and
got his foot in the door. Gretzky has had the opportunity to coach Joseph
and knows his capabilities well.
Canada is the envy of the hockey world because of its depth. We have a
surplus of good players. For Gretzky, selecting a team becomes a real puzzle
to find the right combination of 23 players.
I think that itís important to explain that in order to succeed in a
tournament of this scale, itís necessary to form the best possible team. You
canít limit yourself to the players who happen to have the best statistics
at the time of the selection.
Naturally there are several young Canadian players who have been standouts
at this point in the NHL season. But if we want to win the gold medal, itís
smart to go with experience, the players who have been there.
The pressure at this level is extraordinary, every game is big. The stars
who have worn the maple leaf during the last Olympics, the World Cup or the
world championship know what awaits them.
I have nothing against the good, young rising stars who are making a mark
for themselves this season, including Sidney Crosby, Jason Spezza and Eric
Staal. I doubt, however, that they will be all there in Turin.
We won at Salt Lake City's Olympic Games as well as the World Cup with a
solid group of players and I expect that a good part of that team will
It is important that we have a balanced squad, youth blending with
experience, and Iím relying on Gretzky's judgment and of all those working
If I can deliver a message to the players who wonít be chosen, it would be
not to lose hope because injuries can result in opportunities.
The brain trust of Team Canada has been forced to name its team before
Christmas - which is too early for my liking - putting the team in a bizarre
situation because a lot can happen between now and February 12.
The chances that selected players will suffer injuries in the next weeks are
very high. Look no further than the case of Simon Gagnť, who is currently
dealing with a groin injury.