Yzerman's job isn't easy

By STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA


Next week's Team Canada orientation camp at the Saddledome won't shed much light into Steve Yzerman picks for the Olympics. (Sun Media/Tony Caldwell)



CALGARY -- You don't have to major in history to learn from it.

Picking Team Canada for the 2010 Vancouver Games, Steve Yzerman and his staff have their work cut out for them.

But next week's orientation camp at the Saddledome won't shed much light on the situation. They can take more from the disappointing showing in Italy in 2006, and even a few lessons from Nagano in 1998 to give Canada another shot at the gold they won in Salt Lake in 2002.

Injecting some youth into the equation is a good start, but let's avoid one-dimensional additions.

Bryan McCabe may be an NHL powerplay specialist, but pitting him against the crafty Europeans in Torino, Italy, was a bad idea as a replacement for one of the best two-way defenders in the game in Scott Niedermayer -- who had to pull out with an injury.

Wade Redden was adequate as a fill-in for the also-hurt Ed Jovanovski, but Jovo's competitive spirit was on a different scale.

So, Stevie Y, when you're whittling down the 46-man camp in half later this year, make sure you get some youthful exuberance in there with the veterans. And let's not waste time with checkers who can't score, and snipers who get lost on the way to the defensive zone.

Todd Bertuzzi was a bust in 2006, but everyone except Team Canada seemed to see it coming. Forget his personality and penalties, the man is only good with the puck on his stick.

Kris Draper was at his best without it, so it's no surprise neither of those two were invited back.

But there are many returnees who will have to battle for their berths.

Joe Thornton may be one of the greatest passers of all-time, but with Sidney Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf, and Vincent Lecavalier starring in the middle with much more defensive hustle, how can Jumbo Joe make it? Even Mike Richards and Jonathan Toews have more of the all-around ingredients to make an impact.

Size isn't everything, and smaller guys with heart have a place. But there probably isn't room for both Martin St. Louis and the younger, angrier Corey Perry -- who would be the unanimous pick if people didn't wonder whether he'd be a liability when it comes to keeping his cool.

Thanks for everything, Ryan Smyth, but your time as Captain Canada should be over with Shane Doan showing he can still score and Brenden Morrow becoming one of the best two-way players in the game over the past few NHL seasons.

Forgetting Simon Gagne would be a crime. He was a huge part of the victory at Salt Lake on a line with Jarome Iginla, and re-uniting them for a third try is a shot worth taking. Patrick Marleau may not like it if he's left in the lurch, but nice guys don't always make for a better team.

Eric Staal would be the pick if you want to convert a centre to the wing. He can still take faceoffs, score almost at will, and has the speed to keep up with the European stars.

But getting better on the blueline is the biggest challenge of them all for Team Canada in 2010.

Time has passed Rob Blake by, but has it done the same to Chris Pronger? The Philadelphia Flyers don't think so, and Team Canada executives likely feel the same way. Scott Niedermayer is the only other player over 30 -- sorry, Dan Boyle -- that should be included on the back end if he chooses to play another NHL season.

Robyn Regehr is still one of if not the best shut-down defenders in the world, and Jay Bouwmeester may be the most well-rounded. From there, good luck choosing between the likes of Shea Weber, Duncan Keith, Mike Green, Dion Phaneuf and Brent Burns.

Speed and sense over experience is a good start.

The Italian job taught Canada as much.

POLL