New blood for Team Canada
By SCOTT FISHER, QMI AGENCY
Kings defenceman Drew Doughty is all smiles as he holds up a Team Canada sweater on Wednesday in Calgary. (QMI Agency/Stuart Dryden)
SASKATOON — Team Canada has some fresh blood.
Of the 23 players named to the team yesterday, 15 will be making their Olympic Games debut in Vancouver.
But the veterans will play a key role as Canada looks to mine gold on home soil.
Defenceman Scott Niedermayer will serve as the team’s captain while fellow blueliner Chris Pronger and forwards Sidney Crosby and Jarome Iginla are the alternates.
Team Canada head coach Mike Babcock said Niedermayer was an easy choice to wear the ‘C.’
“He’s won everything,” Babcock said. “He’s not a big talker, but he does things right.
“He has tons of experience. It’s the kind of leadership — along with Pronger, Iggy and Crosby — we need to get us over the top.”
There were no surprises between the pipes as the three goaltenders named to the team — Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo and Marc-Andre Fleury — were a mere formality.
But Team Canada executive director Steve Yzerman said there were a few difficult decisions to make over the last couple of hours.
“We had to settle on 13 forwards and we had a lot of debate all afternoon (Tuesday),” Yzerman said. “We took a break, went to the (world junior) game last night and then talked about it some more.
“We were down to one spot. Mike and I talked this morning at about 6:30 and debated it again, and virtually made the decision at seven.”
Dan Boyle, Shea Weber, Drew Doughty and a pair of Chicago Blackhawks defenders — Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook — will round out the Canadian blueline.
Doughty got the nod over Washington Capitals d-man Mike Green, who leads all NHL defencemen in scoring, and a trio of candidates from the Calgary Flames — Jay Bouwmeester, Robyn Regehr and Dion Phaneuf.
“Drew Doughty was a rookie last year,” Yzerman said. “But when he was at the world championships, as the games became of greater importance, he played better.
“He was outstanding on the blueline for us in that tournament, and we thought, ‘We should bring that young man to camp.’
“He’s had a very good first half and we think he’s an excellent offensive defenceman despite his relative youth.
“He’s a big, strong guy who can skate, move the puck and is good at both ends of the rink. We just thought he was one of our best seven defencemen.”
In addition to Crosby and Iginla, there is plenty of firepower to go around on Canada’s forward lines.
The San Jose trio of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley joined Boyle to give the Sharks four players on the squad.
Ryan Getzlaf, Rick Nash, Brenden Morrow, Corey Perry, Mike Richards, Eric Staal and Jonathan Toews also got the nod from the Team Canada executive.
The inclusion of Boston Bruins centre Patrice Bergeron, who has battled a series of injuries in recent years, was perhaps the biggest surprise at yesterday’s roster unveiling.
“After concussions, often a guy’s career takes a setback,” Babcock said. “It’s taken him a while to get it back.
“When I coached him in ’04 at the world championships, he came as an extra and ended up being a very important part of our team.”
Babcock, who has repeatedly said his club’s ability to play without the puck will determine Team Canada’s success, pointed to the faceoff abilities of Bergeron and Toews as key ingredients.
“The teams who win at the end are going to be good without the puck,” he said. “We’re all going to be talented. When you look at every (other) roster, and try to picture what they’re going to be like, they all scare you to death. But when they look at our team, they have to think we’re pretty good, too.
“All you can ask for going into an Olympic Games, or going into a Stanley Cup final or world championship, is an opportunity.
“We feel we’re good enough to have an opportunity.”
Babcock said the immense pressure on his team can be used as motivation.
“There’s a couple of ways to look at this,” he said. “You can look at carrying the weight of 33 million people on your back, or you can have the wind of their momentum behind you.
“I believe knowledge, experience and preparation defeats fear.”
2010 OLYMPIC ROSTER
Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils
Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks
Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins
Dan Boyle, San Jose Sharks
Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
Scott Niedermayer, Anaheim Ducks (captain)
Chris Pronger, Philadelphia Flyers (assistant captain)
Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks
Brent Seabrook, Chicago Blackhawks
Shea Weber, Nashville Predators
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins (assistant captain)
Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks
Dany Heatley, San Jose Sharks
Rick Nash, Columbus Blue Jackets
Jarome Iginla, Calgary Flames (assistant captain)
Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks
Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks
Brenden Morrow, Dallas Stars
Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks
Mike Richards, Philadelphia Flyers
Eric Staal, Carolina Hurricanes
Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks