Recipe for success

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 2:44 PM ET

The recipe for Team Canada at the 2006 Turin Games should be simple: A base made from equal parts of the gold medal-winning 2002 Salt Lake City squad and 2004 World Cup of Hockey champs, with a dash of the 2005 world championship runners-up thrown in for good measure.

OK, maybe the task of naming a final 23-man roster for February's Olympics will be a little more difficult for Team Canada brass.

Canada could realistically field a pair of reasonably competitive teams in any international competition, after all.

The disagreeable roster deadline of

Dec. 22 only clouds the issue when you consider how many injuries could occur over the next couple of months.

Young stars in the making Sidney Crosby, Jason Spezza and Eric Staal have given Gretzky and Co. something to think about after their red-hot starts to this NHL season.

But why mess with the success of past teams that have given Canuck hockey fans reason to be proud while tuning into worldwide broadcasts and living vicariously through the representatives of the Red and White sporting the Maple Leaf on their chests?

Two of the country's greatest, Mario Lemieux and Steve Yzerman, have taken themselves out of the running, leaving just a quartet of forwards to carry the torch from Salt Lake. Joe Sakic, Simon Gagne, Ryan Smyth and Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla will all be making the trip to Turin, Italy, in February.

Defencemen Ed Jovanovski, Rob Blake, Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer also have the honour of again representing Canada on hockey's greatest international stage. Columbus Blue Jackets rearguard Adam Foote should also return. It's unfair to penalize the rugged veteran just because he plays for one of the worst teams in the Western Conference.

That leaves just two open spots if Gretzky goes with seven defencemen.

Flames workhorse Robyn Regehr and Ottawa Senators blueliner Wade Redden -- the only d-men named to both the World Cup and world championship teams (Scott Hannan was added to the World Cup roster because of injuries to Blake and Pronger) -- deserve to make the next step.

Between the pipes, Martin Brodeur is No. 1 while Marty Turco is No. 2 and Roberto Luongo the future in Canada's goal.

The choices up front are a little more difficult but the formula remains the same.

Joe Thornton, who looks at home on the West Coast after leaving Boston for San Jose in a blockbuster three-for-one trade last month, is a lock and Stanley Cup champ Vincent Lecavalier was a World Cup hero. Calgarian Dany Heatley will make the trip with or without Spezza, his NHL linemate.

Shane Doan has had a disappointing start to the season statistically (six goals,

14 assists in 32 games) but his work ethic and leadership skills are impressive.

Dallas Stars grinder Brenden Morrow is no stranger to international competition. His two-way consciousness and physical presence earn him a spot, too. Kris Draper is on the team for the same reasons.

Only a pair of flanker positions remain and there is still a wealth of worthy names. The aforementioned Spezza, Staal and Crosby are going to be Canadian centrepieces for a long time but a true changing of the guard took place prior to the World Cup last September and another may not transpire for another couple of years.

Martin St. Louis is the NHL's reigning MVP. Omitting him would be something to regret. Just ask the Flames, who cut the diminutive scorer before he blossomed into one of the league's best.

The 'dash' from the 2005 world championship would be Rick Nash. The Jackets star may be the best pure goalscorer around, although injuries have kept him on the sidelines most of the year.

A three-man taxi squad allows Gretzky to expose a youngster or two to the Olympic experience, whether or not an injury allows them to participate in the tournament itself.

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MACFARLANE'S TEAM CANADA

FORWARDS:

Joe Sakic, Avalanche

Simon Gagne, Flyers

Jarome Iginla, Flames

Ryan Smyth, Oilers

Joe Thornton, Sharks

Vincent Lecavalier, Lightning

Dany Heatley, Senators

Martin St. Louis, Lightning

Rick Nash, Blue Jackets

Shane Doan, Coyotes

Patrick Marleau, Sharks

Kris Draper, Red Wings

Brenden Morrow, Stars

DEFENCEMEN:

Scott Niedermayer, Mighty Ducks

Ed Jovanovski, Canucks

Rob Blake, Avalanche

Adam Foote, Blue Jackets

Chris Pronger, Oilers

Robyn Regehr, Flames

Wade Redden, Senators

GOALIES:

Martin Brodeur, Devils

Marty Turco, Stars

Roberto Luongo, Panthers

TAXI SQUAD:

F Sidney Crosby, Penguins

F Jason Spezza, Senators

D Scott Hannan, Sharks

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SPORTAK'S TEAM CANADA

FORWARDS:

Joe Sakic, Avalanche

Jarome Iginla, Flames

Simon Gagne, Flyers

Ryan Smyth, Oilers

Joe Thornton, Sharks

Dany Heatley, Senators

Vincent Lecavalier, Lightning

Patrick Marleau, Sharks

Shane Doan, Coyotes

Sidney Crosby, Penguins

Jason Spezza, Senators

Eric Staal, Hurricanes

Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning

DEFENCEMEN:

Scott Niedermayer, Mighty Ducks

Rob Blake, Avalanche

Ed Jovanovski, Canucks

Chris Pronger, Oilers

Wade Redden, Senators

Robyn Regehr, Flames

Chris Phillips, Senators

GOALIES:

Martin Brodeur, Devils

Roberto Luongo, Panthers

Marty Turco, Stars

TAXI SQUAD:

F Rick Nash, Blue Jackets

F Kris Draper, Red Wings

D Bryan McCabe, Maple Leafs


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