Sports Thoughts from the Great White North
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       I know, it's still two years away; and anything could happen in between now and 2010. But I don't care, because it's Olympic hockey and I get quite excited for it. 

       So what I'm going to do here is take an early peek at each nation's team, what their strength's and weaknesses may be, and who we should expect too see on the roster.

       Keep in mind that these are all predictions, and many problems could arise between now and 2010. But for fun, lets say they don't.

       

            Canada

            The gold favorites for 2006 in Torino, the Canadians opted for a big, physical lineup laden with veteran experience; and it cost them. Their lack of team speed/youth was exposed, and they finished a disappointing 7th.

            What to Expect: Look for the Canadians to go to a lineup filled with youth and speed. Speed is the most underrated aspect of the international game, with the larger ice surfaces creating more space and room to maneuver. This shouldn't be a problem, as Canada projects to have a great crop of young skill players ready for this tournament in their home country.

            Projected Strengths: Martin Brodeur may not be there this time around, but a slew of French Canadian goaltenders look to keep this unit tops. Look for Luongo to start, and backed up by the likes of J.S Giguere, Pascal Leclaire, or Marty Biron. You also could throw Jonathan Bernier and Carey Price's names into the mix, and possibly Ray Emery's or Cam Wards. There are other options as well, leaving this unit one of Canada's best.

            Projected Weaknesses: Most of the defenseman from Torino will be likely be too old to be effective in Vancouver. Don't expect to see Niedermayer, Jovanovski, Foote, Blake, or even Pronger. This leaves quite the turnover of defenseman, and although Canada never has problems filling those spots, it will be interesting to see who they go after. Look for young defenseman Dion Phaneuf and Jay Bouwmeester to lead the group.

            Roster shoe-ins: Sidney Crosby is your captain; he will be joined by Eric Staal, Simon Gagne, Dany Heatley, Vinny Lecavelier, Rick Nash, Jason Spezza, Joe Thornton, Jarome Iginla, Brad Richards, Daniel Briere, Dion Phaneuf, and Jay Bouwmeester.

            On the bubble : Continued growth and strong play could earn these young guns a roster spot: Marc Savard, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Patrice Bergeron, Derek Roy, Brain Cambell, Johnathan Toews, Mike Cammalleri, Shea Weber, Marc Staal, Jordin Staal, Mike Richards, Brad Boyes, Kevin Bieksa, and Mike Green.

            Projected Absentees: Brodeur will be 37 in 2010, but you know Hockey Canada will give him a spot if he wants it, so he may be there. I really don't see the four defenseman mentioned above being there, and I think McCabe has played himself off the team. I don't see Redden or Regehr there either. Other notable absentees may include: Joe Sakic, Todd Bertuzzi, Martin St. Louis, Ryan Smyth, Chris Pronger, Kris Draper, Shane Doan and Marty Turco.

            In a Nutshell:    Team Canada looks set to be favorites for the Gold yet again and with the competition being held in their home country, anything but would be catastrophic. After the poor showing in Torino the expectations are high, and if they fail to meet them then look out, it could get ugly up here.

           

            United States

            They went with a veteran lineup much like the Canadians did in 2006, and it produced the same result as well. Finishing in 8th place, the Americans struggled to find offense throughout the tournament; but with a crop of young and talented players coming up through the pipeline, look for the States to compete for a medal in 2010.

            What to expect: An infusion of younger talent into a squad that was dominated by veterans in 2006. Again, speed is a premium in international tournaments like this, so expect to see a quick puck-moving squad that can attack with all four lines.

            Projected Strengths:  The American's look strong in goal and up front. Ryan Miller will team up with Rick Dipietro to form a solid 1-2 punch in net, with the young Al Montoya or Ty Conklin at number 3. The crop of forwards on paper looks to be one of the best the American's have fielded in awhile, with young stars such as Paul Stasny and Pat Kane teaming with U.S mainstays such as Scott Gomez and Chris Drury.

            Projected Weaknesses: The Americans defense wasn't a strong unit to begin with, and now with the likely departures of Chris Chelios, Mathieu Schnieder, Bret Hedican and Aaron Miller from the national squad, they will look to two young defensive studs in Erik Johnson and Jack Johnson to carry their blue-line.

            Roster Shoe-ins: Chris Drury, Scott Gomez, Brain Gionta, Brain Rolston and Brain Rafalski are locks, and most likely will compete for the captaincy. The other shoe-ins that will join them will be: Erik Cole, Matt Cullen, Phil Kessel, Pat Kane, Paul Stasny, Jordan Leopold, Jean-Micheal Liles, Erik Johnson, Jack Johnson, Chris Higgins, David Legwand, Zach Parise, Jamie Langenbrunnner, and Ryan Whitney.

            On the Bubble: These players are either young guns that could play themselves on to the team, or they are older vets who may have enough left to give it another go. Look for heavy competition on the blue-line between: Tom Poti, Tom Preissing, Mike Komisarek, Ryan Suter, Paul Martin, Andy Greene, Bryan Berard, Joe Corvo, and Matt Carle. While these players will battle for a place up front: Petr Mueller, Bobby Ryan, Tim Connolly, Dustin Brown, Patrick O'Sullivan, Mark Parrish, Mike Knuble, Mike York, Ryan Malone, Lee Stempniak, Jason Blake, Ryan Kesler and James Van Riemsdyk.

            Projected Absentees: The U.S has a wide pool of players to choose from, and if they go down the youth road, these players could end up on the outside looking in: Craig Conroy, Bill Guerin, Doug Weight, and Keith Tkachuk. Also, these payers may either retire, or just be too old to be effective for the U.S squad: Chelios, Derain Hatcher, Schneider, Hedican, Miller, and Mike Modano.

            In a Nutshell: This team will compete, and a definite contender for a medal. They will be fast and skilled up front, putting pressure on opposing defenses on the big ice. If their defense can play to its potential the Americans will prove to a very formidable opponent in 2010.

 

            Both teams looked poised for a good run at the Olympics in 2010, and both will have a lot of support from the Canadian and American fans respectively. I will break down the squads from Sweden, Russia, CZE, and Finland  in future blogs, as right now I do not have the time! Thanks for reading and check back in soon...

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