Would it surprise anyone if the most talked about position for the Canadian Olympic team leading up to the 2014 Sochi Games in February happens to be who starts between the pipes for the defending gold medalist?
After all, there were two noticeable absentees -- the New Jersey Devils' Martin Brodeur and the Pittsburgh Penguins' Marc-Andre Fleury -- from the country's 47-player orientation camp roster released Monday by Hockey Canada.The goalie invitees for Canada's camp are Roberto Luongo of the Vancouver Canucks, Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens, Mike Smith of the Phoenix Coyotes, Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals and Corey Crawford of the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.
"We'll worry about the starter [in goal] after naming the final three that we'll take to Sochi," Canada executive director Steve Yzerman said during a conference call Monday. "I think some of that will work itself out over the course of the first part of the season."
After taking over for Brodeur during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Luongo led Canada to the gold medal, including 34 saves in Canada's overtime win against the United States in the championship game.
"Look at the group we named [for camp]," Yzerman said. "Roberto was the goalie in Vancouver and is experienced, and I would assume he would play a lot in the first half of the [2013-14] season, which will bode well for Canada and for Roberto's hopes of being on this team.
"Some of the names have changed a bit, but the situation will resolve itself as we go along."
Brodeur dressed as the backup to Luongo, and Fleury was the third goalie in Vancouver. Canada coach Mike Babcock said he is anticipating a good competition between the five goalies invited to camp, which is scheduled Aug. 25-28 in Calgary.
"No question there's a whole bunch of guys vying for that job," Babcock said. "It's not a lockdown position like it's been in the past, so the first three months of the season will be very important in making that decision."
Luongo finished 5-0 with one shutout, a 1.76 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage in five games during the 2010 Games. Brodeur was 0-1 in two games, with a 2.90 GAA and .866 save percentage. Fleury did not play.
"We have a great nucleus of players that all want to play for Canada and getting off to a good start in the [NHL] regular season and showing how good they can play is going to be important for them if they want to play on the team," Babcock said.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter: @mikemorrealeNHL
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