TORONTO -- A favorite refrain of many Canadians when it comes time to select the national Olympic team is that the country could easily compile two full rosters that would be competitive.
Unfortunately for Canada executive director Steve Yzerman and his management team, that is a luxury they simply didn't have, and the players who were not named on Tuesday to Canada's team that will compete in the 2014 Sochi Olympics will likely be a bigger source of debate than the ones who did.
Yzerman's 25-man roster was finalized after midnight Tuesday morning, less than 12 hours before it was announced to Canadians and the rest of the hockey world. But he and his management team comprised of St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong, Boston Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli, Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland and Edmonton Oilers president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe had a job prior to that announcement that was considerably less pleasant.
"The calls this morning to the guys that weren't making it, those are real difficult calls," Chiarelli said. "It kind of leaves an empty feeling in your stomach."
Among those receiving those calls Tuesday morning were five members of the 2010 team in Vancouver who were also invited to Canada's Olympic orientation camp in August: Eric Staal (Carolina Hurricanes), Joe Thornton (San Jose Sharks), Dan Boyle (Sharks), Mike Richards (Kings) and Brent Seabrook (Chicago Blackhawks).
Thornton was fifth in NHL scoring prior to games Tuesday, but a sound argument could be made for each of those players being included on the 2014 team.
Among the other top candidates who did not make the final roster are Martin St. Louis (Tampa Bay Lightning), Claude Giroux (Philadelphia Flyers), Logan Couture (San Jose Sharks), Taylor Hall (Edmonton Oilers), James Neal (Pittsburgh Penguins), Tyler Seguin (Dallas Stars) and Stanley Cup-winning goaltenders Corey Crawford (Blackhawks) and Marc-Andre Fleury (Penguins).
"The players we left off, there's some great players there too," Holland said. "Certainly there are players we didn't select who could be Olympians."
There's an added pressure on the members of the management team when they have to take part in discussions regarding one of their players from their NHL clubs. For instance, Lowe had to see Hall and Jordan Eberle left off the roster, same with Yzerman and St. Louis, his captain in Tampa Bay, as well as Chiarelli with Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic.
It's a difficult balance to strike, Chiarelli said, because of how intimately each manager knows just what his own player can bring.
"It's really difficult, and I really feel for Steve," he said. "We had it with a couple of players, we all did. It's really hard. At the end of the day, you've got to separate that and do what's best for Hockey Canada and the Olympic team. But that's really hard because those players that play for you, you see what they do every day. They've brought a Cup to Boston, specifically [in my case], and the other managers can say that too. So it's real difficult.
"It's the part of the job that wasn't fun."
The fun part, however, came afterward when the management team was able to look at a list of 25 of the best players in the world on one sheet of paper and know this was the team they assembled to represent Canada and defend the Olympic gold medal won on home soil four years ago.
"We were down to a couple of names and it was a real strong, healthy debate," Armstrong said. "Ultimately I think there's no wrong answers. There's a number of players that could be on this team and everyone would be very excited to have them. But at some point we had to stop at 25. When we got to that last name, we shook hands and said we're excited about this team. And the good thing is when you woke up this morning, I felt really good about the group that we had and the process that we went through to get to this point was thorough, and I think everyone's really excited."
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