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Yzerman already in evaluation mode

Wednesday, 11.05.2008 / 11:00 AM / All-Access Vancouver

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

Steve Yzerman finds himself watching a lot more hockey now than he ever did before. That's what happens when you're trying to balance two high-ranking jobs that make you the envy of a lot of executives in the hockey world.

As any Canadian hockey fan worth his skates already knows, Yzerman is now both the Executive Director of Canada's National Men's Olympic Team for the 2010 Olympics, as well as the Vice President/Alternate Governor for the Detroit Red Wings.

While Yzerman finds he can often kill 2 birds with 1 stone a lot of the time by scouting potential Olympic team players at Red Wings'
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games, his schedule is far fuller now than it was this time last year and he's adjusting accordingly.

"Where I'm finding myself is I'm getting organized much farther in advance than I have in the past," Yzerman told NHL.com. "I'm trying to arrange the games of teams and players that I want to see and trying to work them into the Red Wings schedule and combine the two. Obviously in some areas something has to give a little. I will see a few fewer Red Wings games, and that's OK. I don't think I need to see the Red Wings play 82 times a year."

Yzerman's schedule is just heating up now. Before the calendar turns to 2009, Yzerman said he will most likely see every player on his long list of candidates for the Olympic squad at least once live and numerous times on television.

"We're still 200 by 85, but you have bigger zones to work with and that in turn makes it a higher-paced game, a faster skating game. Detroit played San Jose the other night and it was a pretty high-tempo game. The guys that stood out are the guys that can skate. Skating is a factor for sure."
-- Steve Yzerman

As the general manager for Canada's entry into the IIHF World Championships the last 2 years, Yzerman did a lot of scouting, but most of it started after Jan. 1.

"I'm doing that already now," Yzerman said. "I want to see all of the players, everybody a couple of times in the first half and the second half. The season goes by pretty quickly. As long as you're organized you can get it done."

Yzerman believes he's already at an advantage due to the Red Wings' European influence. Pavel Datsyuk (Russia), Henrik Zetterberg and Nicklas Lidstrom (Sweden) and Marian Hossa (Slovakia) are likely European candidates to represent their countries in 2010.

Brian Rafalski, who is from Michigan, is on USA Hockey's short list.

"With all the European players we have, it's a great way to assess the Canadian players going head-to-head against them," Yzerman said. "With Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Lidstrom and Hossa, I saw them go head to head with (Joe) Thornton and (Ryan) Getzlaf and (Scott) Niedermayer and (Chris) Pronger. It's important for me to see these games for Olympic purposes."

Yzerman said he has an unofficial list of players that he's keeping his eye on. He said the plan is to invite a broad number of players to an evaluation camp that will take place in August. The final roster will be announced in mid-December.

First, though, he has to select a coaching staff. While there is no hard deadline for that, Yzerman plans to have a staff in place shortly after the NHL season concludes.

"We're going to wait and see how the season plays out and shortly after the season we're going to be prepared to name our staff," Yzerman said. "Player-wise, we're hoping to have an orientation camp to get a lot of things out of the way, such as logistical things and to go over how we're going to play, sometime in late August. So, sometime in early July we hope to announce a list of players that we'd like to invite to that camp. It has to be a broad group, but I don't want to invite players that we aren't considering."

There will likely be enough to field two teams to foster some competitive scrimmages at the camp. A site has not yet been determined.

"You can't run a proper practice with 30 players on the ice at once, but we're going to have more than the standard 23 there," Yzerman said. "We'll split it into two groups and that way you have to have more bodies. Realistically, with the depth we have in Canada, we can have a pretty long list. I don't know if it's in the high 30s or low 40s."

As for the team he wants to build, Yzerman said their style will be more defined once the coaching staff is in place, but he's looking for a balanced attack. He favors 2-way players who are adept at both killing penalties and scoring on the power play.
 
"With the depth of talent, I expect this team to really play well offensively and defensively," he said. "I don't think it's going to be a team that is a run-and-gun offensive team. We have to pick a team of all players that can play in all situations."

Yzerman also said the North American ice surface that will be used in the Olympics shouldn't be a major factor, but he does plan on having a team with a lot of speed.

"We're still 200 by 85, but you have bigger zones to work with and that in turn makes it a higher-paced game, a faster skating game," Yzerman said. "Detroit played San Jose the other night and it was a pretty high-tempo game. The guys that stood out are the guys that can skate. Skating is a factor for sure."

One of the debates that will rage on in Canada until the Olympics is who the starting goaltender will be? Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo, Carey Price and Marc-Andre Fleury appear to be the likely candidates right now.

Yzerman said the decision on the goalie is big, but no bigger than any other.

"Each decision -- the 3 goalies and assuming we carry 7 defensemen and 13 forwards -- there won't be one made lightly," Yzerman said.

And Yzerman won't rest until each one of them is made.

"When I'm home, I still have a family so I try to spend some time with them, but the great thing about TiVo is I can record a game and watch it the next morning while riding the stationary bike," Yzerman said. "I am watching a lot more hockey at this time of the year than I would the last couple of seasons."

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com.