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Olympic selections leave some talented players out

Wednesday, 12.30.2009 / 3:02 PM / All-Access Vancouver

By Phil Coffey - NHL.com Sr. Editorial Director

As with any tournament like the Olympics, there is joy for those selected to represent their countries and often disappointment for those left off the team.

That certainly has proven to be the case for what figures to be an incredibly competitive 2010 Games in Vancouver. As most of the Olympic rosters became public, the names of some top players in both the NHL and around the world, were missing.

Here is a look at some of the NHL players who were left off Olympic rosters.

Canada -- While there is no debating the Canadian goaltending selections, there will be plenty of debate over some of Steve Yzerman's omissions from the 2010 roster.

Up front, star players like Tampa Bay's Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis did not make the cut.

Also missing is "Captain Canada," Ryan Smyth of the Los Angeles Kings who has been a fixture on past Canadian international efforts, but who lost out after an injury cost him a score of games earlier in the season.

Another longtime Canadian international fixture, Shane Doan of the Phoenix Coyotes also will miss Canada's efforts in Vancouver, as will Dallas' Brad Richards, another past Olympian.

Also missing are a pair of young forwards, Chicago's Patrick Sharp and Philadelphia's Jeff Carter.

"I am sympathetic to them," said Yzerman, who faced a Herculean challenge in making the decisions. "I understand the emotion and what they are going through right now. Part of what makes guys good players is they really believe in themselves and they all believe they should be on the team. It makes it difficult.

"At the end of the day we could pick only pick 13 forwards, 7 defensemen, and 3 goalies. We talked about every player and every player was discussed respectfully and at length. Every decision we made, we didn't make them lightly. We maybe had too much discussion at times, but we were very thorough in it. Out of respect for the players we wanted to make well informed and well though out decisions."

As Yzerman said, selecting just 13 forwards from the many Canadian hopefuls was almost impossible.

Of the three Staal brothers who skated in Canada's August orientation camp only the eldest, Carolina's Eric, made the cut. But as the Penguins' Jordan Staal told Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Canada just has too many top players to keep everyone on the roster.

"I thought I'd had a good season," Jordan said. "I wouldn't say I had the best shot out there. There was a lot of players. That's how it goes.

"I don't know what the percentage was exactly, it was there," he said. "I didn't say I should be on the team or anything like that, but there was definitely a moment I thought I could make it."

So, will he be tuning in despite the disappointment?

"No question I will. Again, there's a lot of great players on that team that deserve to be there. I have plenty of years ahead of me I guess. … You still want Canada to win even if you're not on the team. They should be good."

On defense the situation was the same.

Three Calgary Flame hopefuls were skipped, Jay Bouwmeester, Robyn Regehr and Dion Phaneuf. And high scoring Mike Green of the Washington Capitals also did not get the nod from Yzerman and Company.

"I'm sure all you guys, and everyone else in the hockey circles, are going to question decisions that are made ... but I know the position that Stevie was in. It's a difficult position to be in. But you've got to make decisions, and they've made 'em," Flames coach Brent Sutter said. "Unfortunately, we have three defensemen who weren't picked on the team at this point in time. Something could change from now until then. Who knows? Those three players are still very valuable, and very good hockey players for the Calgary Flames.

"The guys on our team here who didn't get named today, they're still very top-end players. I'm sure they're somewhat disappointed, and rightly so. But you move on, and like I told them before, whether they were named to the team or not, I was proud of all of them. They're elite athletes in this profession, and their play has proven that."
-- Flames coach Brent Sutter

"It's disappointing. But I also know the task at hand, and the people that are picking the team. I've been through that at the World Junior level, and I understand this is certainly a different event, but there're never easy decisions to make. And when you have the quality of players that staff had to look at and evaluate to mold their team, they're all very, very top-end guys.

"The guys on our team here who didn't get named today, they're still very top-end players," Sutter said. "I'm sure they're somewhat disappointed, and rightly so. But you move on, and like I told them before, whether they were named to the team or not, I was proud of all of them. They're elite athletes in this profession, and their play has proven that."

"It's disappointing, but there're lots of guys in that situation," said Bouwmeester, who was an injury replacement for Scott Niedermayer in 2006. "It's one of those things: You'd like to be there, but the reality was, there were a lot of guys (to pick from), and that's just the way it is.

"Personally I've never played in NHL playoffs; that's pretty disappointing every year," Bouwmeester said. "The magnitude of it, because it's being played in Canada, things like that, obviously it's disappointing. But I hope the team they put together will do well, and I wish everyone luck."

"Like I said, I'm disappointed not to have been named, but there's a lot of great players that have been named," Phaneuf said. "I haven't talked to anyone (with Team Canada), to be completely honest with you. I haven't heard anything. I found out probably the same way you guys did — watching the TV. Like I said, I'm disappointed, but now I have to move forward, and focus on having a good second half here with our team.

Russia -- The decision to include a number of Kontinental Hockey League players to the Russian roster means a fair number of NHL players are out, starting out with forward Alexei Kovalev of the Ottawa Senators and goalie Nikolai Khabibulin of the Edmonton Oilers and Alexander Frolov of Los Angeles.

Sweden -- Forward Mikael Samuelsson of the Vancouver Canucks gained some notoriety for his off-color response to being left off the Olympic roster. Also missing for Sweden is the injured Johan Franzen of the Detroit Red Wings and top rookie candidate Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Czech Republic -- On defense, the Czechs left off Montreal Canadiens Roman Hamrlik and Jaroslav Spacek as well as Edmonton defenseman Ladislav Smid.

Rangers forward Vinny Prospal is out for the next two weeks after arthroscopic knee surgery, but that was enough to convince Czech officials to leave him off the roster. Also missing among the forwards is veteran Milan Hejduk of the Colorado Avalanche and youngster Jakub Voracek of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Slovakia -- Colorado Avalanche right wing Marek Svatos, who was part of Slovakia's 2006 team and has a 30-goal season to his credit, didn't make it in 2010. Contributing to his omission has been a fading offensive game that has seen his goal totals dip from 26 in 2007-08 to 14 in 2008-09. This year he has just 6 goals in 34 games.