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A look inside Team Canada's decision making

Wednesday, 12.30.2009 / 7:19 PM / All-Access Vancouver

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

"If you look at the group of young guys, and a couple we left off, it's a tremendous group, an impressive group of young players. We have a great group of young Canadian stars. At the end of the day we felt a lot of these guys have overtaken a lot of our veteran guys and were more suited for our team." -- Steve Yzerman

Tuesday was a long day for Steve Yzerman and his crack Team Canada staff. Why? Because while some players were locks before the Canadian braintrust arrived in Saskatoon for Wednesday's announcement of the Olympic roster, several more players were on the fence.
 
Throughout Tuesday into early Wednesday, Yzerman, Kevin Lowe, Doug Armstrong, Ken Holland and Mike Babcock went back and forth, debating every player before finally coming up with the roster that was revealed Wednesday.
 
No decision was made without a lengthy discussion. No decision was made lightly.
 
"We were comfortable in the goalies and had it down to eight or so defensemen, but we had to get it down to a couple of names and it was an interesting discussion and we went back and forth," Yzerman said Wednesday on a conference call. "(Tuesday) was a long day and evening just talking about it. We went around and around and could talk ourselves into one thing one minute and talk ourselves out of it the next minute. It was tough. We were trying to find the right reason to pick the right player."
 
The end result was a team that will look markedly different than the Canadian squad that finished a disappointing seventh in Torino four years ago.
 
Only seven of the 23 players selected Wednesday played in Italy and just four were members of the 2010 squad won gold with Canada in 2002.
 
Yzerman said it wasn't done consciously, but 12 of the 23 players on the roster are 25 or younger, including 20-year-old defenseman Drew Doughty, who is part of a defensive corps that was built to move the puck by skating it up the ice, a trait the Canadians lacked in 2006.
 
"That's just how our roster unfolded," Yzerman said. "If you look at the group of young guys, and a couple we left off, it's a tremendous group, an impressive group of young players. We have a great group of young Canadian stars. At the end of the day we felt a lot of these guys have overtaken a lot of our veteran guys and were more suited for our team."
 
Doughty would be the poster boy for the Canadian youth movement, if you decide to call it that. He has played in only 120 NHL games, but Yzerman said he impressed during the World Championships earlier this year and has only gotten better since.
 
Doughty made the team over former Olympian Jay Bouwmeester and Washington's Mike Green.
 
"We try to take everything into consideration about a player, their character on the ice and off the ice, their playoff performances, and in the end that's why Drew Doughty is on the team," Yzerman said. "We watched him in the World Championship last year in the semis and gold medal games and he was outstanding. That got him on our radar screen. We continued to watch him and based on that we feel this guy can handle pressure situations. He did it at the World Junior level and in the World Championship."
 
The decision to leave Green off the roster generated serious buzz in the hockey world. He leads all defensemen with 38 points and was a Norris Trophy finalist last season after scoring 31 goals and registering 73 points. He's a plus-39 over the last season and a half. But Green was also a minus-5 with only 9 points in 14 playoff games last season.
 
Yzerman was brutally honest in evaluating Green.
 
"We recognize a great talent, but we just feel that he's not quite complete yet in the defensive part of his game," Yzerman said. "Last year's playoffs left an impression upon us. He's a tremendous player and he's going to be great for years to come, but we felt we need to see him play in a lot of playoff games and play well, excel in pressure situations and be responsible in both ends of the rink to put him on the team. With the group we have, they can provide offense and they're good in both ends of the rink. We needed to see more of that from Mike."
 
Up front, Patrice Bergeron was the biggest surprise because he was the only player selected who was not invited to the orientation camp in August. It was initially thought that any player not invited to that camp would have a hard time cracking the roster.
 
Yzerman, though, said Bergeron's all-around game landed him on the roster, and it helped that former Olympians such as Vinny Lecavalier, Shane Doan, Martin St. Louis and Ryan Smyth have either been injured or are having less-than-fantastic seasons.
 
"Out in our scouting trips, watching games, his name kept coming up," Yzerman said of Bergeron. "You would check the stats and you would notice him every night. You could watch the games notice the things he did well. With the other players on our list that we were watching struggling or out with injuries, he kept inching up or moving more onto the radar screen. I just feel he's a good all around player that plays with good players. He's intelligent and versatile. He's a good penalty killer, good on the power play, wins faceoffs. We can use him in all situations. We just thought he could be a reliable player."
 
Bergeron also has a history playing with Crosby as the two were together on a line in the 2005 World Juniors and the 2006 World Championships.
 
"That is certainly something we discussed," Yzerman said. "I don't think Mike Babcock and his staff have finalized any line combinations. We are aware he played with Sidney Crosby and had good success. That is an option for the coaches if they decide to go that way."
 
Overall, Yzerman said the roster was selected with the team philosophy in mind. Mike Babcock wants a team that will play a 200-foot game, meaning they will attack in the offensive zone and be quick enough to get back into the defensive zone.
 
"We were looking for guys who can play on both ends of the rink," Yzerman said. "We think we can roll four lines, play at a high tempo and keep the shifts short. Mike wants to attack, but he wants to be strong on defense. He's going to coach the way he coaches the Detroit Red Wings. The idea is to be an aggressive team on both ends of the rink."
 
Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com