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NHL Olympic picks: Team Canada

by Dan Rosen / Vancouver Canucks
Steve Yzerman has the job everyone wants and the task that no one desires.

How in the world does he pick the 23 "best" players Canada has to offer to make up the Olympic team? Yzerman is a Hall of Famer, but does that make him qualified to say this superstar is better than that superstar?

Canada is a country full of NHL superstars. Yzerman used to be one of them, but we're fairly certain he never publicly said Player A was better suited to play on the Olympic team than Player B.

That's his job now. He has to publicly tell a handful of worthy players that they are not good enough to play for Canada's Olympic team. He has to be the one that decides who's in and who's out. He's the primary architect and a country of fans awaits his decisions.

I don't envy his challenge, but I'm certainly jealous that he gets to be the one to tackle it. So jealous, in fact, that I decided to turn in my credentials as a staff writer for for one day so I could become Steve Yzerman.

I already feel the pressure.

What about this guy? What about that guy? You're taking him? What are you nuts? Have you ever watched hockey before? Who hired you?

Oh Stevie, I feel your pain.

Well, OK, not really. But choosing 13 forwards, seven defensemen and three goalies off of Canada's impressive list of candidates was harder than I ever imagined. Nevertheless, here's my team, which I believe is filled with skill, smarts, grit, toughness and strength.

Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils

Obvious choice here because the NHL's all-time wins leader has still got it. He's playing at a high level for the Devils this season and has shown no reason why he should not only be on this team, but serve as the No. 1.

Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins

He's only 24 (25 when Olympics start) and he's never been to the Olympics, but the humble Fleury has enough experience in big games. He's a Stanley Cup champion and has had a strong start to the season. He belongs.

Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks

Provided he's healthy, Luongo can be the best goalie in Canada on any given night. He's not getting our nod to start over Brodeur or even Fleury now, but that could change by February. Not a bad fallback option for coach Mike Babcock, eh?

Scott Niedermayer, Anaheim Ducks

The veteran has won it all, including Olympic gold in 2002. He may not be as good as he once was; but as they say, you can't teach experience and there aren't many who have as much. Niedermayer gets our nod as captain of this team.

Chris Pronger, Philadelphia Flyers

He's won it all, too, and he's still the most intimidating defenseman Canada has to offer. He's arguably the most intimidating defenseman in the NHL. The guy does it all and, even at 35, he's doing it at a very high level.

Dan Boyle, San Jose Sharks

A taxi-squad guy in Torino in 2006, Boyle deserves to be on the ice this time around. There aren't many who move the puck or join the rush better than Boyle, who is off to a sterling start for the Sharks this season. Plus, he's a right-handed shot.

Shea Weber, Nashville Predators

You want grit? He's got it. Toughness? Check. Offense? You bet. Size and strength? Yes and yes. Weber has become one of the League's best all-round threats from the blue line. Oh, and he's also a right-handed shot. Those guys aren't easy to find.

Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks

The Blackhawks' best blueliner is another one of those do-it-all guys. Keith has some grit to his game and he loves to join the rush. He blocks nearly as many shots as he takes.

Jay Bouwmeester, Calgary Flames

He's an ironman, an ice-time eater, strong defender and slick playmaker. Bouwmeester replaced Niedermayer on Canada's disappointing 2006 Olympic team, so he's also got the experience.

Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings

The future of Canada's defense corps has earned a spot on the present national team. The 19-year-old is building on his impressive rookie season with a much better sophomore season. There's nothing he can't do and he does everything well.

Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

He's the No. 1 center and at the very least an alternate captain. The pride of Nova Scotia is an even greater weapon now that he has got this faceoff thing down.

Rick Nash, Columbus Blue Jackets

Nash is the perfect guy to put with Crosby. He'll use that big body coming down the boards and No. 87 will find him for scoring opportunities. Nash is no longer a liability -- in fact, he's a bonus now -- on the defensive end.

Jarome Iginla, Calgary Flames

Put him with Crosby and Nash and Canada may have the most dynamic line in the tournament.

Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks

He is not scoring as many goals as he would like right now, but Getzlaf is one of the premier pivots in the game and, as second option behind Crosby, he provides the size to make the second line look different from the first.

Dany Heatley, San Jose Sharks

He's found a new home in San Jose and a happy Heatley is dominating. Can't you just see him coming down the left wing and getting the puck from Getzlaf, who then dashes straight to the net to clean up any loose change? Scary. Very scary.

Jeff Carter, Philadelphia Flyers

A sniper who could play with Getzlaf and Heatley. Carter also gives coach Mike Babcock options because he can play center or wing.

Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks

He's a gritty center who reminds a lot of people of Bryan Trottier and some more of Steve Yzerman. He's force around the net and fantastic in the shootout. Babcock would feel pretty confident putting Toews on the ice in any situation.

Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks

A bubble player before the season, the Sharks' veteran has been spectacular through the first month and a half of the season so he jumps over a few players for this spot. He can also play center or wing, but he's probably better on the wing.

Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning

St. Louis remains one of Canada's best weapons. I have him with Toews and Marleau now, but he can bump up to energize either of the top two lines as well. He can set up anyone for goals.

Mike Richards, Philadelphia Flyers

My shutdown center and one of my top penalty killers. Richards will probably be a perennial Selke Trophy nominee and he's a point per game guy to boot.

Brenden Morrow, Dallas Stars

The right wing on the shutdown line with Richards. Morrow has shown no hangover effects from missing most of last season with a knee injury. He scores and he plays physical. Gotta love it.

Ryan Smyth, Los Angeles Kings

He's the left wing with Richards and Morrow, rounding out our grinding line. Not bad to have three guys who can also score a point per game making up your grinding line, is it? Smyth can also be our net-front presence on the power play.

Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning

Babcock is saying it'll be hard for a guy who wasn't at the orientation camp in August to make the squad, but I'm making an exception because Stamkos' production and his energy are too good to pass up. He's the perfect extra forward.

This is a team that I feel can take home gold because it has the size, speed, strength, grit, intelligence and experience necessary to win under the kind of microscope it will be under in Vancouver.

My team has centers that win faceoffs, forecheck and create; wingers that score goals and generally take up space; defensemen who join the rush, rarely give up much behind them and throw an elbow or two; and goalies who are the best in the world.

Some hard choices were made and superstars like Joe Thornton, Vinny Lecavalier, Shane Doan, Dion Phaneuf, Mike Green, Corey Perry and Eric Staal didn't make the final cut. That, though, is part of the challenge when you accept this job.

It's not easy, but someone's got to make the hard choices.

I'll be back to update my team sometime next month and after that it'll be in Yzerman's hands to pick the real team and announce it on Dec. 31.

Dan Rosen is a staff writer. He may not be Steve Yzerman, but he has covered the legend enough in the past three years to play him on the Internet. Contact Dan Rosen at
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