TORONTO (CP) -- Bryan McCabe is enjoying the best season of his NHL career and has more points than any other NHL defenceman, but he's a longshot for selection to Canada's Olympic hockey team.
That's because in picking the team for Turin incumbents get first dibs, Pat Quinn concedes.
Quinn, McCabe's coach with the Toronto Maple Leafs and also head coach of the Olympic team, says there are seven or eight established defencemen ahead of McCabe on Team Canada's depth chart. They either earned gold at the 2002 Olympics or were eased onto the national team during the 2004 World Cup of Hockey.
"Historically, Canada has operated that way,'' Quinn said after practice Wednesday in explaining why the status quo is usually maintained. "The defence will be the same.
"Those guys have proven that they're good, and their play hasn't disappeared at this point, so to knock one of them out of the box usually something big has to happen.''
Defencemen likely ahead of McCabe because of their international experience are Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger, Rob Blake, Adam Foote, Ed Jovanovski, Wade Redden and Robyn Regehr. Joining McCabe on the bubble are the likes of Dan Boyle and Scott Hannan.
McCabe has been particularly effective on power plays this season, and he'll be discussed by the selection committee, Quinn added.
"He's been terrific. He's represented Canada in the past (world junior). In 2002, he didn't go to that little (Olympic training) camp because he was hurt, or he would have been there, and then during the World Cup team it was just one of those things that the selection group opted not to have him on, but his play certainly warrants a heck of a look.
"I haven't seen a lot of the other six or seven incumbent guys play a lot. Our scouts are going to have to be on top of that.''
Leafs captain Mats Sundin says that, if McCabe isn't selected for Turin, it'll be because of the vast number of qualified Canadian candidates.
"Canada has a problem that none of the other nations have,'' said the Swedish centre. "Canada could probably put together five teams that could win the gold medal in the Olympics.
"That's a privilege the other countries don't have. It's also a problem (for players such as McCabe). It's amazing that you are going to be able to put a team together without having Bryan on it. Sounds crazy but . . . we're all cheering for Brian. If there's anyone who deserves a chance to play in the Olympics it's him. He's off to a great start.''