August 19, 2004
When it came time for Hockey Canada to decide what braintrust would lead them into the 2004 World Cup of Hockey, it came as no surprise that the same group that led Canada to it's first Olympic Gold medal in 50 years, would again be given the opportunity to establish Canada as the best hockey nation in the world.
Wayne Gretzky re-assembled his golden crew from 2002.
Former Edmonton teammate and six-time Cup champion Kevin Lowe, and Vancouver Director of Player Personnel Steve Tambellini are both back and when it came time to select a coaching staff, the group decided that if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Pat Quinn returns as the head coach, along with Jacques Martin, Ken Hitchcock, and Wayne Flemming as his assistants.
|Super Mario returns to Team Canada. |
As far as the roster itself though, change was inevitable. Each member of the Canadian roster has international experience, collectively they have won more than 40 gold medals worldwide and 12 of them are returnees from the 2002 Olympic squad. That includes team captain Mario Lemieux who has spent the summer months recovering from surgery on his hip, but has proclaimed himself ready to go.
Also returning up front is veteran Joe Sakic, along with Ryan Smyth, Simon Gagne, and Jarome Iginla; fresh off his first career run to the Stanley Cup Finals where he led all playoff scorers with 13 goals.
Steve Yzerman was also named, but has since pulled out because of an eye injury he suffered during the playoffs. As unfortunate as that is for Yzerman, it's great news for Vincent Lecavalier who will replace him on the roster.
Of the eight defencemen named to the team, six of them were in Salt Lake, including veterans Rob Blake, Adam Foote and Chris Pronger along with Ed Jovanovski, Eric Brewer, and Norris trophy winner Scott Niedermeyer.
Blake unfortunately will be unable to go thanks to surgery on his shoulder, but B.C. native Scott Hannan and his 6-1, 220 lbs frame will take his place. As for Pronger, he also pulled out thanks to a knee injury and will be replaced by Jay Bouwmeester. At just 20-years old, Bouwmeester has already represented his country numerous times and has won gold at the last two World Championships.
In net, the Canadians have no equal in this tournament. Two-time Vezina trophy winner Martin Brodeur will likely be the No. 1, flanked by Roberto Luongo and 2002 Vezina trophy winner Jose Theodore, who replaced the injured Ed Belfour after "The Eagle" pulled out with a sore back. Canada's goaltending talent pool is so deep, they could supply a No. 1 goalie to each of the other teams in the tournament and still win it all.
Just think; Marty Turco, Dan Cloutier, Andrew Raycroft and Patrick Lalime each had more than 25 wins last season, but failed to get the call.
| Quinn returns to lead Team Canada. |
When it comes to the new guys, there's no drop off in talent including first-timers Wade Redden and Robyn Regehr on the point. Then add two brand new Stanley Cup champions in Martin St. Louis and Brad Richards.
St. Louis won the Hart, Art Ross and Lester B. Pearson trophies to go along with his first Stanley Cup, while teammate Brad Richards won the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP, led all playoff scorers in points with 26, powerplay goals with seven, set a new NHL record with seven game winners and topped it off with the Lady Byng trophy as well.
Next Canada adds hulking centre Joe Thornton who should have made the '02 Olympic team, Patrick Marleau who led the Sharks to the Western Conference Final, the international "grind line" of Shane Doan, Kirk Maltby, and Kris Draper and a healthy Dany Heatley.
After the car accident that claimed the life of teammate and friend Dan Snyder, Heatley worked very hard to return to the Atlanta lineup, and did so well ahead of schedule. Overall, it's a very impressive collection of forwards. In fact, put it this way; Alex Tanguay, Keith Primeau and Rick Nash DIDN'T make this team.
Although the games still have to be played on the ice, with a roster that includes six NHL captains, three Art Ross, four Hart, and two Vezina Trophy winners, along with roughly 600 international games among them, Canada will be favoured to win it all and considering their depth, their speed, their youth and their goaltending, this Canadian contingent might be hard pressed to even lose a game.