-- Speaking from both perspectives -- physically and mentally -- Martin Brodeur
says he feels fresh and "really good about my game" heading into next week's orientation camp for Canada's Olympic hopefuls.
If he stays that way until February, Roberto Luongo
, Marc-Andre Fleury
, Steve Mason
, Cam Ward
and any other Canadian goalie likely won't be able to shake the rather substantial shadow Brodeur casts over Canadian hockey.
Speaking to NHL.com Thursday morning from his goalie camp at the Ice Vault Arena here, Brodeur expressed how confident he is despite the fact that he's 37 years old and coming off an injury-ravaged season that ended with a last-minute meltdown in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against Carolina.
"In the last three years I have won two Vezina trophies, so my seasons were pretty good," Brodeur said. "Last year I had five shutouts in 31 games and 19 wins. I was rolling pretty good. I was doing my share, like I'm used to. So I feel like I'm still on top of things, and when the Olympics come around I will be up for the challenge."
Canada's goaltending situation will be a hot-button topic next week when Brodeur is joined in Calgary by Luongo, Fleury, Ward and Mason, along with 41 of the top skaters the country has to offer.
The debate of who should be Canada's No. 1 goalie already has sparked some scintillating questions:
Is Brodeur still the man after being Canada's No. 1 in the last two Olympics? Is Luongo, now 30 years old, ready to take over after serving as a backup in 2006? Will Fleury's confidence after winning the Stanley Cup carry him to the No. 1 job despite the fact that he has never been to an Olympics?
What about Ward? He has won a Stanley Cup and no one can argue with how clutch he is. Is Mason the wild card? He has shined in big games at the World Junior Championship and is the reigning Calder Trophy winner.
Should we limit it to those five? Or will fellow Canadians like Chris Osgood
, Carey Price
, Jean-Sebastien Giguere
and Marty Turco
build good enough cases with solid starts to the 2009-10 NHL season?
"I'm dealing with the top goalies in Canada, so regardless if you think I'm going to be the No. 1, I still have to go out and prove it," Brodeur said. "This year is going to be a great challenge -- not just for me, but the other guys, too. Competition in that way will be healthy, and you know what? You never know. It happens quick. Games are won and lost pretty quickly in the Olympics, and you need guys that want to be there to be there 100-percent mentally. I'm looking forward to that challenge. I think it keeps you accountable when you have people there to take your job."
Brodeur isn't ready to give up his job yet. He has spent the summer training hard for his 16th NHL season, another that could be filled with milestones -- all with the idea that if he's good enough, come decision time, the job as Canada's No. 1 goalie will be there for him.
The opportunity excites and fuels him.
"I do think it's an opportunity for me to hopefully create something great, and that's what I'm trying to be all about," Brodeur said. "Regardless if I make it or not, it's going to be my last shot. Four years from now I'm probably not going unless something crazy happens. It's going to be an exciting year."
Contact Dan Rosen at email@example.com