Some top Canadians will be tasked with trying to beat Canada at the World Cup of Hockey.
In addition to head coach Ralph Krueger, Team Europe has named Paul Maurice to its coaching staff and Sean Burke and Lorne Henning to its scouting staff for the 2016 tournament.
"I'd love to beat Canada because in this tournament they're going to be the favourite and we want to win the tournament," Burke said. "So that would be incredibly exciting to be able to beat Canada."
Along with Burke and Henning, the scouting staff includes American Ricky Olczyk, Slovak Peter Bondra and Czech Vaclav Nedomansky. That group, serving under German president Franz Reindl and Slovak general manager Miroslav Satan, is charged with putting together the tournament's most diverse team.
Krueger is from Winnipeg, where Maurice is currently coaching the Jets. Maurice is a Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., native who was an assistant coach for Canada at the 2014 world championships.
They'll be working with players from from Germany, Austria, Norway, Denmark, Slovenia, Latvia and maybe even France and Belarus at the World Cup.
"We don't have any country that will be super strong on this team," Satan said. "We'll go by quality, not nationality. That will be our motto for this."
That's certainly the case for the management, scouting and coaching staffs. Krueger, with his wealth of experience coaching overseas, is the head guy behind the bench after helping out Mike Babcock at the Sochi Olympics.
Burke, who's not working in the NHL this season after previously serving as the Arizona Coyotes' goaltending coach, was part of Hockey Canada's gold-medal-winning management group at the world championships and is embracing this new challenge of going against his native country.
"My mother's European, she was born in Germany," Burke said with a laugh. "I don't look at this as anything other than a great opportunity to participate in a tournament that will be remembered for years and years. It's the best players, it's the best management groups, the best coaching groups."
Also on Team Europe's scouting staff are Henning, former general manager of the Vancouver Canucks; Bondra, former GM of the Slovak national team; Olczyk, assistant GM of the Carolina Hurricanes, and Nedomansky, a scout for the Nashville Predators.
"The people we chose for our team, everybody brings something else: former players, Olympic participants and winners and assistant GMs, so it's a great group," Satan said. "I think everybody has a lot of hockey knowledge, and I think as a group we will make strong decisions and our team will be able to compete in this tournament."
Reindl said he was confident in the management group to uphold Team Europe's "mission to survive." Even though it's an amalgamation of players from several different countries, Satan replied, "I think our mission will be to win."
It'll have a much better chance of winning than any of those countries would have solo. Team Europe is expected to include the likes of Slovak defenceman Zdeno Chara, Swiss defenceman Roman Josi, Slovene centre Anze Kopitar, Latvia forward Zemgus Girgensons and Danish goaltender Frederik Andersen.
"There's a lot of good players that they've been in the National Hockey League for a long time and they do well on their clubs and they are leaders, captains," said Bondra, who played 16 NHL seasons, mostly with the Washington Capitals. "I was sitting with (some of) those guys in the same locker-room or playing against them. I think it'll make it, from our standpoint, maybe a little bit easier to find leadership for the team and give our thoughts about each player."
Team Europe will play in Group A at the World Cup next fall along with Canada, the United States and the Czech Republic.
Each team must name its first 16 players by March 1, something Satan doesn't expect to be difficult. He said the final three names will be much more difficult.
Already there have been some players who have forced their way onto the radar.
"I'm sure everybody personally has already these surprises that started very strongly this season and maybe wouldn't be considered before the season but now definitely they are candidates to be on the team, and I have maybe one or two like that already," Satan said.
Satan wouldn't name names, but it's fair to say Danish forward Mikkel Boedker (12 points in 15 games), Danish centre Frans Nielsen (10 points in 16 games) and German centre Leon Draisaitl (seven points in five games) have impressed.
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