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Yzerman has identified Team Canada's core

by Dan Rosen /
TORONTO -- He's not at the point where he has to or wants to name names, but Steve Yzerman said Monday morning from the Hockey Hall of Fame that he's got a good idea of what players will make up the core of the Canadian Men's Olympic team.

"Yes, there are a group of players, assuming they are healthy, that are the nucleus of the team," Yzerman, Team Canada's executive director, said after receiving his gaudy Hockey Hall of Fame ring with fellow inductees Brett Hull, Luc Robitaille, Brian Leetch and Lou Lamoriello. "With some players being injured, some players playing very well and other players waiting to get going, we're not ready to make some final decisions, but we kind of have an idea."

Yzerman said his management group, which also includes Kevin Lowe, Doug Armstrong, Ken Holland and Johnny Misley from Hockey Canada, is not in the evaluation stage anymore. Now they are just watching and taking notes.

The team isn't expected to be announced until Dec. 31 at the latest, but the group met last week and is planning at least two more get-togethers before making the team public.

"We don't have to make a decision today on what the roster is, so we won't make it," Yzerman said. "We'll keep watching and see where they are. I really believe we know what each of the players strengths are and we know what they can do, but things can change in the next six weeks. You may see players get 15 goals in 15 games and a guy who got off to a hot start might cool off. We just have to keep watching and then we'll have a difficult debate among some very good players."

One thing Yzerman doesn't have to debate is his relationship with coach Mike Babcock. It's perfect in almost every sense.

Yzerman played for Babcock in 2005-06, so he has the player-coach relationship. He has worked in the Red Wings' front office since 2006-07, so he already had that management-to-coach relationship before he named Babcock as Canada's coach.

"He has always been excellent with me," Babcock told "He was excellent with me when I first arrived here as a coach even when he probably wasn't happy with his ice time. He has been excellent with me when he doesn't like something in our games, or when we talk about players or when we just talk he has been fantastic with the Olympic team stuff. I like him because he doesn't beat around the bush. He just tells you. I like that. I like people that just tell you. He has a way he wants things done and I like that.

"When he talks about players, it's all about the team," Babcock added. "He's doing it right. I like all that stuff. It's easy for me to sell that."

Babcock has already told Yzerman that he will lean on his playing experience at the Olympics.

"When we talk about the Olympics, he'll say, 'This is how I prepared in my mind to be the best,' " Babcock said. "I say, 'OK, I want you to share that with me. And, when I'm addressing the Olympic team and I get to that point, I want you to jump in and share that with the players.' "

Yzerman is not only ready to do that, he's excited about the prospect of being able to help in that capacity once the team is selected. He can talk from the perspective of a gold-medal winner, which he became in 2002.

"What Mike does very well is he's the coach and he has a definite idea of how he wants things done, but in forming those ideas he talks to a lot of people, he gets a lot of information and he analyzes that information and then makes his decisions," Yzerman said. "With me being a former player at the Olympics I can give him that insight of what it's like to be there as a player, just the simple things like demands on your time, the preparation for the game and what a player likes to do on gamedays with unusual start times."

First, though, Yzerman has to pick the team. Not surprisingly, based on his easygoing nature and overwhelming experience, he doesn't at all appear antsy or impatient.

Yzerman is being diligent and is using the time he has wisely. He even enjoys the give and take with fans and the media, who both want to name the team before he does.

"I'm trying to take everything into account -- how they played last year, how they played in the playoffs, the start they got off to," Yzerman said. "What I put more weight to I can't really say. We're not going to make final decisions on Player A or Player B until December, so we'll just continue to watch. We'll take everything into account to make the right decisions."

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