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Team Canada
Rick Charlton
February 13th, 2002

Canada is bringing the full weight of its formidable depth to the 2002 Olympic Hockey Tournament.

While most of the other major powers are filling out their third and fourth lines with traditional checkers like P.J. Axelsson or Jere Lehtinen, Canada is borrowing a page from the amazing 1987 Canada Cup winner and loading for bear.

It is quite conceivable that Canada's fourth line could include notable scoring names like Theo Fleury, Joe Nieuwendyk and Simon Gagne. Indeed, the only concession to a checking presence seems to be Mike Peca and he's no slouch in the offensive zone either.

The intent here is pretty clear overwhelm the opposition with wave after wave of offensive talent, thereby negating what some perceive as Canada's

NO.   PLAYER   Pos.   Ht.   Wt.   Birth Date   Team 
2 Al MacInnis D 6'2 209 7/11/63 St. Louis (NHL)
3 Eric Brewer D 6'3 220 4/17/79 Edmonton (NHL)
4 Rob Blake D 6'4 227 12/10/69 Colorado (NHL)
8 Paul Kariya LW 5'10 172 10/16/74 Anaheim (NHL)
11 Owen Nolan RW 6'1 210 2/12/72 San Jose (NHL)
12 Jarome Iginla RW 6'1 202 7/1/77 Calgary (NHL)
14 Brendan Shanahan LW 6'3 215 1/23/69 Detroit (NHL)
19 Steve Yzerman C 5'11 185 5/9/65 Detroit (NHL)
20 Ed Belfour G 5'11 192 4/21/65 Dallas (NHL)
21 Simon Gagne LW 6'0 185 2/29/80 Philadelphia (NHL)
25 Joe Nieuwendyk C 6'1 205 9/10/66 Dallas (NHL)
27 Scott Niedermayer D 6'1 200 8/31/73 New Jersey (NHL)
30 Martin Brodeur G 6'2 205 5/6/72 New Jersey (NHL)
31 Curtis Joseph G 5'11 190 4/29/67 Toronto (NHL)
37 Mike Peca C 5'11 190 3/26/74 NY Islanders (NHL)
44 Chris Pronger D 6'6 220 10/10/74 St. Louis (NHL)
52 Adam Foote D 6'1 205 7/10/71 Colorado (NHL)
55 Ed Jovanovski D 6'2 210 6/26/76 Vancouver (NHL)
66 Mario Lemieux C 6'4 220 10/5/65 Pittsburgh (NHL)
74 Theo Fleury RW 5'6 180 6/29/68 NY Rangers (NHL)
88 Eric Lindros C 6'4 236 2/28/73 NY Rangers (NHL)
91 Joe Sakic C 5'11 185 7/7/69 Colorado (NHL)
94 Ryan Smyth RW 6'1 195 2/21/76 Edmonton (NHL)
unexpected deficiencies in goal.

Fire-wagon hockey? Not quite. But Canada is clearly daring their opponents to outscore them.

That is a significant change in strategy from Nagano and even the World Cups of the 1990's when Canada went to painstaking lengths to assemble a team of scorers and role players. In hindsight, that was probably a mistake, which lowered this country to the level of their peers.

That will change in this Olympiad.

Strengths

Team Canada will easily have the deepest forward lines in this tournament, a grouping of All-Star calibre scoring from lines one through four. This is a throwback to the classic 1987 Team Canada squad that had third and fourth liners like Dale Hawerchuk and Brent Sutter who inflicted major pain offensively throughout the tournament. Canada's defence will be the equal of any other team but look for stalwarts Chris Pronger, Al MacInnis and Rob Blake to play major minutes and fellows like Ed Jovanovski to play filler roles.

Weaknesses

As with Team USA, a major perceived weakness will be a lack of experience on the big ice surface, always a concern when North Americans go to tournies like this. That factor may be overblown, however, as most, if not all, Canadian players have had at least some modicum of experience playing in Europe via other Team Canada's. Rob Blake, as one example, will be playing his sixth international tournament on large ice. The real weakness this team has - if you can call it a weakness - is that it doesn't possess the normal goaltending superiority that characterized Canadian teams throughout the 1980's and early 1990's. Recognizing that any of Curtis Joseph, Martin Brodeur and Ed Belfour are fully capable of playing superbly in a short tournament like this, it would also be fair to say that Canada's goaltending ranks fourth in quality when stacked against Russia, the Czech's and the Swedes (Swedish View). Canada rates equally with the USA. It is not so much that goaltending is a weakness for Canada a better statement is that the superb goaltending of the opposition could prove to be a decisive factor.

Outlook

Goaltending doesn't necessarily have to be the critical difference in this tournament for Canada, not with the overwhelming contingent of forwards this country is putting forth. Joseph and Brodeur simply have to be "good" for Canada to win. Anything less than that and the gold medal favourites will be in trouble. If Joseph or Brodeur come up with the tournament of their lives, there is little chance the Canadians would lose.

Calgarypuck.com - Salt Lake Center

 

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