Canada's next top team?


With the 2010 Olympics a year away, the Canadian Mens ice hockey team seems like the stronger competitor in Vancouver. And with the load of talent in hand, it doesnt seem that they will suffer from injuries either.

Russian superstar, Evgeni Malkin is atop of the points standings in the NHL while Alexander Ovechkin leads in goals, making Russia a legitimate contender for the gold medal, but Canada can ice a team with four lines that can not only score goals, but play that physical, hard hitting Canadian style of hockey we know and have loved since the 1972 Russian-Canada Summit Series.

So whats the plan for Canada and Steve Yzerman when deciding the cut for 2010? Based on what has happened in the 2008/2009 NHL season so far, the following players would be a lock if the 2010 Olympics were to start today.
The first line would have to have a balance of leadership, goal scoring and heavy hitting — a perfect combination for an all-star line. With the likes of Rick Nash playing the role as bruiser of the line and Sidney Crosby at centre as the symphonic conductor and Jarome Iginla as the sniper on the right, this top line will be a headache for any team in the world. Who can stop one of the top goal scorers, playmakers and power forwards in the world on one line?

As the old adage goes, the strength of the team is often measured by the wealth of talent on the bench, or in this case, the second line. And Canadas second line would easily be a number one line on any other team.

Joe Thornton will centre with Vincent Lecavalier on the left and Jeff Carter on the right — all three a young and rambunctious group of goal scorers and natural hockey players. This line will have a balance of playmaking ability and the ability to score from all three sides of the ice, and it doesnt hurt that all three are feisty athletes over 6-foot-2.

Dany Heatley, Marc Savard, and Jonathan Toews will make a great addition as a solid third line that can score and take care of the defensive end with quick and precise fore-checking. Furthermore, Heatley and Savard used to play together on the Atlanta Thrashers, so chemistry isnt really an issue. The addition of young Toews is simply great for added speed.

The grind line or the energy line for Canada will have a mixture of size and strength to uphold the dirty work in the corners — digging for loose pucks, setting a physical presence on the ice, and if need be, score a few goals too.

Ryan Getzlaf, Eric Staal, and Shane Doan have the complete combination of size, grit, intensity and skill that you want from a group of players thats brought together for a short period of time. Dont just think of these players as natural goal scorers; their size and speed hold an effective combination equipped to tear down any forward line. In fact, if you think about it, this line is possibly better than many of the first lines in the competition.

Canadas defense will have to work with a combination of players from Mike Green, Jay Bouwmeester, Dion Phaneuf, Chris Pronger, Brian Campbell, and Dan Boyle.  This list of players — all big, fast and agile — would make opposing players cringe at the thought of entering Canadas defensive zone. Not to mention, theyd have to worry about them pinching up for the creeping goal.

All that said, what makes or breaks teams is their goaltending and Canada undoubtedly has the strongest spine in front of the net.

Martin Brodeur is a lock to compete for the starting job alongside Roberto Luongo. Goals from opposing teams may well be hard to come by.