Steve Yzerman withdrew from the Canadian Olympic Team this week saying that his game was not at a high enough level to compete. Stevie Y was right on the ball. Not the type of guy with an ego and not the type of guy who would put himself before his team. He knew he can’t compete anymore and that his place on the team would be much better left open for a fresh rising star to fill it.
Mario Lemieux had a health scare yesterday. Mario is in the hospital being monitored for an irregular heartbeat. After the scare with Jiri Fischer a couple weeks ago you can bet that Mario will be taking it easy and taking it slow. One thing for sure, he will follow Yzerman’s lead and withdraw himself from the Olympic team as well. In fact, it’s unsure if Mario will still risk playing for the Penguins this year. Health is imperative, not playing for a lousy uncompetitive hockey team. Unless some miracle occurs this should be Mario’s last stand in the NHL and the end of his historic career.
Now, two older generation stars leave two new openings on the still very much up in the air Olympic roster. No one is exactly sure who will be on the team, there are players who played in 2002 and played for various World Championship teams that are favored to be selected again. That leaves lots of players on the bubble. Canada could realistically send 2 teams to the Olympics. Wayne Gretzky and the selection commitee have no easy job on their hands. As far as the bubble players, the 3 names being juggled around the most are:
Jason Spezza, Eric Staal and Sidney Crosby.
Any of these guys would be 100% included on their team if they played for any other country other than Canada. Who will get the spot? Wayne Gretzky has commented on all of them, he said it’s unlikely all 3 will be there but 1 or 2 is a definite possibility. With Mario soon to be withdrawing, and with all the hype, buzz and drama surrounding Sidney Crosby, I expect Crosby will be the last addition to the team. If for no other reason than to give him experience, Crosby could potentially play in the next 4 or 5 Olympics and be the next great Canadian star. I think they’ll choose him over Eric Staal. That’s the trouble with being Canadian, you could be one of the top 10 in your game and still not make the team.
Meaning Jason Spezza will be on the team as well. Spezza is presently leading the league in scoring and is youthful, energetic, big and strong and hungry to play for his country. The fact that he is Dany Heatley’s linemate and has very strong chemistry makes it even more appealing. They could pickup right where they leave off in Ottawa and go strong from the first game.
December 21st is the deadline for roster selections and hopefully the day we name the next Olympic Hockey Champions.