Competition Tight to Make Team

Back at the summer mini-camp, Gretzky confessed that there were plenty of absent players who would still be in the running for the Olympic squad. A month into the season, the picture isn’t any clearer, in fact, choices may be even tougher now. The concensus appears to be that Patrick Roy will be the #1 goaltender for Canada in February. However, behind him will be either Brodeur or Cujo – but not both. One Sun Media report claims that Coyote goalie Sean Burke will be the third string ‘tender because of his undeniable Olympic experience. Brodeur will be Canada’s #1 in 2006, but won’t go this year without a guarantee of getting into some games. If that’s too much for Gretzky and Co. to handle, they still have Cujo to fall back on.

Paul Kariya, Chris Pronger, Owen Nolan, Mario Lemieux, Theo Fleury, Pierre Turgeon, Eric Lindros, Mike Peca, Keith Primeau and Mark Recchi are all off to slower than expected starts. Some have been battling injuries while some are geting used to new surroundings and team mates. All still have the inside track on making the squad, but questions of “added pressure to perform” to make the team are being raised.

Other players trying to make the team do not seem as phased by the added pressure. Calgary’s Jarome Iginla leads the league in scoring with Edmonton’s Ryan Smyth and Anson Carter right behind. Brendan Shanahan of Detroit and Carolina’s Jeff O’Neill are off to flying starts, Boston’s Joe Thornton too. What about Brian Savage of Montreal? Or Brendan Morrison in Vancouver? These players are outplaying everyone else mentioned thus far.

Some reports suggest that Mario Lemieux’s hip surgery may dash his Olympic hopes. He’s only expected to miss 3-4 weeks, but will his performance be affected by the layoff?

Adam Foote hasn’t played yet, he was supposed to challenge for a roster spot. Does his absence thus far mean a chance for Eric Brewer, Derek Morris or Wade Redden who are all playing well?

How much of the team has been picked behind closed doors yet not official announced, we don’t know. But if Canada goes with the players who are actually playing the best so far, the Olympic team could have more than one surprise on it.

Guy Flaming