Success at worlds before Olympics needed for Canada | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in CanadaSuccess at worlds before Olympics needed for Canada

Posted: Monday, March 5, 2012 | 07:10 PM

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It was important for Hockey Canada to install Kevin Lowe, right, to convince or recruit top-flight players to play for Canada at this year's world championship. It will be more difficult to turn down Lowe if he dangles a possible Olympic roster spot in front of candidates. It was important for Hockey Canada to install Kevin Lowe, right, to convince or recruit top-flight players to play for Canada at this year's world championship. It will be more difficult to turn down Lowe if he dangles a possible Olympic roster spot in front of candidates.

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Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson made it clear that he is unhappy with this country's performance at recent world championships. Leading up to the 2014 Winter Olympics, he would like to see Canada play better at the world championships after a seventh-place showing in 2010, followed up by a fifth-place finish at the world championship last spring. 

Before Steve Yzerman, Doug Armstrong, Ken Holland and Kevin Lowe were sworn in as the 2014 Canadian Olympic management team, Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson made it clear in his presidential address that he is unhappy with this country's performance at recent world championships.

After winning three gold medals and three more silvers from 2003 to 2009, there has been a seventh-place showing in 2010, followed up by a fifth-place finish at the world championship last spring.

It's easy to push these results aside and say that it doesn't matter. You know, the old attitude that the Winter Olympics is the only tournament that counts. But as Nicholson remarked, Hockey Canada doesn't look good when it currently sits fourth in the IIHF world rankings. Plus, the higher the ranking for Canada means the better the seed for the Olympic tournament.

The latest IIHF rankings are: 1. Russia; 2. Finland; 3. Sweden; 4. Canada; 5. Czech Republic; 6. United States.

The two runner-up finishes were important for Canada at the world championships that preceded the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, and the next two world championship tournaments will take on the same significance.

That's why after it was announced that Yzerman and his three assistants would return to guide Canada at the next Olympics, it was important to install Lowe, president of the Edmonton Oilers, to run Canada's entry at the world championship this year. General manager Peter Chiarelli of the Stanley Cup-winning Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs assistant GM Dave Nonis will aid Lowe. 

It's never easy to convince or recruit enough top-flight players to play for Canada at the world championship after a long NHL season. But it will more difficult to turn down Lowe, especially when he can dangle a carrot like a possible roster spot for the 2014 Olympic team in front of possible candidates.

Eight players from the 2008 and 2009 Canadian world championship teams performed for Canada at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics in Drew Doughty, Ryan Getzlaf, Dany Heatley, Duncan Keith, Rick Nash, Eric Staal, Jonathan Toews and Shea Weber.

Staying or going?

Now there is the matter that neither the NHL nor the NHLPA has signed off on its participation for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. This will be part of the negotiations on a new collective agreement this summer.

Both sides appear that they want to be there. It's a matter of the NHL working out to its satisfaction details with the IOC and IIHF on some licensing issues, scheduling and accessibility to the players for non-rights holders like NHL.com and the NHL Network.

If the NHL decides not to participate in Sochi, Nicholson remarked that Yzerman and Co. would help Hockey Canada put together a team of non-NHLers.

In the meantime, if the Olympics began tomorrow and not in two years, who should be on the Canadian team. Here's our 23-player ghost roster based on their play from this season.

Goal (3) - Marc-Andre Fleury, Roberto Luongo, Carey Price.

Defence (7) - Drew Doughty, Duncan Keith, Kris Letang, Tyler Myers, Alex Pietrangelo, Marc Staal, Shea Weber.

Forwards (13) - Jamie Benn, Patrice Bergeron, Sidney Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf, Claude Giroux, Rick Nash, Corey Perry, Jason Spezza, Eric Staal, Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, John Tavares, Jonathan Toews.

Head coach -- Mike Babcock.

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