Constructing Canada's roster for the Spengler Cup is not an easy exercise at the best of times. Toss in the NHL lockout, with all its confusion, complexities and orchestration, and Brad Pascall's task becomes even more problematic this year.
Pascall is Hockey Canada's vice-president of hockey operations for national teams. These days, his office and mobile phones have been stuck to his ear, his fingers permanently attached to the keyboards of his personal computer and Blackberry as he tries to construct Canada's roster for the upcoming Spengler Cup, a six-team event that has been around since 1923.
In a normal year, the former Buffalo Sabres draft pick would have his roster signed, sealed and delivered to tournament organizers by next week.
However, with the prospect of the 83-day NHL lockout extending into the New Year, possibilities for Canada's Spengler Cup roster seem endless. And with 19 days left until Canada's tournament opener against Adler Manheim, the questions also seem never-ending. And time is running out.
Will NHL players currently competing in the Swiss National League -- Jason Spezza, Patrice Bergeron, Brooks Laich, John Tavares, Tyler Seguin and Michael Del Zotto -- still be available during the Christmas holidays? Or will the lockout be solved by then?
What if Spezza, Bergeron and the others agree to play in the Davos, Switzerland tournament and the lockout ends on Dec. 23, during the event? How should Pascall deal with the phone calls he's received from some player agents whose clients haven't played a meaningful shift this season, but want to suit up for Canada at the Spengler Cup?
How many of these rusty players can Pascall afford to use, and can Hockey Canada be loyal to those players who have answered the call in the past for the world championships?
How many ghost rosters does this poor soul Pascall have to cobble together?
No Thornton or Nash
About the only Canadians Pascall knows will be unavailable to play for their country in the 2012 Spengler Cup are Joe Thornton and Rick Nash. That's because they currently play for the host team, HC Davos. (The tournament consists of five European club teams, plus a Canadian squad.)
Historically, Hockey Canada puts together a roster that has been comprised mainly of European-based Canadian players with a few AHL-loaned youngsters. But this year, added to the mess is the fact that among the several European leagues that house Canadian players, the Swiss National League is the only one that will be on a break between Christmas and New Years.
So that means Pascall has a limited pool to pick from in Europe. He's especially short on defencemen and goalies. In fact, there are not a lot of Canadian blue-liners in Switzerland this season and there is only one Canadian goaltender, Nolan Schaefer, currently playing over there.
The 32-year-old goalie from Yellow Grass, Sask., is in his second year with Ambri-Piotta. So Hockey Canada head coach Doug Shedden (EV Zug) and his assistant for the event, Chris McSorley (Geneva), may need more help than usual from AHL players.
This is not an easy tournament to win. A team needs some young legs, too, because the finalists play an exhausting five games in six days.
Canada won this event seven times in 13 tries between 1996 and 2007, but they haven't won the event in five years. This time around, Pascall and Hockey Canada could put together an impressive roster. But at this point the NHL lockout is playing havoc with firm decisions and player availability.
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