In surfing about the net today, I stumbled onto Hockey Canada's site and the stats from the amazing mens' hockey tournament in Vancouver. It got me thinking how much has changed already in the 2 years since the last Olympic teams were unveiled.
For starters, tragically, the tournament's leading scorer is no longer with us. Pavol Demitra was killed in a plane crash over the summer. Demitra was outstanding, putting up 10 points for Slovakia. Brian Rafalski, America's leading scorer, has retired.
As for Canada, there are several gold medalists who wouldn't even be remotely considered for this team if the Olympics were held today. Dany Heatley is now the worst player from Canada's 2010 roster. That's not Senator fan bitterness speaking. That's fact. He's out, even if Canada didn't have a huge swell of youth on the way.
It is impossible to imagine the team without Claude Giroux or Steven Stamkos, who will be 26 and 24 years old in 2014. The current learning curve of Tyler Seguin, Jeff Skinner, Matt Duchene, Jordan Eberle, John Tavares, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins would suggest they may also be ready to serve their country.
That's all bad news for Heatley, Brendan Morrow, Patrick Marleau, Jarome Iginla and Joe Thornton. Considering the skill of the kids, these guys could be replaceable right now. Imagine things in 2 years. You might also need to make tough decisions on Rick Nash, Eric Staal and Ryan Getzlaf who will all need to be better than they are right now to ward off some of the kids.
You can even check today's leading NHL scorers at the quarter turn. It's possible, although unlikely, one or two of these guys have figured it out and are actually ready to join the NHL's elite and the Canadian Olympic discussion: Joffrey Lupul (T-3rd), Kris Versteeg (T-3), Jason Pominville (T-6), James Neal (T-12) and Jamie Benn (T-18). They'll need to score like this for another 700 days or so before anyone takes them seriously.
On defence, Duncan Keith, Shea Weber, Drew Doughty and Brent Seabrook should all be back. However, Scott Niedermayer has retired. Chris Pronger and Dan Boyle may be too old. That opens up a spot for Kris Letang. Tyler Myers, PK Subban or Brent Burns may also get some love.
Finally, in goal, say farewell to Martin Brodeur and Roberto Luongo. They are no longer Canada's best. My picks right now? Carey Price and Marc-Andre Fleury (3rd string in '10) with Cam Ward as my third.
It's pretty fascinating to see how quickly things can change in less than 2 years. Some guys who haven't even played in the NHL yet - guys like Jonathan Huberdeau, Ryan Strome, or Mark Scheifele - may also emerge. I'll be keen to re-visit this entry two more years down the road when the team is actually being chosen. There will be more than a few really good 2011 players who aren't Olympic worthy when the roster comes out in 2013.