Will Team Canada win gold?

Yes: Brenden Decker

When Feb. 28, 2010 rolls around, we will see the Canadian men’s hockey team sporting new gold medals around their necks. Obviously this is easier said than done, but considering everything, it becomes clear that Canada has the best shot to win gold in Vancouver.

Before we look at 2010, let’s take a look back at the debacle that was the 2006 Olympics men’s hockey tournament. Canada finished third behind Finland and Switzerland in Group A and had to play Russia in the quarter-finals. They lost the game to Russia 2-0 and ended up finishing seventh in the tournament.

The main problem for Canada in 2006 was that they simply could not score, getting shut-out in three of their six games. The 2006 team lacked chemistry; in a short tournament like the Olympics, that is definitely one thing you must have.

When the 2010 Olympic roster was unveiled by general manager Steve Yzerman, it was clear that he had picked a team he felt could play well with each other, not just a pile of all-stars.

There is no issue in net; Martin Brodeur has three Stanley Cups and won a gold medal for Canada in 2002. He also has the most wins and shutouts all time in the NHL. Backing him up will be captain of the Vancouver Canucks Roberto Luongo and last year’s Stanley Cup champ Marc-Andre Fleury.

On defence, Canada is solid. They have Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger, who have played together in Anaheim, as well as Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook who currently play together in Chicago.

This is a major improvement from 2006 where the team inclued the likes of an aging Rob Blake and one-trick pony Bryan McCabe on the back end.

Up front, Canada has arguably the best offence in the tournament. This year’s team features players who have played together before and have enjoyed success. Sidney Crosby, Patrice Bergeron and Rick Nash have played together for Canada in the past. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry led the Anaheim Ducks to a cup in 2007.

The team also boasts the hottest line in the NHL this year in Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley. Additionally, stars like Jarome Iginla, Eric Staal and Jonathan Toews round out the offence.

The only teams that could legitimately beat Canada are Russia and Sweden.

Sweden has gotten a lot older since the last Olympics and I don’t think they have what it takes to beat Canada, especially in net. Many are putting Russia as the favourite but finding chemistry may be tough for them as over a third of their team does not have experience playing with the NHL players.

On top of this, Russian goaltender Evgeni Nabokov has never been able to come up big when it counts. Just ask any Sharks fan who watches the team crumble in the playoffs.

Overall, Canada has the best team in the tournament, and they have home-ice advantage every game. I’m not saying this will be a cakewalk, but do not be surprised when Canada wins gold.

No: Tyler Warry

Canada’s strong sense of patriotism towards hockey has blinded fans from the reality that Team Canada will not win the gold medal in men’s hockey at the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Canada is undoubtedly still a powerful hockey nation; however, the rest of the world is competing at a level that will challenge the men’s hockey team and leave millions of Canadians heartbroken.

Canada’s poor performance in previous international competitions is a glaring factor that no Canadian should overlook.

In Olympic events, Canada has only won the gold medal once since 1952, with that win coming over the United States in 2002. That victory in Salt Lake City was preceded by a seventh-place finish in 2006 and a fourth-place finish in 1998.

At the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship, Canada has lost to Russia in the past two competitions, one of them on home soil.

Despite not being an Olympic tournament, many professional players represented their countries, so many of the same players will be present at the Winter Olympics.

Another area of concern for Team Canada is the players that have been selected. There are significant omissions from the team who are having great seasons in the NHL. Martin St. Louis has 63 points for a mediocre Tampa Bay Lightning team this season and is one of the hardest working, undersized wingers in the NHL.

On defence, Mike Green of the Washington Capitals was not selected despite leading all NHL defenceman in scoring with 54 points; he also has a plus-25 rating. These players were replaced by the likes of Patrice Bergeron, who only has 36 points this season, and team captain Scott Niedermayer, who has 31 points and a minus-17 rating.

The goaltending selections of Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo and Marc-Andre Fleury have been shaky as of late; they have been overworked by their NHL teams and have started to perform poorly. Fleury has also been nursing an injured glove hand.

The fact that Team Canada will be defending home soil in Vancouver means they will be under a tremendous amount of pressure and scrutiny. The nation has made it clear that anything less than a gold medal will be a failure.

This pressure will give Canada a certain level of stage fright when competing, which will hinder their ability to perform at a gold medal-winning level.

In essence, there are both internal and external factors that will make Team Canada unsuccessful in Vancouver.

The past three Olympics have seen six different teams in the gold medal final. This means that any team in this tournament could get hot at the right time and end up winning the gold medal.

Unfortunately for hockey fans across the nation, they will have to wait another four years to see Team Canada with gold medals hanging around their necks.

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