The Olympic games in Vancouver are 75 days away but most national teams for the much anticipated hockey tournament will be announcing their rosters around the January 1st mark and with that in mind, all the various hockey blogs of SBNation are taking a look at their own rosters and previewing who should be making plans for a trip to Vancouver to those who maybe can expect a couple of weeks off in February.
Today is our turn as we take a look at the Dallas Stars lineup.
Pack Your Bags!
Loui Eriksson (Sweden) - It could be in a third or even in a second line role depending on how the likes of Kristian Huselius and Daniel Sedin play the next month or so, but make no mistake that Loui - who is on pace for another 30 goal season this year - will be joining the defending gold medalists from Turin, Italy.
Karlis Skrastins (Latvia) - This is kind of a no-brainier considering how thin Latvia is in all positions. Still, as we've seen so far this season Karlis is a very steady defenseman who also doubles as a puck magnet when opposing players take shots. He's going to be on the team's top pairing, so unfortunately for Stars fans, we can expect him to have a few more bruises on his body after Vancouver.
We look at more players after the jump...
Nearly A Lock...
Brenden Morrow (Canada) - Before his knee injury last season and coming off his magnificent playoff run on 08, pretty much every hockey expert had Morrow as a lock to make Team Canada's checking line. Now coming off that injury not everyone is so sure and his recent goal-less drought has also had some people question his status. Still, Morrow is a prototypical Canadian player... hard nosed, gritty and still skilled enough to score goals. Unless he goes through another long goal-less stretch, he should be wearing a red maple leaf come Olympic time.
A Safe Bet...
Mike Modano (USA) - Sure the injury and his age are working against him, but since he's made his return he's played like a man on a mission with three goals and four assists in 11 games. It also helps that both US GM Brian Burke and head coach Ron Wilson are fans of Mike and have both suggested his leadership would be a welcome addition to the team. With that in mind, don't be shocked if Mike not only makes the team, but is the one wearing the captain's C when they hit the ice.
Jere Lehtinen (Finland) - It was hard to say if Jere should have been here or in the "Work To Do" section we'll feature in a moment... Jere not being a part of Team Finland almost seems crazy, but he's been injury prone the last couple of seasons and since his return this season he hasn't put up any numbers of note and is actually a -2 as I write this. Still, Finland on wing isn't as deep as other teams and his leadership and dedication to Finnish hockey should land him a roster spot.
In A Battle...
Stephane Robidas (Canada) - If he was from any other country (save for Sweden as we'll talk about in a moment...) he'd probably be a lock, but sadly he's from Canada where the country could ice three teams for the tournament and all three would contend for gold. His offensive numbers both five on five and on the powerplay and his hard nosed play (pardon the pun) have justified Hockey Canada's choice to have him as part of the September orientation camp, but with so much big name talent in front of him, Robi will have to play near flawless hockey from here until the end of the year to get a shot at making the team.
Nicklas Grossman (Sweden) - Grossman faces the same problem Robidas does, Sweden is pretty deep on defense and while Grossman has had a solid year defensively, the lack of any kind of offensive numbers may hurt his chances overall. If Sweden though is interested in having a defensive corps of large stay-at-home defenders that can hit , Grossman may just get the call.
You Have Work To Do!
Marty Turco (Canada) - The Carolina Hurricanes Cam Ward may have been a lock for Team Canada before his injury and Steve Mason of the Blue Jackets also had some early buzz going for him, but he's struggled so far this year. Turco has been a loyal Team Canada soldier for years and his puck playing ability does make Team Canada management salivate at the idea of constant breakout passes. Problem is Martin Brodeur is a near lock as starter and unless they really stumble, Roberto Luongo and Marc-Andre Fleury are pretty much penned in as his backups, so Turco needs to continue to improve and stay as far away from games like he just had against Phoenix last night.
Moving On Up!
Brad Richards (Canada) - Five years ago coming off a Conn Smythe Trophy winning playoff, Richards would have been a lock to make any kind of Team Canada, but as you may be well aware his stock has dropped considerably. This season though his play making ability has caught the eye of more than a few Canadians and while Canada is very, very deep at center, if Brad keeps up his MVP like play for the Stars, he will make it very hard for Team Canada officials to look away.
James Neal (Canada) - If Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Dustin Penner of the Edmonton Oilers are causing many Canadians to take a second look, then you can throw James Neal into that group as well as his offensive numbers are comparable to the two not to mention Neal brings a physical side that Stamkos lacks and speed that Penner lacks. Maybe in four years if NHLers are part of the 2014 games, The Real Deal is a lock for Team Canada, but for now it's a long shot.
Tom Wandell (Sweden) - Speaking of long shots, that brings us to Tommy who is a very long shot to make Tre Kronor. Still, Wandell has shown a slight nose for the net and more importantly has shown he can play a solid two-way game and has been on the ice many times for Marc Crawford in critical situations at the end of the game where the Stars lead by one and need a defensive stop. Sweden has too much depth at forward for Wandell to crack the lineup, but he's still managed to catch some eyes this season.
Headed On Down...
Matt Niskanen (USA) - Last year coming off a solid second season, Matt was part of the US National team for the 2009 World Championships and was pretty good for them in the nine games he played with the team and many thought he had a solid chance at making the Olympics. Since then though he wasn't invited to the US orientation camp and this season has been a rough one for the young Nisky. Team USA will probably decide to pass on a player who is starting to look more and more like a defensive liability this year.