Following Wings advantageous for Yzerman ahead of Games

 

In his day job as vice-president of the Detroit Red Wings, Steve Yzerman has the opportunity to scout the top talent for the 2010 Olympic hockey teams from Sweden and Russia.

 
 
 
 
 

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In his day job as vice-president of the Detroit Red Wings, Steve Yzerman has the opportunity to scout the top talent for the 2010 Olympic hockey teams from Sweden and Russia.

Swedes Nicklas Lidstrom and Henrik Zetterberg, along with Russian Pavel Datsyuk and Marian Hossa of Slovakia, are leading the Wings to first place in the Central Division. Yzerman, who works double duty as the executive director of Canada’s men’s Olympic hockey team, knows exactly what his team will be up against a year from now in Vancouver.

“I think it’s an advantage for me and it makes it a little bit easier,” he said in a conference call Thursday to discuss his plans for the final year of preparation before the Games.

Yzerman watches the Wings play all the time, which gives him a chance to evaluate Olympic hopefuls on other NHL teams.

“Sunday, I was in Pittsburgh and I got the chance to watch Sidney Crosby play against Zetterberg and Datsyuk all night,” he said. “Playing against top players — it’s the best way I can measure some of their players’ abilities — some of the things they can do and their strengths.

“A great way for me to watch games is to follow our team around.”

Yzerman also travels on his own to other NHL games to get extra looks at possible Olympians.

“Hockey is a six- or seven-day-a-week job for the time being,” he said.

Yzerman and his staff of Doug Armstrong, Ken Holland and Kevin Lowe have already prepared a preliminary — and confidential — list of players they’ve been evaluating this season.
The group last met face-to-face in December, but are in constant communication.

They will meet again in March to discuss players and who they want to coach the team.
Yzerman expects to name the bench boss after the Stanley Cup is awarded in mid-June and then release a list of players invited to an August orientation camp in Calgary sometime around July 1.

He wants to notify the players as soon as possible after the season is over so they can plan their summers.

“We got the announcement out early that we’re having this camp, so anyone with the desire and intention of playing on the Olympic team knows that we’re having a camp the week of the 24th of August,” he said. “If we can roll that invite list out right around July 1 then the players will know.”

Yzerman plans to model the Canadian team around the Wings, who won the Stanley Cup last season as a puck-possession team.

“I don’t expect to be a run-and-gun (team), but we’re certainly not going to sit back and just strictly sit in a trap and wait for the other team to come,” Yzerman said. “We’ve got to attack, we’ve got to defend.”

The Team Canada brain trust will have some difficult decisions to make over the next year.
Canada is deep at centre with Crosby, Joe Thornton, Vincent Lecavalier, Ryan Getzlaf, Jeff Carter, Mike Richards and others all vying for roster sports.

Yzerman suggested at least one centre and possibly more will have to play out of position.

“My feeling on it right now is truly good players with good hockey sense can play any of the forward positions,” he said.

Canada will be looking for players who can play at a high tempo, which Yzerman defines as “guys who can think quickly, make decisions and move the puck quickly as well.”

There’s no doubt there will be pressure on the Canadian team to bring home a gold medal on home ice in Vancouver. NHL players have participated in the past three Olympic Games, but Canada has only returned with one medal, a gold in Salt Lake City in 2002.

“Everyone has to realize and accept the fact that in these tournaments — it’s one-game elimination — anything can happen,” Yzerman said. “What makes winning so good is it’s a hard thing to do and you’re not going to do it every time. I’m hoping things align and are right for us this year.”

 
 
 
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