With a nickname like Captain Canada, it was probably unwise to overlook Ryan Smyth.
The Los Angeles Kings forward is a veteran of numerous international assignments, but wasn’t even mentioned as a bubble player any of the six times The Canadian Press has picked its 2010 Olympic team since February.
A hot start by Smyth has changed that in our seventh attempt.
Even though we still haven’t placed him on our roster, he now heads the list of bubble players at forward. Overall, there isn’t another Canadian that has seen his stock rise more than Smyth over the opening weeks of the regular season.
The five goals and 10 points he put up over the first eight Kings games before Monday’s contest at Dallas were among the highest totals by any player eligible to wear the Maple Leaf.
Smyth has also played more national team games than anyone else invited to the summer orientation camp, giving him good credentials as a potential role player on Steve Yzerman’s Olympic squad in Vancouver.
Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (7-0-0, 2.10 GAA), Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Sharp (5-5-10) and Dallas Stars defenceman Stephane Robidas (2-3-5, plus-7) are among the other bubble players who attended the summer camp and have helped their cause with a strong start.
The list of orientation camp invites who have struggled is quite long.
Forwards Vincent Lecavalier, Simon Gagne, Jason Spezza, Ryan Getzlaf, Derek Roy and the now injured Milan Lucic have all failed to score so far. Eric Staal has just two goals and no assists, and is a minus-2 for the struggling Carolina Hurricanes.
On the blue-line, Minnesota’s Brent Burns (minus-9), Nashville’s Dan Hamhuis (minus-7) and Toronto’s Francois Beauchemin (minus-5) are all part of teams that are struggling defensively. Roberto Luongo of the Vancouver Canucks is off to the slowest start of the five goalies who came to camp.
No Canadian player was selected to either of the past two Olympic teams after failing to get an invite to the summer orientation session. That means good starts from guys like Brad Richards (3-6-9), Dustin Penner (5-4-9), Rene Bourque (4-5-9), Brian Campbell (1-6-7) and Kyle Quincey (1-5-6) aren’t likely to translate into serious consideration this time around.
With that in mind, here’s our latest version of Team Canada:
Martin Brodeur (New Jersey): No. 1 job remains his to lose.
Marc-Andre Fleury (Pittsburgh): There isn’t a goalie on the planet who has won as many big games as him over the past two years.
Roberto Luongo (Vancouver): Off to a slow start. Again.
Chris Pronger (Philadelphia): Making an impact on the Flyers by averaging more minutes than anyone else in the league.
Scott Niedermayer (Anaheim): Expect him to get better as the season goes on.
Duncan Keith (Chicago): Anchors a strong blue-line for one of the Western Conference’s top contenders.
Shea Weber (Nashville): Pretty telling that he’s one of the few plus players wearing a Predators uniform.
Jay Bouwmeester (Calgary): A smooth transition to Cowtown so far.
Dan Boyle (San Jose): Another veteran who will bring a calming presence.
Brent Seabrook (Chicago): Seven points and plus-4 rating give him his first appearance on our team.
Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh): Looking for a little more productivity, but his Pens are rolling.
Rick Nash (Columbus): Blue Jackets captain a big reason why team is off to best start in franchise history.
Dany Heatley (San Jose): Sorry, Sens fans: Heater brought his scoring touch to California.
Jarome Iginla (Calgary): Stumbled out of the gates, but has too much experience and talent to be left off.
Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim): Had off-season sports hernia surgery and is off to a slow start. The management team will be watching closely.
Vincent Lecavalier (Tampa Bay): Dating to last season, he’s gone 14 games without scoring. If that doesn’t change soon, he might be watching Games on television.
Martin St. Louis (Tampa Bay): Says something when the Lightning move him to Lecavalier’s wing to try and get the big guy going.
Joe Thornton (San Jose): Tops all Canadian NHLers in points. Again.
Shane Doan (Phoenix): Demonstrating grace under trying circumstances with the surprising Coyotes.
Mike Richards (Philadelphia): Tied for goal-scoring lead among Canadians with six. He’s done it in six games, too.
Jeff Carter (Philadelphia): A sniper who could play on a top line, if necessary.
Brenden Morrow (Dallas): Showing no rust after missing most of last season.
Jonathan Toews (Chicago): If Canada faces a shootout for a gold medal, he gets the call.
G Steve Mason, D Stephane Robidas, D Mike Green, D Drew Doughty, F Ryan Smyth, F Patrick Sharp, F Corey Perry.
Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images