Steve Yzerman is taking one last look around the league before he gets to play Santa Claus at the end of the month.
The Olympics in Vancouver are around the corner and the Canadian team’s general manager spent Friday night at the United Center scouting both the Hawks and the Boston Bruins. He mentioned four Hawks as potential Olympians. Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Jonathan Toews, and Patrick Sharp all have a chance to make the team.
“They’ve all had very good seasons, they’re on a very good team,” Yzerman said. “They’re all in our discussions here as we try to finalize the roster.”
Let’s start with defensemen. Most agree Keith is a lock, but the question is whether to take his partner for most of the last three years.
“I think it’s a good option, yes,” Yzerman said “They play very well together. They play against the other team's top players all the time. It’s something we’d have to give good consideration to.”
Short practice time before games begin in Vancouver is as big a reason as anything to take pairs of defenseman or even forwards who play together. Yzerman and his staff realize this but may not make it the deciding factor. Seabrook is no lock.
“I’ve looked at some of the right handed defenseman and it’s a tremendous group to pick from so the debate is picking two players that are familiar with one another and fill a role or picking, potentially, a better player. That’s the dilemma. I do think there is some value in that [picking pairs] just for the limited practice time.”
As for the two Hawk forwards up for consideration, Yzerman raved about Toews and couldn’t come up with a weakness in the young captain’s game.
“He’s a great competitor. He’s physically strong and very responsible in all areas of the game,” Yzerman said. “I like everything about him. He’s a tremendous young player.”
Age or inexperience won’t keep Toews off the roster -- only a deep group of centers to choose from will. But if Yzerman’s words and body language mean anything, No. 19 might be in.
“I’ve gotten to know him personally and as a player," Yzerman said. "He’s a special young man and I like his overall game. He’s much stronger than I was at his age and he’s more mature.”
The Canadian team is expected to announce their roster on Dec. 30.