Let the debate begin on who should be in or out of Team Canada's line-up for the upcoming World Cup. "Canadians Trying to Impress Gretzky" In Goal Martin Brodeur: A virtual lock to return as starter. Say what you will about Jerseyâ€™s rapid playoff exit, heâ€™s a Hart trophy candidate and an Olympic Champion. Gretzky has a long memory and wonâ€™t forget his save on Brett Hull in the third period of the gold medal game at Salt Lake. Ed Belfour: I agree with TSNâ€™s assessment: â€œâ€¦with Canadian team management feeling more comfortable that the 39-year-old would be a safe alternative if Brodeur were to get injuredâ€¦â€ Add these factors: heâ€™s having a Conn-Smyth-caliber playoff run, his back is showing no signs of giving out, he was a positive influence on the team in Salt Lake despite not dressing, and Pat Quinn is returning as head coach. Roberto Luongo: Back-to-back World Championship Golds would surely lock his spot. Should Canada fall short at the Worlds, just so long as he doesnâ€™t end up the reason they falter, it would be hard not to reward his Herculean-efforts this season with a chance to soak up valuable experience as no.3. Some would argue that his nominations for the VÃ©zina and Lester B. Pearson awards, and his record for most saves in a season (2,219), should warrant making him no.2, but heâ€™s still young and his time will come. JosÃ© Theodore: A close fourth. Many believe, TSN included, that heâ€™s battling Luongo for the final spot. Heâ€™s been at times both outstanding and mediocre in these playoffs. He left something to be desired in the first four games of the Montreal-Boston series, then stole the show in Games 5, 6, and 7 (a 32-save shutout), leading the storied franchise to their first-ever series win after trailing 3-games-to-1. Jacques Martin scouted the Tampa-Montreal series and will no doubt report back to Gretzky on how JosÃ© stacked up against a potential World Cup opponent in Nikolai Khabibulin. 'The Bulin Wall' won that battle. Marty Turco: I agree with TSNâ€™s assessment that Turcoâ€™s â€œâ€¦struggles in the first-round demise of the Dallas Stars probably killed his chancesâ€¦â€ Jean-SÃ©bastien GiguÃ¨re: Not even mentioned in the TSN article. A sub-par season and a shut-out of France at the Worlds just wonâ€™t be enough. Curtis Joseph: This Salt Lake alumni is not even mentioned in the TSN article. Would hoisting the Stanley Cup this year thicken the plot? On the blue line Scott Nidermayer: A Norris trophy candidate, a Salt Lake alumni, and a captain in the absence of Scott Stevens. Is a lock to return. Chris Pronger: A monster Norris-caliber season, a Salt lake alumni, a captain in the absence of Al MacInnis, and perhaps the best all-around rearguard in the game today. Is a lock to return. Rob Blake: Is coming off a career-season, a Salt Lake alumni. Is a lock to return but his mysterious upper-body injury suffered in Game 3 vs. San Jose is disturbing. Due to the secrecy surrounding injuries during the playoffs itâ€™s impossible to know the true extent of his injury at this point. Adam Foote: Completes the top four, according to TSN, but Iâ€™m sure some of you out there might not feel the same way. Despite the Avsâ€™ struggles he quietly put together another solid season with 30 points in 73 games and a +13 rating. Heâ€™s a Salt Lake alumni and Gretzky will probably go with experience. His lack of mobility might not be such a factor with all Team Canada World Cup games being played on smaller North American ice. Ed Jovanovski: A Salt Lake alumni who is entering his prime. Not only a lock to return but might be ready to assume a larger role, especially in the case of injury. Would have had a career-year if not for a shoulder sprain that set him back 25 games, but is healthy now. Personally, Iâ€™m a big fan but would like to see 'Jovocop' show more discipline at times (his penalty late in Game 7 vs. Calgary surely didnâ€™t leave a favourable impression on team management). Eric Brewer: TSNâ€™s assessment is accurate: â€œâ€¦Brewer needs a strong world championship after a so-so NHL season but the management team strongly favours any of the Olympic holdovers because they see it as valuable experienceâ€¦â€ So far heâ€™s looked good over in Prague after putting it together in the second half of the season for an Oilers team that simply ran out of race track. And you know Kevin Lowe will be lobbying hard on his behalf. Jay Bouwmeester: Plays with the poise of a man twice his age though his exploits go largely unnoticed hidden in the deep south. Before the IIHF lifted its requirement that each team must carry three players under 23-years-of-age, he would have been a lock to make the team, if only to soak up the experience. A second-straight outstanding World Champoinship showing would make him hard to ignore. I have a feeling this will be the last international tournament in which the budding superstarâ€™s participation will be up for debate. Bryan McCabe: Had a breakthrough season and donâ€™t look now, but heâ€™s tied for the lead in Leafsâ€™ playoff scoring with 7 points through 10 games. His situation is interesting because heâ€™s one of the defenders on the short list for one of the final roster spots whoâ€™s still playing right now. The deeper the Leafs go in the playoffs, the more opportunities McCabe will have to impress the management team. Derek Morris: Iâ€™m still scratching my head over the Vaananen for Morris trade. Derek is slick and has all the potential to one day be a mainstay on Team Canadaâ€™s blue line. Granted, he had a frustrating season and that might ultimately work against him. On the plus side heâ€™s still playing and a true assessment of his value will have to wait until after the Worlds. Wade Redden: Came o-so-close to going to Salt Lake and will once again get strong consideration this time around. How much will Ottawaâ€™s first round exit hurt his chances? If â€˜experienceâ€™ is to be the mantra of Gretzkyâ€™s management team, then it will hurt big time. Martin will definitely lobby for him, but Wade did nothing to distinguish himself against the Leafs and Iâ€™m not quite sure why he wasnâ€™t added to the World Championship roster. Maybe someone out there could clear that up for me. Robyn Regehr: Has turned heads this season with his air-tight defensive play and is gaining national recognition as the upstart Flames bust their way through these playoffs. Like Brewer, McCabe, Morris and Bouwmeester, he still has something left to say. Does lack the offensive flair of the others, though. Brad Stuart: Has gone largely unnoticed all year long after a breakout season. The Sharks are for real and heâ€™ll get a few more looks in these playoffs, but he remains a long shot at this point. Chris Phillips: A solid season but I canâ€™t see him making it over Redden, who himself might not even make it. Adrian Aucoin: As the Islandersâ€™ stunted playoff run fades into memory, so too will Adrianâ€™s chances, despite a career year. At 30 he is considerably older than his main competition, but had the best season +/â€“ rating among them (+29). Sheldon Souray: Just wasnâ€™t the same after sustaining knee and wrist injuries in the second half of the season. Al MacInnis: A salute to one of the best Iâ€™ve ever seen. Might retire and we should all pray that hopefully his quality of life wonâ€™t suffer after eye surgery, Dan Boyle: Not even mentioned in the TSN article, but Tampa just keeps on chugging along. Up front Joe Sakic: A captain, a Salt Lake alumni (two goals in the gold medal game), a Lester B. Pearson nominee, a future hall-of-famer, a lock to return. The bigger the game, the better he plays. He just recently scored his fifth career overtime playoff goal to keep Colorado alive, just one behind Maurice Richard for first all-time. The Avs wonâ€™t go quietly and letâ€™s just pray he doesnâ€™t sustain an injury (Iâ€™m knocking on so much wood right now my knuckles are bleeding). Jarome Iginla: A captain, a Salt Lake alumni (played great on a line with Sakic), a Hart trophy finalist, a lock to return. Not to mention the fact that heâ€™s enjoying a Conn-Smyth-caliber playoff run. And the scary thing is he hasnâ€™t even reached his prime yet. Ryan Smyth: Mr. â€˜Captain Canadaâ€™, a Salt Lake alumni. Even if it's just in a role-playing capacity, it's hard to imagine he'd be left off the team, no matter what he does at the Worlds (his sixth consecutive). He'd drive through a bus for his country and Lowe will remind Grtezky of it. The next three players on this list were linemates in Salt Lake and are presently wild cards due to injury. But only 18 of the 23 or 24 players have to be named by May, so spots will be kept open for them. Itâ€™s simple: if theyâ€™re healthy, they play, hands down. Mario Lemieux: Reports of â€˜The Magnificent Oneâ€™sâ€™ improving health are encouraging. If he steps out onto the ice August 31st against The U.S., the Bell Centre in Montreal will erupt. His presence alone will be enough to instill fear within Canadaâ€™s opponents (acting as a decoy between Yzermanâ€™s pass and Kariyaâ€™s shot to elude Richter in the gold medal game at Salt Lake was pure poetry in motion â€“ And yes, I know, missing a wide open net was not.) Steve Yzerman: What a great way this would be for 'Stevie Y' to go out. But of course heâ€™s so focused on trying to win a fourth cup in eight years right now that he wonâ€™t tip his hand either way until after the playoffs. Paul Kariya: Like teammate Rob Blake, we wonâ€™t know the extent of his â€˜lower body injuryâ€™ until after the Avs are done. This next trio of forwards are young up-and-comers simply having monster playoff runs right now who are far from done. They all play on teams that no one takes seriously and they have no Olympic, World Cup, or deep playoff experience, but their continued progress will be closely monitored as the stakes get higher. Martin St. Louis: What a story St. Louis has written in 2004. 5â€™7â€. Undrafted. Wins the Art Ross trophy despite all odds. Will probably walk away with the Hart, the Lester B. Pearson, and the Lady Byng as well. All heart and no quit. Simply amazing. I canâ€™t see how he doesnâ€™t make this team, even if Tampa falls short of making a Cup Final appearance. Not naming him would just be bad P.R. on Gretzkyâ€™s part. Patrick Marleau: Canadaâ€™s sniping power forwards â€“ Bertuzzi, Thornton, Nolan, Doan, Nash â€“ have been dropping like flies and Marleau has responded by busting out as the leading playoff goal-scorer with 7 in 9 games thus far. Heâ€™s also an emerging leader and wears that teal â€˜Câ€™ well. Vincent Lecavalier: Consistency will be his biggest issue as Tampa forges ahead into uncharted playoff waters. He looked almost â€˜Mario-likeâ€™ against Montreal with 7 points in a 4-game sweep (the between-the-legs tip with 16 seconds left to force overtime in Game 3 was something else). This after laying an egg against the Isles in Round 1. Last summer, this next trio of young up-and-comers was probably on everyoneâ€™s short list to make the team, without question, despite the fact that none of them have any Olympic, World Cup, or deep playoff experience. Well, theyâ€™ve all gone through varying degrees of adversity since then which have put their invitations in doubt. Dany Heatley: Concerning Heatley, I agree with TSNâ€™s assessment that â€œâ€¦a close eye is being kept on him at the Worlds, a strong performance would signal that his comeback is near completeâ€¦â€ No one will question the budding superstarâ€™s dedication and resolve, as heâ€™s been to hell and back this year. And his amazing skill set hasnâ€™t escaped him either. He recently scored on a pretty one-timer at a key moment against Switzerland at the Worlds. Like Bouwmeester, he would have been a prime under-23 candidate until that mandatory clause was lifted by the IIHF, and thereâ€™ll soon be a time when leaving him off Team Canada will be unthinkable. The only question remains is if he does make the 2004 squad, what capacity will it be in? Joe Thornton: â€˜Jumbo Joeâ€™ has torn rib cartilage which no doubt was a major factor in his first-round no-show against Montreal, and it will be a major concern heading into the summer. He probably wonâ€™t be named in May. Like Jovanovski, and even Lecavalier, heâ€™s always had a short fuse and a penchant for taking bad penalties, which could kill a team in a one-game elimination situation. However that fact pales in comparison to the awesome combination of skill and power that Thornton possesses, and if healthy, he has the ability to dominate a shift all by himself. A player of Thorntonâ€™s stature not being available for the World Cup would probably kill most countries, but itâ€™s a credit to Canadaâ€™s depth that if Joe canâ€™t go, no one will be jumping off any bridges. Todd Bertuzzi: TSN ended their article with this ominous paragraph: â€œâ€¦Hockey Canada has never named a suspended player. But if somehow NHL commissioner Gary Bettman were to re-instate Bertuzzi before mid-May, that would change everythingâ€¦â€ Iâ€™ll leave this one for you guys to debate, but something tells me Todd wonâ€™t have the privilege of representing his country this year. This next trio is comprised of young up-and-comers who where on the bubble to begin with, but despite their exploits this season, may have all seen their dreams dashed by injury. Again, none have Olympic or World Cup experience, and only one has gone deep into the playoffs. Alex Tanguay: At mid-season many felt Tanguay would be a great compliment on left wing to potentially replace Simon GagnÃ© on the scoring line alongside Sakic and Iginla, which had so much success at Salt Lake. People often forget how defensively responsible he is for his age (a +30 this season). He even has a decisive goal in Game 7 of Coloradoâ€™s 2001 Cup win over the Devils on his rÃ©sumÃ©. But he has since ran into various injury woes which ruined his career-year and have hampered him ever-since. Is he playing hurt now? We wonâ€™t now for sure until the Avs bow out. Nevertheless, Gretzky will probably lean towards experience and other youngsters like St. Louis, Marleau, Lecavalier and Heatley may be passing him by. Shane Doan: Talk about bad luck. Doan suffered a serious knee injury in a meaningless end-of-season game which will probably keep him out. He truly had a breakthrough season and has become the face, and captain, of a young Phoenix franchise that is trying to build a winner slowly in Tampa-like fashion. Until this setback, he was looking like the heir-apparent to Owen Nolan, a fellow injured power forward who is beginning to wear with age. And to think Shane had the backing of Gretzky himself coming out of the desert. Rick Nash: TSNâ€™s article didnâ€™t even mention him. His sudden withdrawal from the Worlds obviously didnâ€™t earn him any brownie points with team management, but to be fair he is apparently suffering from an injury. That being said, for a player who was young enough to play in the World Juniors this year to co-lead the NHL in goal-scoring on a losing team was a pretty impressive feat. He probably wonâ€™t make the cut in 2004. Like Bouwmeester and Heatley though, his time may not be now, but the future will no doubt be bright. The next five forwards consist of Salt Lake alumni who, for various reasons â€“ injury, age and/or underachievement â€“ are all on the bubble now. Owen Nolan: Nolanâ€™s injury doesnâ€™t seem grave enough to keep him out until August, or is it? If healthy itâ€™d be hard to leave him off the team, considering his experience and seeing as how heâ€™s more suited to the North American style of play that the World Cup might provide compared to its Olympic counterpart. Heâ€™s been snake-bit by injuries all season long, and just when it seemed like he was finally becoming comfortable and productive in a Leafsâ€™ uniform. Quinn will lobby for him. Brendan Shanahan: 2003-04 turned out to be one of the least productive of Shanahanâ€™s career. Has age finally begun to catch up with the wily vet? He is healthy, heâ€™s poised to make yet another Cup run with the Wings, and he does have experience coming out of his ears. If he does make the team it will be in a limited role, as in Salt Lake, when he managed a single assist in 6 games and was a -1. Joe Nieuwendyk: Like Shanahan, heâ€™s starting to show his age and you know his current back problem must be serious if itâ€™s keeping him out of key playoff games. Because when healthy, heâ€™s Mr. Clutch. Like Sakic, heâ€™s shown the ability to elevate his game when the stakes are highest. Every good team has specialists and Nieuwendykâ€™s face-off prowess, powerplay proficiency, leadership and experience could be invaluable assets coming off the bench in a limited role. Quinn will vouch for him. Ultimately, it will be up to the management team to surround the core forwards with the right mix of youth and veteran role players to make this World Cup team a success. Simon GagnÃ©: Hard to think of him as a vet at the tender age of 24, and Iâ€™m sure most 24-year-olds would be elated to score 45 points in 80 games, but the fact remains that most people are of the opinion that GagnÃ© actually took a step back this season after past seasons of 48, 59, and 66 points. Others might counter that heâ€™s merely fit into Ken Hitchcockâ€™s defensive system as a more all-around player and has had an improved playoff run in a semi-checking role alongside Keith Primeau and another born-again-checker, Sami Kapanen. The deeper the Flyers go, the more itâ€™ll be to his benefit. Compared to others his age he already has the experiences of an Olympic Games and rehabilitation from a serious injury under his belt.) Mike Peca: A disappointing season by his own self-admitted standards. Salt Lakeâ€™s checking-line centre will have healthy competition this time around from a crop of excellent two-way pivots in Primeau, Draper, Arnott and Madden. It is his job to lose â€“ a job that philosophically some of you out there might not even think is necessary. But letâ€™s just assume for all intensive purposes that, like in 2002, the Team Canada braintrust will opt to reserve a roster spot for the services of a checking-line centre, which brings us to our next section. The next four players are Canadaâ€™s best candidates to possibly unseat Mike Peca for the role of checking-line centre. It would be safe to assume that, should Peca fall out of favour, only one of them will make the team in place of him. Keith Primeau: After wading in mediocrity for seasons now, Hitchcock has somehow breathed life back into this player and heâ€™s running roughshod over the competition this playoff season like a runaway Mac truck. Primeau has battled through nagging injuries all season long and will continue to get a long look as long as Phillyâ€™s still in it. At 32, heâ€™s finally developed into the consummate leader and captain. Most forget he was at Nagano (I guess most would just rather forget 1998 altogether). Hitchcock will lobby for him hard. For what itâ€™s worth, heâ€™s my personal choice over Peca right now. Kris Draper: Had a career year and could very well walk away with the Selke trophy this summer. A smart, gritty player who lacks the imposing size of Primeau and the raw hitting ability of Peca, but who put up some impressive offensive numbers this season. He and Primeau are the only ones of this group still playing so the book isnâ€™t quite closed yet. His appearance at the Worlds last year was a plus since he lacks the international experience of both Primeau and Peca. He does have oodles of playoff experience, though. Jason Arnott: Wasnâ€™t even mentioned in the TSN article. Fizzled after a scintillating first half and was a non-factor come playoff time. John Madden: Wasnâ€™t even mentioned in the TSN article. Is highly underrated in my opinion, but had a so-so season and wasnâ€™t his usual dangerous self shorthanded. This final group consists of four forwards whose play at the current World Championship will determine whether or not they will even be considered for one of the final roster spots. However, as stated in the TSN article, â€œ...while World Cup organizers are allowing up to 26 players to be namedâ€¦ the Canadians don't want a large taxi squad in the press boxâ€¦â€, and so competition will be fierce among them. At the moment they remain long-shots and will have to really excel at this tournament in order to grab Gretzky and Co.â€™s attention. Glen Murray: Murray is a sniper who might get lost in the shuffle, stuck behind so many good offensive players. Itâ€™s a credit to Canadian depth that a player of his caliber might be so easily passed over. Reminds me a lot of Jason Allisonâ€™s situation back in 2002. Brendan Morrison: Like Murray, he battles with consistency and is an offensive-minded player who probably wouldnâ€™t fit on the World Cup squad as a role-player. However heâ€™s got the better part of the tournament left to prove everyone wrong. Brenden Morrow: Is showing signs of become the type of player that you really hate to play against, but right now at the Worlds thatâ€™s translating into some unhealthy penalty trouble. Probably wonâ€™t make this team but is developing into a future role-player to be reckoned with, for sure. Daniel BriÃ¨re: Wasnâ€™t even mentioned in the TSN article despite showing some chemistry with Heatley at last yearâ€™s and this yearâ€™s Worlds. Is seriously underrated, not to mention undersized. Thereâ€™ll probably only be room for one small man on the World Cup squad and that would sooner be St. Louis. Canâ€™t understand why he was traded for Gratton, though. Worth mentioning... Eric Lindros: Like MacInnis, a Salt Lake alumni who wonâ€™t be back, for obvious health reasons. Hereâ€™s hoping that we havenâ€™t seen the last of Eric. The NHL is better with a healthy and productive Lindros in it. Theo Fleury: Again, like MacInnis and Lindros, he wonâ€™t be back. Hereâ€™s hoping that better days lie ahead for him after hockey. Anson Carter: Wasnâ€™t even mentioned in the TSN article. The only reason I mention him here is for the big goal he scored in the gold medal game at the Worlds last year, and because Iâ€™d like to see him put it all together one day. Obviously he wonâ€™t be considered this time around after a horrible season in which not one, but two teams gave up on him. Wonder why he wasnâ€™t invited to Prague? Did he decline? Mark Recchi: Another curious omission from the TSN article, Recchiâ€™s exploits have long gone unheralded. Perhaps a combination of age and undistinguished playoff numbers are keeping him from consideration. His line (alongside Handzus and LeClair) have given way to the â€˜Blackhawk Downâ€™ line (Roenick, Zhamnov and Amonte) as Phillyâ€™s main post-season offensive production unit. Brad Richards: Overlooked by the TSN article. Overshadowed in Tampa by St. Louis and Lecavalier, despite some clutch goals late in the series against Montreal.. Cory Stillman: Ditto. Steve Sullivan: Not mentioned in TSNâ€™s article. Like BriÃ¨re, a smart little player who just wonâ€™t make the cut, but like Carter, I wonder why heâ€™s not at the Worlds? Scott Walker: Ditto. Well, let the debate begin. Feel free to chew me up and spit me out on anything I've said above. I'll end with this quote from the TSN article: "..."You could pick two teams,'' Nill said. "It's a compliment to Canadian hockey and a compliment to the players.''..."