It’s a dizzying set of names on paper.
Canada has brought a team stacked with offensive talent to the International Ice Hockey Federation world championship at the Metro Centre, with 13 regular forwards having averaged nearly 30 goals and 70 points in the NHL this season.
For comparisons sake, only three players on the American roster even came close to those numbers. Many teams don’t even have NHLers, let alone NHLers with those numbers.
But hockey’s more than just names on paper. Line chemistry, work ethic and other factors will come into play.
“The biggest challenge is not to force it, not to think you have to score every time,” said Ottawa Senators forward Jason Spezza, the team’s highest scorer after a 92-point campaign.
“It’s not like on our NHL teams where you have to be the guy scoring all the time. There are tons of capable guys. Everybody’s got good numbers and everybody can contribute.”
Spezza’s got a couple of pretty good linemates. On the left wing is Eric Staal, a 38-goal scorer, and on the right, a former Hart Trophy winner in sparkplug Martin St. Louis.
The other scoring line features Ryan Getzlaf between snipers Rick Nash and Dany Heatley. All of them are bigger than 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, and all of them can bury the puck.
Overall, Canada averages a beefy 6-foot-2 and 206 pounds, and head coach Ken Hitchcock expects them to play a “heavy game” in a system built for a North American ice surface.
“It’s a north-south system,” right-winger Shane Doan said. “You go hard north and hard south. It’s a Canadian style, it’s a way we’ve always played, and we take pride at being the best at it and making the other teams uncomfortable.”
Hitchcock wants to wear teams down with four lines. To that end, he has Doan, his captain, on the third line, and a 36-goal scorer, Patrick Sharpe, on the fourth unit.
As of now, Derek Roy, who posted an 80-point campaign with the Buffalo Sabres, projects as the 13th forward.
“The biggest guard we have to work against every day (is that) our work is ahead of our skill,” Hitchcock said.
The defence corps, led by Ed Jovanovski and Jay Bouwmeester, offers a well-rounded mix of skill and physicality, and a quick transition game shouldn’t be a problem.
Former Conn Smythe Trophy winner Cam Ward, who led the team to gold last year in Moscow, will be a key in goal.
Canada is gunning for its third title in six years, but the host team hasn’t captured gold in more than two decades. Russia was the last team to pull it off in 1986. Hitchcock hopes to break the streak, and has addressed it with his players.
“Don’t just expect you’re going to have success because you’re at home,” Hitchcock said. “Don’t rely on the people in the stands to motivate you. Don’t think they’ll do it for us. We’ve got to do the heavy lifting. We’ve got to do the work.”