Colorado all-time great Joe Sakic’s retirement from playing after 20 seasons in the NHL has opened up a spot at the Hockey Canada orientation camp scheduled for next month in preparation for the 2010 Olympic Games.
Now it’s time for Hockey Canada to correct the error it made when it omitted Boston Bruins All-Star center Marc Savard on the first list of invitees last week and send him to Calgary. Just the fact that Savard has been among the league’s leading scorers the last five years and is arguably the most creative passer in the NHL should’ve earned him the nod right off the bat. But there are more reasons why Savard should replace Sakic.
I’ve read numerous national columnists lament the absence of Savard from the initial list, and it’s great to know they’re in the center’s corner. But they all made the wrong argument for why he should be among the players competing for a spot on Team Canada. Every story pointed to Savard’s offensive skills and made it out to seem like he’s a one-dimensional player who could help on a power play but little else. Well, if those writers every bothered to fire up their NHL Center Ice package and actually watch Savard, they would see how far off base they are and how far Savard has come to turn into an all-around force.
Under head coach Claude Julien, Savard has become a reliable penalty-killer and a go-to faceoff taker. In fact, the only fault you can have with the guy these days is that his offensive skills are actually a liability when he tries to do too much or make a fancy play rather than keep it simple. If you put Savard even on a Team Canada fourth line, he’d do enough little things to fill coach Mike Babcock’s need for three-zone players and also add that offensive dimension that only he can bring.
Sure Jason Spezza, Mike Cammalleri and Steven Stamkos are worthy candidates to fill Sakic’s slot, but really there’s no way those three guys or any other available non-invited players can match the bundle of abilities Savard would provide.