Jason Spezza, Chris Osgood and Marc Savard were among the names left off the list of 46 players invited to the Canadian men’s Olympic team summer orientation camp on Thursday.
Executive director Steve Yzerman and his management team wanted to keep the Aug. 24-27 camp in Calgary to a “manageable size,” and that meant leaving some talented players off the list.
Spezza, the flashy centre for the Ottawa Senators, had an off-year by his standards of 32 goals and 41 assists, but it was a surprise to the Toronto native not to even be invited.
“It’s disappointing,” he said. “I’d want to be there and be part of that, but I don’t make the decisions.
“I just have to prove to them that I can make the team. I thought I did a pretty good job for them this year at the worlds and I think I can play at that level.”
Yzerman said players not invited can still make the team for the 2010 Games in Vancouver in February with strong play in the first half of next season, but no player has ever made the squad who did not attend the summer orientation camp.
Savard was ninth in scoring in the NHL – and fourth among Canadian players – last season with 25 goals and 63 assists.
The small but slick centre has been knocked for his defensive play in the past, but he was a solid plus-25 this season and looks to have become a better all-around player under coach Claude Julien in Boston.
“He’s a very good player and at the end of the day, when we put this list together, we wanted to bring in some different types of players – maybe some guys who aren’t leading their teams in scoring but are very good players in a different role,” said Yzerman.
“And in doing that, we had to remove a different type of player.”
Another surprise was Osgood, who was sharp throughout the playoffs and who plays for the Detroit Red Wings, who have Yzerman, general manager Ken Holland and coach Mike Babcock all involved in the Canadian Olympic squad.
It was widely felt that Osgood played at least well enough to be considered for the Olympics, but he was not among the five goaltenders invited to camp,
Others left out include Boston defenceman Dennis Wideman, who was plus-32 and a key man on the NHL Eastern Conference’s first-place team.
The Edmonton Oilers’ big-shooting defenceman Sheldon Souray also didn’t make it, nor did big Ottawa defenceman Chris Phillips. Even Brian Campbell, the Chicago Blackhawks big signing from last summer, didn’t get the call.
Some felt Ottawa centre Mike Fisher had a chance for his penalty killing and defensive play, but he was left out, as was Dallas Stars centre Brad Richards.
One whose name was discussed right to the end of the debate among the managers and coaches was the Tampa Bay Lightning’s young centre Steven Stamkos.
The teenager had a slow start to his rookie season, but finished strong playing with veteran Martin St. Louis and also stood out at the world championships. He will likely be a leader on future national teams.
“He’s a guy we debated right up to the last minute,” said Yzerman. “When I finalized the list, I wanted a manageable number.
“You can’t have too many bodies on the ice. If he comes out of the gate strong, he’ll get consideration. He’s a player I’ll watch this fall. He was good at the world championship, but you look at the depth of centremen we have – 10 or 11. And we had to bring some different types of players.”
Yzerman said he didn’t call any of the players left off the list with explanations.
“There would be several players I would feel I would need to do that to and honestly, I’m not sure any of them would want a call from me explaining why they’re not on the list,” he said. “I don’t think it’s appropriate or necessary at this time.”
With files from Chris Yzerman in Ottawa.