With the Olympic orientation camp roster down to 45 players following Joe Sakic's retirement, how will executive director Steve Yzerman and his staff cut down to 23 names by December?
And with a dozen or more all-but-guaranteed spots, which players among the longer shots have a legitimate chance of cracking the roster?
According to former NHL general manager Craig Button, Yzerman sent a clear and unwavering message about the type of player he wants to represent Canada - safe, responsible, two-way players with a smattering of versatility.
Yzerman singled out Minnesota Wild defenceman Brent Burns and Dallas Stars' captain Brenden Morrow as two players who missed big parts of last season because of injury, but remain on the radar screen. Morrow for his grit and determination, Burns because he can move seamlessly between forward and defence. And in a short tournament, where injuries can mount in a hurry, that sort of versatility might tip the scales in Burns's favour, provided he gets off to a good start next year and stays healthy.
"Defence, for me, is interesting," said Button who, with his original selections some months ago, picked Scott Niedermayer (Anaheim Ducks), Chris Pronger (Philadelphia Flyers), Robyn Regehr (Calgary Flames) and Shea Weber (Nashville Predators) as his top four defenders. He hasn't wavered on these.
For his final three, Button originally selected Braydon Coburn (Flyers), Mike Green (Washington Capitals) and Dan Boyle (San Jose Sharks). However, Coburn wasn't selected for the orientation camp, while Green tends to play a high-risk style, similar to that of Calgary's Dion Phaneuf. Will Canada risk putting one or both on the roster, if the mandate is to limit costly giveaways and errors?
TSN analyst Pierre McGuire has had Burns on his list since the discussion began back in March, while former Canada GM Lanny McDonald thought their strong playoff run put the Chicago Blackhawks' tandem of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook in contention for a roster spot as well.
For his part, Button believes Green and Phaneuf belong in the mix, along with Keith, Seabrook, Burns and Boyle.
"That's three spots open for six guys on defence," Button said. "It wasn't just how well Seabrook and Keith played in the playoffs. It was who they played against."
They took on the top scorers of Calgary, the Vancouver Canucks and Detroit Red Wings.
"I thought they acquitted themselves not just adequately - I thought they were excellent," Button said. "They were consistent and dependable through the different challenges.
"Phaneuf is going to need a real strong first half. I mentioned to [Yzerman]once, the problem with Dion is his inconsistency. He said to me, 'Well, we can't have that.' "
Up front, Button thought Carolina Hurricanes centre Eric Staal played himself into contention with a strong playoff, but he also liked a top four down the middle that consisted of Vincent Lecavalier (Tampa Bay Lightning), Ryan Getzlaf (Ducks), Mike Richards (Flyers) and Jonathan Toews (Blackhawks). On Button's team, Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins would play left wing. Richards could shift to the wing as well, which would permit them to put Staal on the team, but maybe not San Jose's Joe Thornton. Centre will be the toughest call of all.
"When I start to look down that list, the only [long shot]that interests me is [Blackhawk's centre]Patrick Sharp, only because of his versatility," Button said. "He has shown an ability to kill penalties, play all three forward positions, check when necessary and also jump up to an offensive line. One of the things in this type of tournament is, you need that versatility. And I think he offers that.
"Other than that, I don't see anybody else challenging for a spot."
The issue there, according to Button, is that both Toews and Richards had breakout seasons last year and are trending upwards as Flames star Jarome Iginla did eight years ago. A late addition to the camp in September, Iginla was playing a starring role by February.
As for Senators winger Dany Heatley, who has requested a trade from Ottawa: "Where the red flag might be - is he going to be accepting of a different role on the team?" Button asked. "You get to those big events and everybody says they're willing to accept a different role, but are they going to embrace it? Everybody knows he can score. If Dany's not going out on the power play, will he embrace other things?
"It'll be interesting because it's a good team, no matter what. It's just a matter of how they pull together."
At a glance
A look at how Canada's 2010 men's Olympic team could line up:
CANADIAN MEN'S ORIENTATION CAMP ROSTER / AUG. 24-27 IN CALGARY
Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils
Marc-André Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins
Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks
Steve Mason, Columbus Blue Jackets
Cam Ward, Carolina Hurricanes
François Beauchemin, Toronto Maple Leafs
Jay Bouwmeester, Calgary Flames
Dan Boyle, San Jose Sharks
Brent Burns, Minnesota Wild
Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
Mike Green, Washington Capitals
Dan Hamhuis, Nashville Predators
Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks
Scott Niedermayer, Anaheim Ducks
Dion Phaneuf, Calgary Flames
Chris Pronger, Philadelphia Flyers
Robyn Regehr, Calgary Flames
Stéphane Robidas, Dallas Stars
Brent Seabrook, Chicago Blackhawks
Marc Staal, New York Rangers
Shea Weber, Nashville Predators
Jeff Carter, Philadelphia Flyers
Dan Cleary, Detroit Red Wings
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
Shane Doan, Phoenix Coyotes
Simon Gagné, Philadelphia Flyers
Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks
Dany Heatley, Ottawa Senators
Jarome Iginla, Calgary Flames
Vincent Lecavalier, Tampa Bay Lightning
Milan Lucic, Boston Bruins
Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks
Andy McDonald, St. Louis Blues
Brenden Morrow, Dallas Stars
Rick Nash, Columbus Blue Jackets
Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks
Michael Richards, Philadelphia Flyers
Derek Roy, Buffalo Sabres
Patrick Sharp, Chicago Blackhawks
Ryan Smyth, Los Angeles Kings
Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning
Eric Staal, Carolina Hurricanes
Jordan Staal, Pittsburgh Penguins
Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks
Jonathan Toews, Chicago BlackhawksReport Typo/Error