MONTREAL - With the announcement of the Canadian Olympic team roster just over a week away, the Coyotes know they will have at least one representative wearing the maple leaf at the Winter Games in February in coach Wayne Gretzky.
Eight days from now that number could very well be three.
Gretzky, who is executive director for the Canadian men’s hockey team, met last week with several members of Team Canada’s front office to start narrowing down the original list of 81 potential players. Gretzky said Monday there are more than 40 names still on the roster. Among them are two Coyotes.
"Shane (Doan) is definitely in the mix as is Curtis (Joseph)," Gretzky said.
For Doan, an invitation to the Olympics would be his first and an "unbelievable" opportunity.
"I know Canada has so much depth," he said. "They’ve got probably 100 guys that could easily be on the team. . . . Obviously it’s something you’d be ecstatic to be on, but I’m not going to be thinking too much about it."
The Coyotes right wing has represented his country in international competition the last two years and came up big each time. Doan scored the game-winning goal in the championship game of the 2004 World Cup and the game-tying goal to force overtime in the title game of the 2003 World Championships, which Canada went on to win.
Those clutch performances lead many to believe he would be a lock for the Olympics. A slow start by Doan this season (six goals, 20 points through 30 games) has decreased that probability some, but Gretzky said the determining factors are more than "just the first 30 games."
"When you get down to the last 35, 40 guys in the country you’ve got great players," Gretzky said. "It’s more a question of who fits in, and what the coaches are comfortable with, and who’s been there before. . . .
"The coaching staff loves (Doan’s) work ethic. He’s won a World Championship. He’s won a World Cup. He was part of that group that was successful, and they have a great deal of respect for Shane."
Also working in Doan’s favor is that he is the Coyotes’ captain. With Mario Lemieux and Steve Yzerman recently removing themselves from consideration, Team Canada has lost two of its biggest leaders, Gretzky said.
"Those two guys, especially, were able to deflect a lot of the pressure (Team Canada is under)," he said. "Now, with those two guys not in the lineup, it becomes important not only what a player’s ability is, but his leadership qualities also."
As for Joseph, he has been a member of the last two Olympic teams, and the kind of season he is having makes him a strong contender for a third.
Joseph said his focus right now isn’t on the Olympics, but added, "If I was selected, I’d be extremely happy."
Gretzky said the Canadian roster still includes six goalies — Joseph, Martin Brodeur, Jose Theodore, Roberto Luongo, Marty Turco and Cam Ward. Brodeur has the inside track on being the No .1 goalie, and it’s hard to imagine any of the others being picked above Joseph for the No. 2 spot.
Joseph is the only Canadian and the only one in the NHL beside Dominik Hasek (Czech Republic) to rank in the top five in all major goaltending categories. Heading into Monday’s games, he was third in save percentage (.929), tied for third in shutouts (two), fifth in goalsagainst average (2.15) and tied for fifth in wins (14).
"I’ll push for him if he deserves to be there, absolutely," Gretzky said. "Right now he deserves to be there."