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Five storylines

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1. Grassroots guts

BRENT Sutter says Canada is falling behind the rest of the hockey world at the grassroots level. He says it's time to focus on skill development and not wins and losses until kids reach higher levels. Agreed. Let them play. Let them skate and shoot. Let them stretch their game. Peewee coaches shouldn't be trying to build their resumés on the backs of children. Leave the Xs and Os to the pros.

2. Jumbo Joe

I GET the argument about his lack of speed on the big ice but for me, Joe Thornton is an Olympian. Still the best passer in the game and great in the circle. Take him as an extra forward and if the power play gets in a funk, put him in. Speed is great but I'll take the mind any day.

3. Classic Vlasic

TEAM Canada's D will be primarily about offensive defenceman, so having a classic two-way defender like Marc-Edouard Vlasic in the mix is a must for me. Canada will have leads to protect late in periods and late in games. Having a player like Vlasic to rely on in such moments will be a luxury for coach Mike Babcock.

4. No Ladd

ANDREW Ladd likely won't hear his name today when Team Canada is announced, but he made a plucky run. Ladd needed to pop off the page to begin the season and that just didn't happen, with 10 goals and 19 assists through 45 games. Ladd had a steep hill to climb and likely needed a slew of injuries to push him over the top.

5. Too late, Kane

EVANDER Kane got hot too late. There's no question Kane could play with the best in the world and benefit from those around him. Put Kane on a line with a top-end centre and the results will follow. Just as they have here in Winnipeg with the growth of Mark Scheifele. Scheifele's development and the move to put Kane on his line just happened a little too late for Kane to get any real consideration. Kane has seven goals and 11 points in 11 games since hooking up with Scheifele.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 7, 2014 C2

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