Capitals' Mike Green misses the cut for Team Canada

By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 31, 2009; D09

SAN JOSE -- In the home dressing room at HP Pavilion, there was a mixture of joy and relief for one San Jose Sharks defenseman. On the other side of the arena, however, there was disappointment and frustration for a Washington Capitals blue-liner.

After months of trying to impress Hockey Canada officials, Mike Green found out he hadn't done enough to make the roster for a Canadian Olympic team that will attempt to win the gold medal on home ice in February. Meanwhile, Sharks veteran Dan Boyle, another offensive-minded defenseman, did make the cut when the 23-man roster was announced Wednesday.

"Obviously, [I'm] very disappointed," said Green, who was leading all defensemen with 38 points in 38 games entering Wednesday night. "I really wanted to be a part of that team and felt like I did everything I could. I don't have any regrets. They obviously had something different in mind."

News of Hockey Canada's omission overshadowed the fact that one of Green's teammates got some good news: Winger Tomas Fleischmann learned by checking the Internet on Wednesday morning that he had made the Czech Republic's squad. He is the fifth-leading scorer among his countrymen (14 goals, 10 assists) despite missing 11 games with a blood clot in his leg.

"It's a great opportunity to play for my country, a great feeling," Fleischmann said. "I can't wait until it starts."

Fleischmann will join four of his Capitals teammates in Vancouver: Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Semyon Varlamov made Russia's team, and Nicklas Backstrom will represent Sweden.

But the prospect of having a sixth Washington player in the Olympics didn't pan out when Team Canada officials unveiled the roster on live television. Green said he found out from his parents, who called from Calgary to break the bad news to him.

The 24-year-old said he wouldn't allow the disappointment to derail him.

"I always feel like when things don't go well, or people have their own opinions of you, you strive to prove them wrong," Green said. "I'll probably be that much better in the second half."

While he's not holding out hope, Green also said he would welcome the opportunity to be an injury replacement if someone were to get hurt.

"Hopefully if something like that happens, I'll be in their thoughts," he said. "I'll continue to perform, so if something does happen, I'm ready to play."

Coach Bruce Boudreau, who had voiced his support for Green's inclusion in recent weeks, said he commiserated with his defenseman before the morning skate.

"He had to settle me down, quite frankly," Boudreau said. "He seemed like the parent in this one. I was more bummed out. He's fine. I know he wanted it, but he knows the whole situation, too. [Calgary's] Jay Bouwmeester has been on every Canadian international team since he first came in the league at 18, and he got omitted."

The seven defensemen who made the roster include Boyle; Chicago's Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith; Philadelphia's Chris Pronger; Nashville's Shea Weber; Los Angeles's Drew Doughty; and Anaheim's Scott Niedermayer. The list of blue-liners who didn't make it -- Green and Bouwmeester, and fellow Flames Robyn Regehr and Dion Phaneuf -- is nearly as impressive.

Over the past two seasons, Green has amassed 40 goals -- 21 on the power play -- 111 points and a plus-minus rating of 39.

"He's an outstanding offensive defenseman," Team Canada Executive Director Steve Yzerman told the Associated Press. "But we felt Drew Doughty in this case is a more complete player . . . a better fit for us."

Incidentally, Doughty and the upstart Los Angeles Kings will host the Capitals on Saturday.

"Everyone has different views on what [Team Canada] needs to be successful," Boudreau said. "If I was in charge, he would have been on the team. And that would have eliminated someone else."

Boyle can sympathize with Green. The 33-year-old was a late addition to Canada's roster as an alternate in Turin in 2006 but did not play.

"I've been his shoes before, where you've led the league in points and you don't get picked for a certain team or an all-star game," said Boyle, who will join San Jose teammates Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau in Vancouver. "He's an unbelievable talent. He'll be there in the future. It's a tough team to crack."

Boudreau said he took note of the distinct Western look of Team Canada's blue line. And, he added, not so coincidentally does Team Canada's brain trust include former Detroit Red Wings great Yzerman, Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland, Edmonton Oilers President Kevin Lowe and former Dallas Stars general manager Doug Armstrong.

"They pretty well picked seven Western defensemen," Boudreau said. "Chris Pronger has played in the West his whole life. It's who they see and who they feel comfortable with."

As disappointed as Boudreau was, he hopes the Capitals' ice-time leader follows through on his promise to prove a point in the season's second half.

"There's two types of people," Boudreau said. "There's one that says, 'Woe is me,' and there's the other [type] that says, 'I'll show you what kind of mistake you made.' Mike is the latter. It might propel him to play better than he has."

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