A case for Cleary

Robin
Robin Short
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Say you're an industry executive. Any industry. And say you're looking to fill a position and you've narrowed the search to a pair of highly-qualified people.

You're particularly familiar with one of the candidates, a solid employee. Makes very few mistakes. Trustworthy in any situation.

Sports scene -

Say you're an industry executive. Any industry. And say you're looking to fill a position and you've narrowed the search to a pair of highly-qualified people.

You're particularly familiar with one of the candidates, a solid employee. Makes very few mistakes. Trustworthy in any situation.

And then there's the other applicant. Impeccable resume. Real keener. Performance awards up the ying-yang.

The tendency is to lean towards the shining star, but there's also a tug towards to the known quantity.

Better the devil you know than the devil you don't, they say.

Dan Cleary's in tough to make the Canadian Olympic team, but hockey being the who-you-know-business, Cleary's definitely got an in with coach Mike Babcock and general manager Steve Yzerman.

Not that Cleary's winged wheel connection will earn him a place on Canada's roster - not on your life - but the fact Babcock and Yzerman know what they're getting in Cleary - defensively responsible, can chip in on the offence, can play the power play and penalty kill equally well - can only be considered a decided benefit.

I've been writing about the potential of Cleary donning Canada's colours in Vancouver 2010 since last October. One could sense the rolling of the reporters' eyes when I posed the question to Yzerman on a conference call almost six months ago (he was non-committal, by the way, noting Cleary wouldn't be ruled out).

You have to figure Cleary's stock skyrocketed last spring when he was among the Wings' best two or three forwards through the post season.

Winning gold in a short tournament like the Olympics or Canada Cup is not about picking the top 23 or 24 scorers. It's about meshing together a true team, where the dancers dance, the singers sing and the extras lend support.

Like J.P. Parise in '72, who otherwise has no business on the ice with Phil Esposito or Frank Mahovlich. Like Kevin Dineen and Brent Sutter and Danny Gare on those great Canada Cup teams. Like Olympians Rob Zamuner and Michael Peca.

Assuming Babcock takes 13 or 14 forwards, you'd have to figure Sidney Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf, Jarome Iginla, Vincent Lecavalier, Rick Nash, Martin St. Louis, Eric Staal and Joe Thornton are locks to make the club (it's so tough Thornton may be relegated to third- and fourth-line duty).

That leaves five or six jobs up for grabs with the likes of Jeff Carter, Shane Doan, veteran Simon Gagne, Dany Heatley (he of the suddenly sullied reputation), Brendan Morrow, Mike Richards and Jonathan Toews competing with Cleary.

It won't be easy. Not by a longshot.

But whoever figured Peca would be lining up alongside Lemieux, Yzerman, Sakic et al in Salt Lake City, coming off 31-, 49-, 40, 56- and 41-point seasons?

Robin Short is The Telegram's Sports Editor. He can be reached by email at rshort@thetelegram.com




IN SHORT

Props to Ryane Clowe for throwing off his Charity Golf Classic, which will bring in close to $50,000 for great causes, the St. John's REAL program and Epilepsy Newfoundland and Labrador ... I'm certain Joe Thornton made a few putts and missed a few at Clowe's golf tournament, but it's nothing to the pressure the congenial one - who undoubtedly has legions of close friends in St. John's now - faces this season. The San Jose Sharks absolutely have to win this season, or risk having the roster blown up, as does Canada at the Vancouver Olympics ...
... Thornton, who has underachieved when it's counted, has to step up ... My goodness, what's happening in Corner Brook, where the Barons can't even win the provincial senior B baseball championship? Baseball appears to be on solid ground in St. John's where the minor game is enjoying an upswing. Elsewhere in the province, however, there is reason for concern. Sure hope the provincial baseball association has a plan in place to boost the sport's popularity ... Jamie 'Boris' Korab reports the Brad Gushue curlers are working out like mad men in preparation for the Olympic Pre-Trials and, hopefully, Trials in November and December ...

Organizations: San Jose Sharks, Olympic Pre-Trials

Geographic location: Canada, St. John's, Salt Lake City Corner Brook

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