Steve Yzerman speaks at a news conference in April, 2007. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
HALIFAX - This time, he knows what he's getting in to.
Steve Yzerman has been named general manager of Team Canada's entry at the IIHF World Hockey Championship for a second straight year and expects to be much more comfortable this time around.
His roster was short on big names last year, but it was good enough to run off a perfect 9-0 record on the way to winning the gold medal in Moscow.
"I had no idea what to expect," Yzerman said Monday of his first experience as GM. "My goal was just to win games and not embarrass Canada.
"But, after going through it one time you kind of see how things evolve in naming your coaching staff and players."
For Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson, the choice was a no brainer.
"Steve's passion to come back was huge," he said. "When a person goes 9-0 for Canada the first time it's not too difficult to go back to the same person."
This year's tournament is being held in Canada - Quebec City and Halifax will share hosting duties - for the first time ever and coincides with the 100th anniversary of the International Ice Hockey Federation.
Yzerman said that unlike last year he's not putting together a "ghost list" of players given the uncertainty of the playoff picture and the fact so many teams are within mere points of making the post-season.
"This tournament is a bit of a crap shoot," said Yzerman. "You don't really know what your team is going to look like until close to the tournament. But I feel that we have enough depth in our country that we're always going to be a contender."
Putting together a contender is sometimes easier said than done.
With the exception of players like Rick Nash, Eric Staal and Cam Ward, last year's gold medal crew carried few big names. Recruiting injured, tired or reluctant players has been problematic over the years.
"We won't do a lot of feeling out players before they're available. I don't want to go around to a lot of organizations who are in the playoff hunt and be bothering them," said Yzerman.
He said he's hoping the fact the tournament is in Canada and is starting about a week later than usual will help build a solid roster. Canada plays its first game against Slovenia on May 2 at the Metro Centre in Halifax.
"I'm hoping it will be an easier commitment for players to make at the end of the season," said Yzerman. "Players with minor injuries would have an extra week to heal."
The looming 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver may provide further incentive.
"Where we finish in the world tournament will have a bearing on our ranking, which will have a bearing where we're seeded in Olympic competition," said Yzerman.
The smaller North American ice surface will likely factor into the team's selection this year. The larger European ice generally favours fast skaters and defencemen who are very mobile while the smaller surface provides a better arena for the hard hitting, physical player.
Joining Yzerman on the management team are assistants Doug Armstrong and Luc Robitaille. That group will be keeping close tabs on Canadian players around the NHL.
"You know last year I went into it saying, 'I want this line' and that, but it's hard to know who will be available or injured," said Yzerman. "It's really important that we get to know every player well."
Andy Murray coached the Canadian team last year but is hoping that his St. Louis Blues will still be in the NHL playoffs when this tournament gets going in May.
Yzerman says he will cast a broad net when considering coaching candidates.
"We'll start putting together a list of names and looking at scenarios as the season winds down start to feel out who might be available, who is interested," he said. "I'm not going to say that we have to have an NHL coach or a current NHL coach."
Yzerman's management team offers him plenty of experience to draw on.
Robitaille played with him in Detroit for two seasons and ended his 19-season NHL career as a member of the Los Angeles Kings in 2006. He's currently the Kings president of business operations.
Armstrong, who spent five-plus years as general manager of the Dallas Stars before being fired in November, joins Canada's staff for the third time. He acted as special advisor to Yzerman last year.