Canada's men's hockey team is still six days away from their opening match against Norway and with the NHL's pre-Olympic schedule winding down, the talk and the focus of those chosen to don the Maple Leaf has shifted to how well the 25 players selected for Sochi will come together.
The latest to be added into that mix, of course, is 38-year-old Tampa Bay Lightning forward Martin St. Louis. The scoring winger was an easy choice to replace his linemate Steven Stamkos on the roster, according to Canada's head coach.
"We didn't have to vote at all; everyone just thought St. Louis was the guy," Mike Babcock told TSN on Friday. "Prior to that, we all voted and if you got consensus you were in and if you didn't get consensus you weren't."
St. Louis may have been a unanimous choice, according to Babcock, but that had nothing to do with Canadian general manager Steve Yzerman also being the Lightning GM.
"It would have been easy for Steve to say 'Marty's on the team [because] I said he's on the team' but that to me is not how you manage," Babcock said Friday. "You just do the best thing and I think we have an opportunity and that's all you can ask for."
St. Louis has upped his game since being left off the initial 25-man roster on Jan. 7, netting 17 points in 15 games including a two-goal game the night after the announcement and a four-goal game in San Jose on Jan. 18.
Babcock understands St. Louis being frustrated with the initial decision, but believes he will now shift his mentality to help Canada in its quest for gold.
"I think everyone's allowed to be bitter, but I think you get up and get on with it. You know what I mean? That's life," Babcock said. "If you go through his career, he's been called out lots of times for the fact that oh 'you're too small, you're too this' and he's just been determined. That's all over with that stuff. You're on the team – now you've got to find a way to be part of it."
St. Louis' career is one that has been marked by determination, including being cut adrift by the Calgary Flames after the 1999-2000 season, finding success with the likes of Vincent LeCavalier and Brad Richards and winning a Stanley Cup with the Lightning. He survived a rebuild that saw the Bolts miss the playoffs in five of the last six years and then re-emerged as a scoring threat alongside the younger Stamkos.
As for whether he'll get a chance to play or is merely along for the ride as the 13th or 14th forward on the team, Babcock believes St. Louis has to be ready for any eventuality.
"Be a good pro, be a real good teammate and battle your butt off in a competitive environment to get as much as you can to help the team and it's not going to be about any one player."
Babcock addressed another positional battle on Friday, too, speaking out about the recent struggles of Vancouver Canucks netminder Roberto Luongo.
Chosen alongside fellow goalies Carey Price and Mike Smith to represent Canada, Luongo has lost four straight games, posting a sub-.900 save percentage over those starts.
However, Babcock expressed a confidence in Luongo that suggests the 34-year-old will be given a chance at very least to compete for the lion's share of crease time in Sochi.
"I'm not concerned," Babcock said of the man who back-stopped Canada to gold in Vancouver. "I just think he's a really good goalie. I've been with him a number of times and he's always found a way to deliver. So I'm not concerned, no."