What Team USA Could Look Like in Vancouver Olympics
After a wonderful run to silver in Salt Lake City back in 2002, Team USA was nothing short of disappointing in Torino three years ago. The Americans went just 1-3-1 in pool play, including an inexplicable tie against Latvia, before dropping a 4-3 decision to Finland in the quarterfinals. Heading into 2010, general manager Brian Burke has plenty of decisions to make, mainly surrounding the question of age.
With apologies to James Mirtle, Michael Farber, and Team Canada fanboy Pierre McGuire, I present to you one man's guess as to who Burke will take to Vancouver.
While we're still close to a year from the start of the tournament, this is obviously based on how guys are playing now. It's also based on who we can expect to see lifting their game up over the next few months. The odds are high that someone will fall off the map, and someone else will rise up out of virtually nowhere to take their place.
Everyone wants to match this team up with Canada, and the reality is that neither the United States nor Canada did well in the last Olympics (both were knocked out in the quarterfinals). It's more important that we have a balanced group in Vancouver, instead of one that can beat the Canadians. Yes, they're on home ice, but it's not going to automatically put them in the gold-medal game.
Sorry: Ty Conklin, Jonathan Quick
Miller is a clear-cut number-one in my view. I love what Thomas is doing this year with the Bruins, but I think Miller is a better fit for the international game. He'll come in with a lot to prove, since Don Waddell stupidly passed on him for the 2006 Games. When If DiPietro is hurt, Quick is my pick for a third goalie, based on the fact it will give him experience for future Games. Of course, DiPietro could end up as a number one or two goalie if he proves he's healthy between now and the Games.
Erik Johnson - Brian Rafalski
Ryan Suter - Jack Johnson
Joe Corvo - Mike Komisarek
Extras: Paul Martin, Ryan Whitney
Sorry: Keith Ballard, Tom Gilbert
I believe Martin and Whitney are solid alternates. Why did I pair the top six up like this? Erik Johnson will be back with the Blues in plenty of time for the Games, and I think he's the best young defenseman we have. He has size, speed, hands, and a great shot. Rafalski is a smart, reliable, tough player who can quarterback the power play.
Jack Johnson is a beast. Not only does he have reputable hockey skills, but he is a fan favorite (NOT!) in Canada because of his intensely physical game. I'm sure they'll roll out whatever the opposite of a red carpet is for Jack. Suter is more of an offensive defenseman, but he should work well with the responsible Jack Johnson.
Komisarek is a big hitter, and I like Corvo as a guy who can help out on the power play. Corvo and Whitney are almost interchangeable in my view, but Whitney has more upside as an offensive threat. Where he gets the squeeze are my concerns about his ability in the defensive zone, along with the throng of puck-moving defensemen I have to choose from.
Zach Parise - Phil Kessel - Patrick Kane
Dustin Brown - Paul Stastny - Bobby Ryan
David Booth - Chris Drury - Blake Wheeler
Jason Blake - Ryan Kesler - Jamie Langenbrunner
Extras: Scott Gomez, Chris Higgins
Sorry: Erik Cole, Brian Gionta
The first line is all about speed. All three guys can fly. Parise is one of the smarter players you'll see anywhere. He has already set career highs in goals, assists, and points, and he's on track to set a new career high in plus-minus. Kessel is a goal-scoring machine, and Kane's skill is a perfect compliment on the right wing.
Stastny is a candidate for first-line center if he can stay healthy. I love how Ryan is playing for the Ducks (a draft pick of Burke's, by the way). Brown is one of the more underrated forwards in the game right now. The third line has some solid skill, a couple of very good young players in Wheeler and Booth, and Drury, who has shown many times his ability to step up in big games.
The fourth line has two classic two-way types in Kesler and Langenbrunner (my choice for captain of this team, by the way). Blake is the type of player who can fit in just about any situation. He'll work his tail off for Team USA, even if it's on the fourth line.
As far as alternates, I'd take Higgins for his two-way ability (he'd be a candidate for the fourth line if Blake isn't seen as a fit), and Gomez. I guess we can't just shed every link to Team USAs of the past.
Now it's your turn. Who did I miss?