This past week was Annual Congress for USA Hockey, and it is literally a week of nothing but meetings and people running around trying to make sure that things are running smoothly. Since this year was the 75th Anniversary of USA Hockey, there was a massive Gala at the Broadmoor Hotel on Friday night and it was awesome to say the least. Now that the week is over, I can get back to writing on here and I figured since I met players from the 1980 Olympic team and the 2010 Olympic team that making a potential roster for the 2014 Sochi Olympics would be entertaining. On top of that there is literally no sports news worth mentioning that cannot be covered in a tweet. And without further rambling, here is the roster:
Zach Parise (C) / Paul Stastny / Patrick Kane
Dustin Brown (A) / Ryan Kesler / Ryan Callahan (A)
Phil Kessel/ David Backes / Bobby Ryan
Jason Pominville / Joe Pavelski / Max Pacioretty
Jack Johnson / Erik Johnson
Ryan Suter (A) / Ryan McDonagh
Kevin Shattenkirk / Matt Carle
Picking this roster is far tougher than one would think. The USA has a lot of young players that have been emerging and playing extremely well. The first three forward lines are pretty clear cut, all of them are elite American born players with prior Olympic experience. The last four forwards will be a little bit more up for debate, but Pavelski will ultimately make the team as another forward with experience. Pominville and Pacioretty both had extremely productive seasons last year, and if they keep up their solid play, they should be able to make the roster. One can never have too many goal scorers. Blake Wheeler will probably end up on the roster in place of Byfuglien, because I don’t see the coaching staff thinking the same way that I am currently. Both would be good on the powerplay, and even though Dustin has been playing defense since being traded from Chicago, he would be a force down low during the Olympics. On top of that, if something drastic happened to any defenseman, he could be called on to play and would fit in just fine. What the roster will really come down to is who will be coaching, who will be the general manager of the team, and if they care about age and experience at all. Not to mention this roster is assuming that everyone will be healthy; injuries can derail Olympic dreams, as Mike Komisarek and Paul Martin know all too well. The forwards that don’t make the cut on my roster, but will definitely be in contention are: Blake Wheeler, Derek Stepan, T.J. Oshie, Kyle Okposo, James Van Riemsdyk and Chris Kreider. Krieder is by far the biggest wildcard here given how young he is, but based on how well he played in the playoffs this year he has to be up for consideration. All of them are young players that are 25 years old or younger, and given the right circumstances and situation, they could make the roster and contribute.
On defense, the top four is pretty well set. Both Johnson’s and Ryan Suter have been on the Olympic roster before, and their experience will be appreciated and needed. McDonagh is only 22 years old, but he is already playing valuable minutes for the Rangers, averaging over 20 minutes a night during the playoffs and he was still +11. Adding Matt Carle to the roster gives the team another able bodied defenseman that can shut down opponents and contribute offensively, while Shattenkirk gives the second powerplay a guy to quarterback the unit. Keith Yandle could very well replace Shattenkirk in the lineup, and it would not be surprising because of their similar styles, but Yandle is a far less intelligent player than Shattenkirk. Some other potential defenseman that could be on the roster: Brooks Orpik, Ryan Whitney, Mike Komisarek, Cam Fowler, and Justin Faulk. Orpik, Komisarek and Whitney will all be over the age of 30 when the next Olympics start and would add experience to the lineup and more defensive responsibility, particularly with Orpik and Komisarek. It would not surprise me even a little to see at least one of these three make the roster (if Komisarek gets out of the current funk that he is in) instead of Shattenkirk or Yandle. Faulk is a bit of a wildcard here for the U.S. especially when you consider the fact that at this years World Championship he had 8 points, was +9 while playing over 20 minutes per game at age 20. Faulk is definitely a guy to keep an eye on, and Cam Fowler is in a similar situation, but has a far smaller chance of making it.
For the goaltending situation it’s pretty straight forward. Ryan Miller carried the team in 2010 and Jonathan Quick is currently a top three goalie in the NHL. It won’t really matter who the third goalie is, because they will have a zero percent chance of playing time with Miller and Quick healthy. Tim Thomas could have a shot to make the team, but he will have his work cut out for him after taking this next year off and given the fact that he will be almost 40 when the Olympic Games start. Realistically the third spot will go to Jimmy Howard or Cory Schneider, and I will give the nod to Jimmy based on the fact that he has more experience as an NHL starter.
This team and this roster has a great deal of potential and it will take the men in charge a great deal of time and thought to put together this roster. This roster of course, also depends on whether or not the new CBA gets done in September and if the NHL players will be allowed to participate. The word right now is that the NHL will have a delayed start to the season, with some people involved thinking the year will not start until December. These are just the rumors right now, but I would feel much more comfortable if the NHL and the NHLPA would start meeting to discuss a new CBA.