I won’t get too deep into my own background here, but the short version is I’m a dual citizen who’s lived in both Canada and the US for roughly 15 years each. Buuut, the bulk of my young memory-forming years – from ages six-to-20 or so – were in Canada, so needless to say, I was hooked up to the country’s hockey IV and saturated with the good stuff from an early age.
I’ve got a lot of love for the US in pretty much every regard…except when it comes to hockey. Canada did not fail to win my loyalty on the ice.
And so, we come to me selecting the US hockey roster for the 2013 Olympics. As fun as it would be for me to select a bunch of dogs, the truth is – and you should know this up front – this is not the official Olympic roster. I don’t actually get to choose it. Because of that reality, I’ll do my best to select the best available team.
This is my opinion, and we’ll get to yours in the comments. 14 forwards, eight defensemen and three goalies, let’s go:
I don’t really have much to add here, aside from “please remember my policy of not giving much of a darn about forward positions.” These guys are making the team. Moving on.
With Decent Starts, Yeps
James Van Riemsdyk
Holy hell, that makes 13 forwards, we’re almost there without too much stress. I realize that any of the above names could come out perilously slow next season and scare the American team away from picking them, but basically if that group gets off to decent starts, they’re going to make the team.
Soooo let’s stress about the last spot.
Just Barely Made It
I’m a big fan of T.J. Oshie’s game – he’s more than just points, even though he’s produced those at a decent level too. But he’s killed penalties for years with Backes, he brings great energy, and he’s miserable to play.
I think Stastny is your first fill-in (always nice to bring another center along, and his composure and decision-making ability could go a long way on the big ice). That said, it’s impossible to predict what to expect from sophomore NHL seasons, so if someone’s hurt (and someone will be), I wouldn’t be shocked to see either Saad or Galchenyuk be given real consideration.
To the (surprisingly strong) back-end!
Barring injury, their names will be on the back on US jerseys in Sochi.
The Quite Likelys
It boggles the mind that some people are still unsure about Byfuglien here. Footspeed is no concern because I don’t believe that you need faster players with bigger ice, you need guys that are more contained and composed, because if you stray too far you can leave even bigger holes, and it’s often the speedy guys who stray a lot knowing they can usually recover. I’d have zero qualms about taking Big Buff.
Right Side of the Bubble
Jack Johnson may be an advanced stat nightmare, but he’s entering his peak years as a defenseman, he’s talented and strong and is used to eating big minutes. I wouldn’t be surprised if he has a great season and really starts to figure some things out. D-men can take awhile to mature, especially the ones who fall in love with what they can do instead of what they should do, as I think Johnson has in the past.
Shattenkirk gets the nod for me because I believe he’s showing signs of being a great top pair NHL d-man, while the guy in the category below has been given every opportunity on Earth to demonstrate that, and hasn’t.
Wrong Side of the Bubble
He’s not bad, and I’m not writing him off by any means, but at some point real soon it’s going to start feeling like we’re forcing a career on this guy that he hasn’t earned. Ah, the perks of the high draft pick. (What a dickish picture selection, Bourne.)
I think Orpik is…fine. He’s reliable, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see him make the team. I’m just not so sure why everyone loves his game so much. He’s…fine?
If Carlson gets off to a good start I think he’ll get a real long look.
The Next Ones
I’ve been pretty open about my infatuation with Jake Gardiner’s skill set, so I might as well add to it by saying that making Team USA is entirely doable, and entirely up to him. There’s a tire fire of players with all the tools who never find a way to put it together, but I don’t think we’re going to end up tossing Gardiner on it. If he takes the step many of us have predicted he will, he could find himself in Sochi.
Cripes, what an embarrassment of riches the US team has in the crease. And that’s with Tim Thomas left out of the equation, who left the game at a faaaiiirrrllly high level just two years ago, if you recall.
My favourite part of the selections I’ve made here: the five goalies listed are in order of their save percentage from the 2013 season.
Wait, I said that wrong — the five goalies listed are in order of their 2013 save percentage in reverse. Last year: Anderson (.941), Schneider (.927), Howard (.923), Miller (.915), Quick (.902).
A couple of my co-workers here in the office have not been shy about predicting some not-great things for the career of Jonathan Quick, but to me, he seems like the best of the bunch. He’s confident, crazy-athletic and very capable. So for now, he’s my guy.
The Back-Up Duel
I feel like Ryan Miller is better than his numbers the last couple years (still league average or above), and you have to remember he’s been behind a poorus (spelled that way on purpose) Sabres defense corps. It’s also a contract year for him, so I think he’ll be looking mighty fine come 2014.
Jimmy Howard has multiple seasons of success under his belt. There’s not much guessing when it comes to him.
It’s Up To Them
Not good enough to be a starter anywhere, so forget him.
…I kid, I kid. We’ll see what kind of start Schneider has. I could definitely see him playing his way into the conversation, and to be honest, I wouldn’t be jaw-on-the-floor shocked if he ended up the starter by the time it’s all said and done. Now that’s depth.
Do you believe a goalie who pitched a .913 in 63 starts in 2011-12 is suddenly a .941 starter? Me either. Anderson had a great 24 games last year, but was due to come back to earth.
And so, your roster, with a reminder that the lines aren’t important to me for now, nor are the pairings. That’s another game (which we’ll get to eventually) entirely.
As long as you’ve got enough centers you can figure it out from there, and I’d rather take the correct defenseman than worry about which side the puck is coming from when they make their decisions.
Kessel – Parise – Kane
Pavelski – Kesler – Backes
Pacioretty – Brown – Ryan
Van Riemsdyk – Stepan – Wheeler
Callahan – Oshie
Suter – Yandle
Byfuglien – Martin
J. Johnson – Shattenkirk
So, what are your thoughts? What would you add or subtract?