Two Short Years Removed; Two Long Years Away

Ice Hockey - Men's Gold Medal Game - Day 17

In light of this article coming out today about the potential 2014 men’s Canadian Olympic Ice Hockey roster, I’d like to do the same for the red, white, AND blue.

The 2010 squad surprised many with their performance in Vancouver, handing a surprising defeat to Canada in round robin play, and taking the eventual champions to overtime in the gold medal game.

Let’s take a look at who could be joining the attempt at re-taking gold in Sochi, Russia.

Potential 2014 U.S. Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey Roster:

Goalies:

Jimmy Howard *
Ryan Miller
Jonathan Quick

Tim Thomas #

Forwards:

David Backes
Dustin Brown
Ryan Callahan
Patrick Kane
Ryan Kesler
Phil Kessel
TJ Oshie *
Zach Parise
Joe Pavelski
Bobby Ryan
Paul Stastny
Derek Stepan *
James Van Reimsdyk *

Chris Drury #
Jaime Langenbrunner #
Ryan Malone #

Defensemen:

Dustin Byfuglien *
John Carlson *
Erik Johnson
Jack Johnson
Ryan McDonagh *
Ryan Suter
Keith Yandle *

Tim Gleason #
Brooks Orpik #
Brian Rafalski #
Ryan Whitney #

* New Additions in 2014
# 2010 Member not returning in 2014

Comparing the make-up to their Canadian counterpart, the U.S. roster is more blue collar top-to-bottom, but is not without their own dash of high-end skill.

Phil Kessel has blossomed into an elite scorer in the NHL, leading the league in scoring for most of the 2011-2012 season early on. Bobby Ryan, Zach Parise, and Patrick Kane are right up there in terms of goal-scoring ability. Ryan Kesler is the reigning Selke winner, with David Backes and Ryan Callahan worthy of being in the conversation. This, of course, fits in with the ‘blue-collar’ philosophy that the U.S. team will be sure to once again embody.

As far as the newcomers go, some of these are shoe-ins, but some of them are questionable, mainly due to the flood of talent coming from the states in recent drafts.

In goal, Tim Thomas is a case of bad luck.

He was surpassed by Ryan Miller in 2010 who was playing the best hockey of his career, culminating with his stellar performance in Vancouver that transcended NHL allegiances. In 2011, Thomas won the Vezina and Conn Smythe, but in 2014, his age may cause him to be left behind as he will be almost 40 when the tournament begins. Not helping his cause either is the wealth of goaltending talent available to the U.S. roster selection committee- in fact, due to Miller’s struggles this season, he may have a tough time making the team in two years unless he gets back on top of his game. For Miller, I’d call it a coin flip.

Either way, Jonathan Quick and Jimmy Howard, both all-stars in 2011-12, will be on this team. Who the starter is will be anyone’s guess. If not Miller fighting for the starting position, look for Cory Schneider or Al Montoya or even Jack Campbell to serve as third string.

On defense, there are some impressive young players whose development the next two years will determine whether or not they make the trip to Sochi.

The Johnsons and Ryan Suter might be the only blue-liners returning to play for the U.S. Brooks Orpik will be 34, and though will probably still be capable, may lose a step by then. Tim Gleason was only included as a replacement for an injured Mike Komisarek; and I think there will be better options as both will be on the wrong side of 30 in 2014. The tough part is, who?

Keith Yandle and Dustin Byfuglien can be considered locks. Yandle will be a great replacement for Brian Rafalski, who was arguably the MVP of the 2010 team, (other than Ryan Miller, of course) and Byfuglien’s size will be a great asset, as well as his positional flexibility. In 2010, after the Olympics, Byfuglien was a menace to all opponents of the Chicago Blackhawks as a winger. He wreaked havoc in front of goalies and threw thunderous body checks. He also seems to enjoy taunting Canadians. Since being traded to the Winnipeg Thrashers, he has been a dynamic offensive producer from the blue line. He is in.

John Carlson has a magnificent international resume, scoring the Gold Medal winning goal against Canada in the 2010 World Junior Championships. Since then he has been a defensive stalwart for the Washington Capitals playing in every situation against the best players in the world. He’ll be ready.

Ryan McDonagh has secured his spot on the NY Rangers blue line with superb two way play this season. At 22, he should only get better. He provides decent size and defensive ability without sacrificing speed.

I chose McDonagh over some other names like Kevin Shattenkirk, who is putting up points like wildfire in St. Louis; Cam Fowler has impressed many by making the Anaheim Ducks fresh out of the draft, and shows superior skating and offensive ability; Zach Bogosian was a #3 overall pick (behind Doughty) and has ability with inconsistent decision-making. Who ever it is has to be able to keep up with the best players in the world.

The forward group may return most of its 2010 players, and for good reason. They were very capable then, and will still be young but effective.

A couple of question marks could be Paul Stastny, who has not impressed this season in Colorado, but could easily regain form before 2014 rolls around; and Dustin Brown, who will be 30, and relies on a physical game to be effective. The odds are that this type of game could slow him down as time progresses, but my money is on Brown staying on top of his game and returning to make the international squad.

But there are a lot of replacement options.

TJ Oshie was perhaps on the cusp of making the 2010 team, and is poised to become a dominant player in the NHL in a couple years. Same goes for JVR. He was outstanding for Philadelphia in the 2011 playoffs, and will only continue to get better. Derek Stepan is starting to flourish in New York as a terrific playmaker, and has scored big goals internationally as well.

Stepan is the toss up. There are some other great choices that could very easily put together seasons in the next two years to beg for their inclusion, like: Kyle Okposo, Peter Mueller, Andy Miele, Colin Wilson, Max Pacioretty, and David Booth. Any of them could flirt with 30+ goals in 2012-13 (or be total busts) and if so, will be turning heads in the selection committee.

2010 marked a new era in USA hockey. Sure, the Americans have had international success before, but have always been considered underdogs. This was even the case prior to the 2010 tournament, but after being dominant and almost taking home gold, and with a slew of young up and coming talent, the United States of America have solidified their place among international hockey powerhouses.

The biggest challenge for the 2014 squad might be living up to expectations.

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