Yesterday we looked at the surprises the preliminary rosters had given us. Now, its time to look at who should be there over who is.
- Jason Pominville, with a roster that will struggle for offense, at least compared to some, leaving out a the guy who finished seventh among American scorers last season, and second the season before is unabashedly embarrassing.
- Brandon Dubinsky is one of the best two way forwards in the league. He’s capable of throttling the life out of opposing powerplays, winning faceoffs reliably, and will play physically against anyone. He’s well over a point a game internationally.
- John Gaudreau makes the most sense of any non-NHL player for this Team USA squad to field. He’s money in the bank scoring goals, and is over a point per game at every level he’s played, USHL, NCAA, WJC and others.
- Alex Goligoski had his most productive season in points per game, despite having two of the top forwards traded mid season and no describable NHL quality centers on the team.
- Torey Krug, unlike certain invitees, Krug played a significant number of his teams playoff games and managed to make the Bruins walking dead powerplay look like it had a pulse. Speedy, great passer, plays well against larger opponents (nearly everyone).
- Matt Greene while offense is undoubtedly needed, a shut down defenseman who can hit like a freight train is never something to be without. Arguably the best American shutdown defenseman in the NHL, certainly top 3.
- Jack Campbell has international experience and even if he doesn’t make the final roster the organization should take a good look at him for next time around. It is unlikely Howard, Anderson or Miller will be at or near their top form as goalies in four years.
One thing that stands out right away when looking at the roster is the number of guys who have yet to play their first NHL game. Jacob Trouba is highly touted, but as the Vancouver Olympics showed us the national rosters with the most NHL players will win, and that’s a lot of talent for someone who might still not have an NHL game to their credit. Not long ago, I went over the old roster and looked at the potential new one.
Dan DeKeyser was the most talked about college free agent this spring, and yet he got into just two of the Detroit Red Wings playoff games this spring. If he’s not yet at level to play regularly against NHL competition it is curious to see him on even a preliminary Olympic roster. Jake Trouba and Seth Jones are a surprise because unlike DeKeyser they don’t have even a single NHL game to their credit. It is unlikely that even if all three make it they will play huge minutes for Team USA, but there are other NHL defensemen with a little more creditability as a possible Olympian.
The forward group shows that as always Team USA will be a team designed to win games in a complete manner, and not simply by scoring for dear life. TJ Oshie is a little bit surprising given the occasional questions about his conditioning. Trevor Lewis as a bottom six forward is surprising because he hasn’t shown any strong offensive upside in the NHL yet. Justin Abdelkader’s hits are enough to get anyone attention, but offensively, he’s had just two 20+ goal seasons in his hockey career, one for the USHL’s Cedar Rapids RoughRiders and once in the AHL. Paul Stastny is surprising, well only if you fail to look at his international numbers. His NHL numbers arguably do not justify a spot on the roster, but his international game is quite solid.
In goal, there isn’t an a team that can match the depth of the Americans at least on paper. Craig Anderson and Jonathan Quick in whichever order you care to list them are the easy picks as first and second goalies. But they probably shouldn’t be, even with strong performances in the last two seasons because Miller and Gibson are both en fuego Miller, Howard and Schneider should spend their time at camp and early in the year looking over their shoulder at John Gibson who has a career 9.35sv% in international play including tours-de-force of .951 and .955 in separate tournaments this year. Of all the goalies there, Jimmy Howard probably has the least pressure on him.
The biggest surprises on the Team USA roster are who isn’t there. But that’s for tomorrow’s snubs post.
Just about four years ago the US and Canada put on two of the best hockey games of the last quarter century. But, like all teams that team USA is not the one we’ll see in a few years. If I’m playing general manager, there are some players I do bring back, and others I just say no to, at least as of now.
- Ryan Malone would not be on the short list today. His production has trailed off, he’s not been especially healthy the last few seasons, and he’ll be thirty four before this year is over. Great guy, if he hangs up the skates before the Olympics, he might get tapped for an assistant coaches spot.
- Chris Drury, nice guy, already retired.
- Tim Thomas, while its nice to think he’d be back to world beating shape after a year off, it is unlikely.
- Ryan Whitney, hasn’t played even when healthy for a woeful Oilers club this season.
- Jamie Langenbrunner, has experienced a notable decline in the past few years, will turn 38 this summer, and has had injury issues,
- Brian Rafalski, retired.
- Erik Johnson, is admittedly playing on a poor team, but not especially productive offensively which isn’t how offensive defenseman earn their pay.
- Phil Kessel enormously hot and cold, not a great two way player and has struggled to score goals this season which is what he’s paid to do.
- Ryan Kesler, good faceoff man, good passer, physical, good skater, can’t stay healthy to save his soul.
- Ryan Callahan, well above average for two way play, but prone to long slumps offensively, and injuries as well.
- Joe Pavelski, seems to have declining returns in the playoffs. That could be the team, that could be his doing, but I lean towards team.
- Paul Stastny, did not impress me during the last Olympic’s, has had declining production since them, but did have solid World Championship numbers in 2011-12.
- Ryan Miller, while his heroics a the last Olympics seem ot be the last time he played at an elite level, you have to take into consideration the quality of the team in front of him. A quality that has gotten the longest tenured coach in the NHL booted this season.
- Jonathan Quick, anyone who needs to know why should simply look at last seasons record, both his individual stats, Cup win and the number of games he only gave up one goal in.
- Tim Gleason, anyone who can be a plus player with all the years he’s spent on the defensively woeful Carolina Hurricanes.
- Jack Johnson has a boatload of international experience, will probably have been named Captain of the Blue Jackets by then, offensively talented.
- Brooks Orpik solid two way defenseman with a double handful of physicality, some international experience and would be among the teams elder statesmen.
- Ryan Suter a top ten defenseman in the NHL, no-brainer.
- David Backes, certainly one of the best American forwards in the league.
- Dustin Brown, great mix of skill and physicality.
- Patrick Kane almost certainly the best pure goal score from the USA, and has a maturing game away from the puck. Knows how to win.
- Zach Parise versatile, talented and lots and lots of international experience.
- Bobby Ryan perennial thirty goal scores do not grow on trees, willing to play physical, willing to shoot.
That would be my starting point based on the 2010 Olympic roster. The next post will focus on filling the roster out. I’ve counted out as many as twelve players I expect to put together a pool of about twenty players including at least two or three goalies.