Olympic outlook: USA
Tab Bamford takes a look at what the 2014 U.S. Winter Olympic team could look
CHICAGO, IL -- Though some might argue the Phoenix Coyotes finding an
owner is an indication that the end of the world is near, it's an
exciting time of year for hockey fans to consider who might represent
their country in Sochi at the 2014 Winter Olympics.
The national orientation camps are set, and there will be a lot of
dialogue about who could/should make each team. For some countries, an
influx of young talent is needed for a run at the medal stand. For
others, especially Canada, it's hard to improve on what worked very
well in Vancouver three years ago.
With the Olympics in mind, let's take a look ahead at how some of the
rosters might develop. We'll start by looking ahead at the silver
medal winners from 2010, the United States.
Returning Goaltenders: Jonathan Quick (s), Ryan Miller New Addition: Jimmy Howard
Miller was incredible in 2010, earning Most Outstanding Player honors
in the silver medal effort. In Sochi, however, he'll likely serve as a
backup to arguably the best netminder in the game today in Quick, who
has led the Los Angeles Kings to a Stanley Cup since the Vancouver
Games. Howard is the best bet to replace Tim Thomas as the third
goaltender on the roster.
Returning Defensemen: Ryan Suter, Erik Johnson, Jack Johnson,
Brooks Orpik New Additions: Keith Yandle, Kevin Shattenkirk, John Carlson
Brian Rafalski won't return, and Ryan Whitney and Tim Gleason could
also be on the outside looking in. The intriguing name on the list
will be Orpik, who will turn 33 in late-September and might lose his
seat to a younger skater. Yandle is a lock to replace Rafalski, but
who fills in the gaps from there is a long way from written in stone.
There are a number of young, talented players in the mix for a spot.
Shattenkirk, New York's Ryan McDonagh and Winnipeg's Zach Bogosian
could all factor into the Top Four in Sochi, but there are a few other
names that might push their way onto the roster.
Certainly Dustin Byfuglien's offensive ability would be tempting, but
he needs to be in better shape; there's no way the Byfuglien that
played in Winnipeg during the 2013 season is effective on the blueline
against the speed of Canada or Russia.
On the other end of the speed spectrum from Byfuglien, young players
like Nick Leddy are intriguing if the U.S. wants to carry another PP
specialist who can move the puck. Leddy played as a bottom-pair player
on the Blackhawks' Cup team, but has skated over 20 minutes a night
over the last three NHL seasons. Cam Fowler and Justin Faulk might get
a long look as well.
The better bet would be Carlson, who has shown plenty of offensive
ability (97 points in 234 NHL games) with the Capitals over the last
few years, is a better skater than Byfuglien and is bigger and more
experienced than Leddy.
Returning Forwards: Patrick Kane, Zach Parise, Bobby Ryan,
Dustin Brown, Ryan Callahan, Ryan Kesler, Phil Kessel, Joe Pavelski,
David Backes New Additions: James van Riemsdyk, TJ Oshie, Blake Wheeler,
Chris Drury and Jamie Langenbrunner won't be back in Sochi, opening
the door for at least two new names. The wild cards for the forwards
spots on the roster will come down to Ryan Malone and Paul Stastny,
and how many defensemen the U.S. opts to carry.
van Riemsdyk had a fantastic season with the Toronto Maple Leafs in
2013, posting 18 goals in 48 games. He also has a lot of international
experience (34 games and three medals) on his resume, making him a
likely candidate to be one of the new faces.
After van Riemsdyk, the U.S. could go a number of directions. One
interesting name is Chicago's Brandon Saad, who spent the 2013 regular
season on the Blackhawks' top line with Jonathan Toews and Marian
Hossa and was used on both special teams. Montreal's Max Pacioretty is
older than Saad and was a member of the World Championship team last
year. And Justin Abdelkader is a good defensive forward that would
play well in a bottom-six role.
But the offensive upside of Oshie, the size of Wheeler and the
versatility of Stepan make them more logical choices. Oshie has 26
games of international experience, last winning a bronze at the World
Championships last summer.