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January 4, 2014 | 1:20pm ET

Red, White, Black and Blue
 Dennis Bernstein believes it's time for a change in management with Team USA.

LOS ANGELES, CA -- In what should have been a celebration of hockey in the United States, the selection process of the U.S. Olympic Team and its aftermath have reduced a promotion opportunity to an unnecessary discussion about media access and apologies to perennial 30-goal scorers.

Setting the aside the need for a savvy public relations person to be out in front of potential powder kegs that's explode in their faces, the roster built by primarily by David Poile looks like they will struggle to win a medal.

Winning the gold isn't a bet I would make on this group because it appears that many of the selections were made on either reputation or relationships.

While the spotlight has been on omissions, the main reason that the U.S. team will struggle in Sochi is that it doesn't have a No. 1 center among them. After the Winter Classic concluded, Poile revealed the strategy that was the genesis of the controversy,

"We did not pick the 25 best players," he said. "We picked the 25 players we thought gave us a chance to win the gold medal."

I agree with the first part of the statement, not so much on the second.

The roster pivots are David Backes, Ryan Kesler, Paul Stastny and Joe Pavelski -- Backes and Kesler are great No. 2 centers. Stastny's play has lifted early but has fallen off as trade talks start to swirl around him again, and while Pavelski is a winner and a no-brainer, he's the third best center on the Sharks when coach Todd McLellan chooses to put him in the pivot. Derek Stepan's inclusion is an insurance policy against an injury to the top four.

In a pound-for-pound matchup against Team Canada, the Americans are overmatched down the middle. While I won't challenge their -- here comes that word -- intensity, they're staring down the barrel at Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Ryan Getzlaf and John Tavares on every shift (that's IF Superman Stamkos doesn't come back). So, you can debate the omissions until late February, the evidence is indisputable that the disparity down the middle has nothing to do with politics or process.

The defense corps is where the politicking takes hand, especially with the selection of Pittsburgh Penguins defensemen Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik. The duo presence was encouraged, if not demanded, by Pittsburgh bench boss Dan Bylsma; the Orpik selection is necessary as the need for a physical presence, the Martin selection leaves a lot to be desired.

I've seen Keith Yandle play plenty during his seven year NHL career, in meaningless October as well as Conference Final matches. He's on track to put up double digits goals for a fifth consecutive season, while Martin has yet to do so in his nine years in the big show.

More curious about the pick is that Poile, Brian Burke and Dean Lombardi all see Yandle toil as Western Conference executives. Martin could have been included at the expense of another Pacific Division rearguard, Anaheim's Cam Fowler, but to leave off Yandle is a whiff.

On to the Bobby Ryan debacle, there is a mitigating factor once all the voicemail and text messages are returned by a player who was a member of the silver medal winning team in Vancouver. With six weeks remaining before the Games, it's not a stretch that a significant injury could occur among the wingers currently on the roster. While Kyle Okposo and Brandon Saad have as a legitimate claim to be the next man up if and when an injury occurs, the embarrassment of leaving the current third highest goal scorer in the NHL likely tips the scale in favor of the Ottawa sniper.

"Brian Burke drafted Bobby Ryan. When I asked for a blind ballot from our members, Bobby Ryan was on Brian Burke's team and he said great things about him that were never heard," Poile conveyed during an interview to Sportsnet's Hockey Central.

In the course of the interview, Poile would not go as far as to say Ryan is the first alternate, but the with the spotlight shining so brightly on the commentary, a second omission is a public relations issue the organization shouldn't deal with for the roster's 25th spot. Ryan's comments prior to Friday's Senators practice are healing ones playing the good solider. "Any time you get a chance to wear the U.S. jersey, you put it on."

The bigger issue is that the roster has the look of one that was decided over the summer and not in the days leading up to the Winter Classic. The ability for a player to play himself on or off this roster appears to be non-existent. For Jimmy Howard to earn a place on the roster over Tampa's Ben Bishop, given Howard's injury-plagued season, is a far bigger issue that any critical comments made in the room. Bishop's poor performance in limited international play was given as a reason for Howard's selection, but when you consider the Kings' Jonathan Quick was the third goalie in Vancouver, the track record argument flies out the window.

Could Saad and Okposo have replaced Dustin Brown and Ryan Callahan? The numbers this season say yes, but big game experience likely trumped a return by the gritty forwards. From a personal standpoint, the X-factor that Dustin Byfuglien provides, including of playing up front from time-to-time, would have been hard to defense by the opposition. Big Buff's lack of foot speed combined with the international ice surface had him on the outside looking in.

Unless the USA Olympic team pulls off a second Miracle on Ice, the takeaway from this sad chapter in American hockey is that a change in leadership needs to take place.

Though the Americans will never be favorites in any international competition with NHL players, the end result of the Olympic roster selection and the bad feelings surrounding a promotional opportunity that comes once every four years signals a need for a savvier hockey mind who can deal with the external ramifications of a highly political process.

There's no surprise that the controversy has the finger, palm and elbow prints of Burke all over it and the time has come and gone where the Calgary President of Hockey Operations should be a major influencer in the USA Hockey organization.

A simple three words to the embedded journalist like "off the record" or "don't use that" and the black eye never materializes on USA Hockey's collective face, but Burke's ego let those painful comments stand.

Burke's polarizing presence needs to be lessened if not totally eliminated from the organization; while we don't question his love of country or drive to win, there are other executives equally as capable to lead the charge.

As one who witnessed Lombardi build a championship organization in Los Angeles from the bottom up, the time has come for him to take the seat at the head of the table. While he's not shy with his quotes, he picks his spots very carefully. He's not an outsider as a current member of the brain trust and one can argue his track record makes him more qualified than Poile.

While Poile has put as good a spin on a no-win situation, it's time to see what new leadership can do.

Dennis Bernstein is the Senior Writer for The Fourth Period Magazine. Be sure to follow him onTwitter.




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