The United States team at the 2014 Sochi Olympics could closely resemble the group that won silver four years earlier. That’s a contrast from Canada, which has had members of its management group emphasize that a gold in Vancouver won’t mean the same team returns.
U.S. general manager David Poile has said the plan is to “reward success,” and that includes the 2010 Games and recent world championships. With that in mind, here’s a look at what the U.S. team could look like:
Forwards: David Backes, Dustin Brown, Ryan Callahan, Patrick Kane, Phil Kessel, Zach Parise, Bobby Ryan.
Defencemen: Ryan Suter, Ryan McDonagh.
Goaltenders: Jonathan Quick.
With Jamie Langenbrunner gone, the U.S. team will have a captain in either Brown or Parise. Figure that the leadership group will include Backes, Callahan and Suter.
Kane is the best skater the U.S. has, and Quick will make it, likely as the starting goaltender. That ensures the past two Conn Smythe Trophy winners are in Sochi.
Solid bets (6)
Forwards: Ryan Kesler, Max Pacioretty, Joe Pavelski, Derek Stepan.
Defencemen: Kevin Shattenkirk, Jack Johnson.
Kesler could excel as the United States’ third-line, shutdown centre. Pavelski can play centre and wing, which makes him a valuable commodity.
Stepan and Pacioretty are on the rise and would be locks as long as they’re consistent in the first part of the NHL season.
Shattenkirk is as close to a lock as defencemen get. Poile loves that Johnson has represented the U.S. so much internationally, even though a lot of that is because he has been on teams that have been out of the playoffs by the time the world championship starts.
Forwards: James van Riemsdyk, T.J. Oshie, Alex Galchenyuk.
Defencemen: Brooks Orpik, Erik Johnson, John Carlson, Paul Martin.
Goaltenders: Jimmy Howard, John Gibson.
Van Riemsdyk must show he can continue to use his size in front of the net, while Galchenyuk would be a smart pick as a 13th or 14th forward because he could provide a spark, if needed. Oshie was a point-a-game player for the U.S. at the 2010 world championship.
The U.S. has much more bubble volatility on defence than Canada. Beyond the top four, there are perhaps a dozen players who could be on the blue-line in Sochi.
In this case, Orpik and Martin are aided by their connection with Bylsma, but also because they have specific jobs to do in Sochi. Carlson can eat up quality penalty-killing minutes and might play more than anyone expects.
Howard could press Quick for the starting job if he excels in the first three months for the Detroit Red Wings. If the U.S. goes with three NHL goaltenders, Cory Schneider and Craig Anderson could battle it out.
But Gibson led the U.S. to a silver medal at the world championship, and his inclusion is all about rewarding that success on the big ice.
Forwards: Kyle Okposo, Blake Wheeler, Brandon Saad.
Defencemen: Justin Faulk, Keith Yandle, Zach Bogosian.
Goaltenders: Cory Schneider, Craig Anderson, Ryan Miller.
The final few forward spots could really be earned in the first three months of the season, particularly if Okposo and the New York Islanders start strong. Saad is a long shot but could make it if his progress speeds up.
Faulk looked to be part of this team a year ago, but a rough season for the Carolina Hurricanes put him on the bubble. He, Yandle or Bogosian could make it without too much else happening.
Miller was the reason the U.S. almost won gold in Vancouver, but in this case he’s the victim of tremendous depth. If the U.S. knows Quick and Howard are Nos. 1 and 2, then it would seem disrespectful to take Miller as the third.
If Miller, Schneider or Anderson can beat out Howard for the second spot, then everything is up for grabs.
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