With all the fanfare surrounding Sidney Crosby’s golden goal for Canada in the final at Vancouver 2010, what could easily be forgotten is that a hardworking, tenacious Team USA came back from two goals down, in a hostile environment, to come within one shot of stunning the world and snatching the gold themselves.
The Sochi 2014 version of the Stars and Stripes looks to be an upgrade. And with the core of that silver-medal team for the most part intact, expecting anything other than serious contention from the Americans would be a mistake. USA will be guided by 2010-11 Jack Adams Award-winning coach Dan Bylsma, considered by many to be one of the top bench bosses in the NHL, while Philadelphia Flyers coach Peter Laviolette, Todd Richards of the Columbus Blue Jackets, and Tony Granato, one of Bylsma’s assistants with the Penguins, will round out his staff.
Nashville Predators general manager David Poile will lead the crew that will assemble the squad.
Here is a breakdown of what can be expected for Team USA at the Sochi Olympics, by position.
It’s surprising how weak the Americans are at centre compared to the wing. The health of David Backes and Ryan Kesler will be crucial up the middle if they are to support the tremendous size, grit and skill potential of the wingers. Patrick Kane had a massive season for the Blackhawks and continues to count himself among the world’s elite, while Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk can bring some Toronto chemistry to the table. Joe Pavelski and Dustin Brown were as valuable as anybody at the Vancouver Games, while Ryan Callahan and Bobby Ryan also appear to be locks. It will be interesting to see whether the Montreal Canadiens’ young star in the making, Alex Galchenyuk, and New York Rangers’ emerging sniper Derek Stepan – who led all American centres in the NHL in scoring last season – can crack the roster.
Ryan Suter of the Minnesota Wild is the only lock on this squad. The mobile and blossoming Jack Johnson appears to be a likely add as well, though after that it’s hard to say for certain. New York Ranger Ryan McDonagh continues to blossom; his mobility and intelligence could be a big plus on the large ice. Keith Yandle is an elite skater and plays big minutes for the Coyotes, while Dustin Byfuglien has been a consistent point producer the last couple of years in the NHL, though a cloud of question marks hovers over his character and/or fitness level. Kevin Shattenkirk of the St. Louis Blues and Paul Martin of the Pittsburgh Penguins are also probable selections for this team.
Jonathan Quick is one of the best goaltenders in the world, and there is little doubt he will carry the load for Team USA at Sochi. His backup is far less predictable, though the Detroit Red Wings’ Jimmy Howard has made many fans the last few years. Cory Schneider’s prospects are unknown. The Ottawa Senators’ Craig Anderson has earned every consideration, especially if he can stay healthy. Leaving veteran Ryan Miller off the roster completely after his remarkable performance in 2010 would be a real slap to his face, but the USA’s goaltending depth has become as impressive as that of any nation in the world.