Sunday, January 3, 2010
V2010: United States
Friday's Winter Classic experience was capped off by the announcement of the American roster for the 2010 Olympics. For all of the unrelated talk about the 30 year anniversary of the Miracle on Ice on NBC prior to the Classic game itself, the players on the 1980 squad had nothing to do with the new team's announcement despite the clear odds facing the current U.S. squad. The CBC coverage (linked above) ends with Ron MacLean saying "how they measure up versus Team Canada and Team Russia we're not sure but they feel they're in the ballpark" and a burst of laughter. Now MacLean may have been chuckling over his pun - Fenway, in the ballpark, get it? bah dum dum chhh - but it is find of funny/sad when you weigh the U.S. side against the other top nations.
The Americans don't have the offense of the Russians, the team chemistry of the Finns, the top-end talent of the Slovaks, the gold medal experience of the Swedes or the size, depth and skill of the Canadians. Feel free to vote in the poll where you think the U.S. will end up but I don't see a medal in their future. Sure they can get off to a two-win start with games against the Swiss on February 16th (I'm trying to land a ticket) and the Norwegians on the 18th (I'll be there! USA! USA!) but the game against the Canadians on the 21st will likely be a bad sign of things to come in the medal round. No one will root for them as much as me but I am certainly surprised by some of the selections.
As evidenced by the screen grab from NYR34, Brian Burke inexplicably feels that Chris Drury is a capable leader despite the fact that he has never personally led a team to victory. Chris O'Sullivan led BU when Drury won the NCAAs and Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg led Colorado. Buffalo leaned on Drury and the Sabres were bounced in five games by Ottawa in the Eastern Finals. And the Rangers ... well, we are witnessing his stellar leadership. It will take a miracle for a team led by Drury to win anything this season and, unlike the Ramones, I don't believe in miracles.
But should it come to pass, it will be through grindingly tight games featuring stellar goaltending. Tim Thomas - when not chasing after Sean Avery or Scott Hartnall - won the Vezina last year and is a top flight goaltender. Jonathan Quick has been incredible starting for the Kings - I saw him rob the Caps time after time after time yesterday - and has a very bright future. But even with those to capable netminders, it will be Ryan Miller starting. The Buffalo goaltender is top three in the NHL and has been simply stellar this season. I won't link any highlights, wouldn't want to subject you to Rick Jeanneret.
The defense isn't anything to speak of with Brooks Orpik and Brian Rafalski leading the corps. The two Johnsons made the team because of their history with the NTDP and wouldn't even make the Canadian 'D' team. Ryan Suter is solid but unspectacular, we will see who is added for the injured Paul Martin and Mike Komisarek has been disappointing Toronto fans all season.
The Maple Leafs have been thankful for Phil Kessel and, as he has to do with them, he will be counted on to provide a large chunk of the goals for the U.S. Slot Kessel with Paul Stastny and Bobby Ryan or Pat Kane and you have one talented top line. Hate to give Zach Parise credit but he is scary good and will have Devil teammate Jamie Langenbrunner riding shotgun with him. Add Ryan Malone to that pairing and you have one tough unit that will cause chaos around the goal. Ryan Kesler should get a boost from playing in front of a home crowd while Joe Pavelski has a chance to open a lot of eyes that don't really see him in San Jose. Ryan Callahan will be reunited with Guelph Storm teammate Dustin Brown and add a whole lotta sandpaper to the lineup, granted it is undersized sandpaper but the Blues David Backes should provide some bulk at 6'3, 220. I still don't understand why massive Dustin Byfuglien wasn't called to play on the NHL-sized sheet in Vancouver.
But who can guess what Brian Burke was thinking? He apparently believes it is a good idea to put John Tortorella under Ron Sutter on the coaching staffs. It is sad when I understand and agree with an Islander coach's appointment when compared to most everyone else. But, it is not our place as fans to understand but to be entertained so let us hope that this cast of kids are capable of doing that. USA! USA!