Team USA: The Gold standard?

January 2, 2014, by
Bobby Ryan. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

Bobby Ryan. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

At the finish of the Winter Classic game played at the Big House in Michigan (and after Dion Phaneuf won a minivan…?), American viewers were treated with the revealing of the 25 men who will represent the red, white, and blue in Sochi next month. Before we all play armchair GM, there are a few things to remember: a) the depth of unbelievably talented players that the United States have bred over the past decades, and b) the management staff responsible for selecting this team and their view on how to coach it. “We did not pick the 25 best players,” general manager David Poile said. “We picked the 25 players we thought gave us a chance to win the gold medal.”

My dissection of this team bears a lot of variables. For one, I’ve never played hockey, nor have I ever managed a hockey club aside from my decent fantasy teams and a few very bad ones. I have, however, played lacrosse – a similar game from a systems standpoint – and I had the fun responsibility of managing a number of players regarding league guidelines and who would fit. Secondly, I’m human. It’s difficult to separate how you feel about a player from what they would provide for a team, which I believe had a stake in some of the selection process. Third, all of us fans are going to have differing opinions and they’re usually based on which team you bleed for. Please keep these in mind while you read ahead.

Our team will be a great representation of the skill that we’ve become accustomed to over the years. The ‘snubs’ that have the most people up in arms are Bobby Ryan, Jack Johnson, Keith Yandle and Kyle Okposo.  I think players name aside, the layout is confusing; the roster boasts six centers flanked by 10 wingers five centers flanked by nine wingers (sorry) on either side. Why “The Board” as they’re so affectionately named chose to go that way, I know not. This decision allotted a spot to Derek Stepan, whose on ice behavior and hockey smarts seemed to out-edge Brandon Dubinsky’s aggressiveness for a spot.

Scott Burnside with ESPN had the luxury of following the selection process from beginning to end, and it really is a wonderful read if you’d like to go behind the scenes (after you read this post, of course).  I found it to be interesting, but towards the end it taught us what we already know; a group of men involved with hockey relations had the luck to choose our representation, and they used the same emotions and rational thoughts that any of us would use. There are certain players in the game that make me happy as a Rangers fan (who wouldn’t be stoked to have three players from their team playing?), but the letters on the front of the sweater are very different in Russia. We’re going to see Henrik in the opponent’s net. We’re going to have to defend Nash. And we can’t at any point try to take it easy on these players, despite needing them to play well the following month.

I can’t understand, even after reading the insider’s viewpoint, how Bobby Ryan is not on the USA team for 2014. I also can’t understand how a professional would allow the following quote to be printed: “He is not intense. That word is not in his vocabulary,” Burke says. “It’s never going to be in his vocabulary. He can’t spell intense.” As a respected professional, those are some pretty harsh words, especially when you can search Bobby Ryan and find some of the greatest shots, passes, hockey IQ and, oh, intensity around. Maybe this is one of those that hit me deeper than a rational standpoint, as I absolutely adore watching him playing for the Senators, especially after having a strange exit with Anaheim. He has the Olympic experience as well. It just seems to bear a bit of animosity regarding a player they chose not to select, whereas some of the other explanations were much less… involved.

As far as defense goes, I can’t for the life of me understand how Brooks Orpik, who was recently concussed in such a serious way he was stretchered off the ice, was selected over Yandle. There is talk about chemistry on this team and who would go together well on a penalty kill. I get that. But you’re not looking to employ defensemen who are not as talented – and I absolutely refuse to place that in quotes because I do look at numbers and I do watch these guys on ice – for your entire tournament for the sake of 2 minutes here and there per game. And if you’re going to use that argument, why is Jack Johnson left off? Johnson has a noted incredible work ethic, great size, good numbers and was part of the 2010 squad.

A lot of these decisions are great. Who else can’t wait to see Ryan McDonagh’s hard work showcased to the world? How pretty will Phil Kessel look streaking in for a breakaway in his glittery USA jersey? Maybe Poile and “The Board” are a bunch of geniuses that will lead America to their first gold in over 30 years, and I surely hope that they do. But sometimes it’s hard to not question some of the decisions. At the end of it all, Team USA is a pretty stacked squad and will be well worth waking up at the crack of dawn to watch. Plus, who knows? If someone’s injured, maybe your favorite player will show up and all will be well. I’m personally watching out for Chris Higgins, but hey, I have weird taste.

How did the roster meet your expectations?


  1. Melissa says:

    Great post and I think most people will agree with your views. (I know I do.) Couple of things:

    Six centers and 10 wingers? There are only 14 forwards. I think you meant 5 C and 9 wingers.

    As for Burke quote, did he have a say on what was published? I have this feeling he did not so I wouldn’t blame him for it being written. Blaming him for saying it is another story.

    • Becky says:

      I’m 98% sure it was reported in the Ottawa Sun but not positive — will check on that later. It definitely is something that would come out of Burke’s mouth unfortunately. Think you’re right about the wingers, thanks for clarifying.

      • Melissa says:

        Didn’t even realize you were the one who wrote this. Should’ve known by the Bobby Ryan part lol. 98% sure what was reported? I very well might be wrong on something. I am almost positive it’s only 5 centers cause Stepan was 5th and everyone was complaining they brought spare center instead of two spare wingers….

        • Becky says:

          Meant 98% sure the Sun reported the comments. I was wrong on the centres.

          • Melissa says:

            Oh the comments are totally accurate. Burke definitely said that. But they happened in private meetings only two media members had access to so I don’t think he thought about fact they would be published. That’s all I was saying.

    • Dave says:

      It’s 5/9. I updated.

  2. paulronty says:

    Brian Burke is truly a goombah of the highest order.

    • Walt says:

      Hay watch that goombah stuff!! LOL!!

      Yandle, and Johnson being left off the roster, what are they thinking???????

      • @Centerman21 says:

        To me personally, Ryan & Johnson are the biggest surprise. I am also bothered Bishop wasn’t selected over Howard with how he was playing. Or Quick for that matter. As good as he is, hardly played this year and not well for that matter and has yet to return to action. How do they know he’s going to be 100% if he hasn’t returned from injury yet? I guess the same could be said about Cally but he was locked in since this summer.
        Bishop has a .935 S% and a 1.89 GAA. I believe those are both tops among American Goalies. Howard looked ok in the WC @Big House but still think Bishop should have been 3rd goalie at least. Big kid plays well on a team that hasn’t had luck with goalies the last 10 years. I bet Howard doesn’t play a single game. I really think Goalies are our strength and will have to play well.

  3. Johnny Drama says:

    I am as happy as the next guy that Stepan and Cally both made the US roster, but I am having a hard time understanding how they both made it over Bobby Ryan. Ryan was great on the squad last olympics and almost helped them win gold. He is having a great season, and there are 4 or 5 players who he is clearly better than.

    On the defensive side, great news for McDonagh though not surprising. He will be US MVP. Aside from that, pretty shocked Yandle missed the cut behind guys like Cam Fowler or Brooks Orpik. Yandle is one of the most offensively gifted defenseman in the NHL and great on the PP, so was surprised to see him off of there as well.

    Nonetheless, I am extremely excited to watch this group of guys try and win gold. USA!

  4. Bloomer says:

    There is only 1 thing standing in the way of Team USA winning the Gold…..Team Canada 🙂

  5. JoeS. says:

    Becky, you are a breath of fresh air to the BSB, love your perspective and feel you are an excellent addition to the blog, as do the boys who run it, obviously! Good job guys!

  6. Jeff P says:

    As a Rangers fan, I am surprised Stepan made it. He’s been incosistent and he’s not the most gifted skater. From the insider article, they were concerned about center depth, but Oshie can play there.
    I just don’t see how you take Stepan over Okposo or Ryan.

  7. TxRanger says:

    Stepan and Cally to play what fourth line?