NEW YORK: Bobby Ryan won’t be going to Sochi. Neither will Keith Yandle, Ben Bishop or Jack Johnson.
Those are the type of talents that would have been no-brainer choices as recently as eight years ago, core players around which a US Olympic team would have been built. So the fact that they weren’t among the 25 players who were named today to the 2014 team that heads to Russia next month highlights how far American hockey has come over the past decade … and how difficult the decisions were for general manager David Poile and his staff.
In net, the Americans are likely to rely on 2010 hero Ryan Miller (Buffalo Sabres). The MVP of the Vancouver Olympic tournament might be playing even better hockey coming into this year’s event, and he gives Team USA a confident, veteran presence with a proven ability to steal games. The health of Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles Kings) makes him a wild card, but his Stanley Cup experience from 2012 secured his spot. Jimmy Howard (Detroit Red Wings) was a surprising choice, given that he was sidelined most of December and wasn’t playing particularly well when healthy, but his body of work gave him the edge over the relatively inexperienced Bishop.
On defence, there’s a nice mix of skill, size and poise, along with some young legs to key the transition game on the big ice.
Ryan Suter (Minnesota Wild) is in a class by himself. He could be paired with Kevin Shattenkirk (St. Louis Blues), a potent weapon in transition, or Ryan McDonagh (New York Rangers), whose game is more well-rounded. Paul Martin (Pittsburgh Penguins) is still rehabbing an injury, but he and Brooks Orpik (Pittsburgh Penguins) have proven chemistry. They’ll be expected to handle a shutdown role.
John Carlson (Washington Capitals) and Cam Fowler (Anaheim Ducks) are known for their offensive skills, but they’ve shown this season that they can play a responsible game in their own zone as well.
Up front, the Americans have probably the deepest group they’ve ever iced. It’s loaded, albeit small, on the right side with Patrick Kane (Chicago Blackhawks), Phil Kessel (Toronto Maple Leafs) and T.J. Oshie (St. Louis Blues), which probably made 6-foot-5 Blake Wheeler (Winnipeg Jets) a more appealing choice to play a depth role. He’s quick, too, and is coming off a 10-goal December, which makes him America’s hottest sniper.