With the 2014 Olympics in Sochi about a year away all the best analysts are putting together their ideal rosters for their respective nations. Sure I’m a Canadian, but I did live in the States for three years. I couldn’t help but join in the fun that is being an armchair general manager.
The first line is loaded with top end talent and just enough grit. I have Ryan Kesler centering Patrick Kane and Zach Parise. If the chemistry Kesler and Parise developed in the 2010 olympics can carry over into 2014, the tournament should be put on notice. The second line features a great blend of leadership and defensive ability with just enough scoring touch to keep defenses honest. Ryan Callahan and David Backes, who both captain their respective teams will be joined by upstart winger James van Riemsdyk.
JVR might come as a shocker to some, but if he continues to develop at the torrid pace he’s showing this season in Toronto he’ll be a real threat in time for next February. The third line is made to bang and crash; they will wear down opposing defenses and shut down the other team’s top line. Joe Pavelski anchors the line and is flanked by Max Pacioretty and Dustin Brown. The injection of youthful energy and physicality will come from the fourth. Sean Couturier will center Kyle Okposo and Nick Foligno. This line will be relied upon heavily in their own end and can use its physicality and grit to aggravate the opposing teams.
On defense the Americans have just a little more depth than they do at forward. This made the decision making all the more difficult. The first pairing has a heavy dose of offensive firepower with a pinch of size. Jack Johnson, whose game has really taken off since being sent to Columbus, and Dustin Byfuglien will make up the first pairing. The second pairing features a mending of bridges, of sorts. Once bitter rivals in the Pennsylvania rivalry in Brooks Orpik from Pittsburgh and Matthew Carle who up until this summer was a Flyer make up the second unit. Orpik’s defensively sound game will allow Carle to do what he does best and work his magic in the offensive zone. Carle is also very reliable in his own end. This might be the Americans best shut down defensive pairing. The third is a combination of player’s with both rising and falling stocks in Erik Johnson and Ryan McDonagh. As McDonagh continues to develop into one of the league’s better two-way defenseman, Erik Johnson just keeps on failing to live up to being drafted first overall. Johnson is still a good two-way defender, not sure if he’s first overall good. Or ever will be for that matter.
The Americans' strong suit in the Olympics has to be their goaltending and this tournaments hypothetical roster doesn’t even feature there last goalie. You know, the one that won Tournament MVP. The new number one is Conn Smythe and Stanley Cup recipient Jonathan Quick. He’s struggling to find his game this season following off-season surgery but as soon as he finds, watch out. Backing Quick up will be arguably this year’s best goalie in Craig Anderson. Hard to believe it took so long for Anderson to establish himself as a starter in this league. Last but certainly not least is Vancouver’s very own Cory Schneider.
The competition is going to be stiff in 2014 and unlike 2010 it will be played on larger ice. Something that will give the European teams a decided advantage. There is certainly a lot to like about this team though. They possess the grit and leadership necessary to make up for any skill deficits they might be faced with when playing the powerhouse teams. If that fails, having a Vezina candidate, Conn Smythe Trophy winner and Stanley Cup champion between the pipes just might save the day.
Zach Parise - Ryan Kesler - Patrick Kane
James van Riemsdyk - David Backes - Ryan Callahan
Max Pacioretty - Joe Pavelski - Dustin Brown
Nick Foligno - Sean Couturier - Kyle Okposo
Depth Forwards: Blake Wheeler and Derek Stepan
Dustin Byfuglien - Jack Johnson
Brooks Orpik - Matthew Carle
Erik Johnson - Ryan McDonagh
Depth Defenseman: Nick Leddy and John Carlson
You can follow J.D. Burke for more hockey commentary, stats, tweets, etc. @WeveGotTwins and find his blog at http://www.WeveGotTwins.blogspot.ca