Sochi 2014: Fear The Fin picks Team USA
One year out from Sochi, SB Nation's hockey blogs were asked to submit their choices for Team USA at the 2014 Winter Olympics. Here are my picks. What are yours?
Bruce Peter of the excellent Habs Eyes On The Prize recently asked the managing editors of each of SB Nation's hockey blogs to submit their picks for Team USA at the 2014 Winter Olympics (or Team Canada, if they hailed from that anemic abyss of universal healthcare and decriminalized marijuana to our north). You can check out the teams we ended up with here and here. Below are my picks to represent the U.S. of A one year from now in Sochi, sure to look completely foolish by the time the Olympics roll around but, hey, what's the point of doing these things other than to appear idiotic in retrospect?
Zach Parise - Joe Pavelski - Patrick Kane
Bobby Ryan - Ryan Kesler - Phil Kessel
Max Pacioretty - David Backes - Dustin Brown
James van Riemsdyk - Paul Stastny - Ryan Callahan
Ryan Suter - Tom Gilbert
Matt Carle - John Carlson
Ryan McDonagh - Cam Fowler
Yes, Pavelski is probably my favorite active player in the NHL but I think he objectively deserves to center this team's top line. It's uncertain how effective Kesler will be after returning from his latest injury but even with both forwards healthy, Pavelski has played tougher minutes than Kesler on the whole over the past few seasons while driving play and outscoring the opposition at a similar rate. Those line combinations are anything but set in stone, although I do like that line-matching becomes almost irrelevant, which is a necessity at a best-on-best tournament like this one. There's at least one player on every line who has demonstrated the ability to excel in tough minutes at the NHL level. Regardless of how the lines are configured (hopefully that will be Dan Bylsma's job), I'm pretty confident those are the 13 best American-born forwards available. A youngster like Alex Galchenyuk might earn a spot as the extra forward but I couldn't resist picking an all-situations forward like Jason Pominville who can fit in seamlessly literally anywhere in this lineup.
I'm far less confident about my picks on defense, where Team USA is supermodel-thin on the right side (which is ironic because Dustin Byfuglien is technically a contender to fill one of those spots). There are a ton of useful blueliners on the left, with defensive stalwarts like Tim Gleason, Rob Scuderi and Brooks Orpik missing the cut along with solid two-way players like Paul Martin and Alex Goligoski. But unless those players are capable of instantly transitioning to their weak side, it's tough to predict who plays on the back end next year. My selection of Gilbert is likely eyebrow-raising but he was fantastic last season. He can move the puck efficiently in tough minutes and adds a little more size to the equation than Suter had in 2010, when he was partnered with Brian Rafalski. It amazes me that Mike Yeo hasn't really gone to a Suter/Gilbert pairing in Minnesota this season, especially given the extent to which Suter has struggled. Justin Faulk's game gives me a hockey boner but he's only played 77 NHL games at this point. It's certainly possible he earns a spot on the team by the time rosters are finalized at the end of the calendar year but there was a bit too much uncertainty there for me to pencil him in right now.
What does your Team USA look like? Rosterbate furiously in the comments.