Faceoff: Sochi preview
>There's some speculation that rosters could grow to 25 players for the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, up from 23 in Vancouver. This is far from set in stone and may end up staying at 23. But for now, let's pretend the roster grows to 25 and base our selections on that.
Burnside: As was the case in 2010, the Americans will not be as deep down the middle as they'd like and certainly when compared to the wealth of talent at center that Canada will ice. The U.S. will have to hope their attack by committee will work as well as it did four years ago. Joe Pavelski is a lock not just to make the team but to be the team's No. 1 center. David Backes is a nice No. 2 center, and the St. Louis captain may end up wearing the C for the U.S. as well. Depending on Ryan Kesler's health and his ability to bounce back to his previous form, the abrasive Vancouver center should make the U.S. squad, but those are some pretty big ifs given Kelser's injury history. Derek Stepan will get a look at center. And what about Montreal rookie Alex Galchenyuk's potential to join a team that, on paper, is overmatched up front by nations like Canada, Russia and Sweden? Paul Stastny, a member of the 2010 team, will be in the mix, although his game has fallen off. On the wings, you can pencil in returning members of the silver-medal team Patrick Kane, who has played some center; Zach Parise, another candidate for captaincy; Ryan Malone; Bobby Ryan; Phil Kessel; Ryan Callahan; and Dustin Brown. It's hard to imagine Jason Pominville not finding his way onto the roster. But what about guys like Max Pacioretty, the popular Montreal Canadien who had 33 goals a year ago? Or James van Riemsdyk of the Leafs? If Galchenyuk is deemed too green, I'd go with Pacioretty.
LeBrun: Team USA is not nearly as deep at forward as Team Canada, but on the other hand, it will be the beneficiary of several returnees from Vancouver in 2010. Max Pacioretty is among the newcomers I put on my team. I can't see how he doesn't make this team if he gets back to the way he played last season. Left a teaser on the radar list with 18-year-old rookie Alex Galchenyuk. If his development arc grows rapidly over the next 12 months, who knows? Remember that Canada put 20-year-old Drew Doughty on its team in Vancouver. Stanger things have happened, but Galchenyuk would really need to show serious growth and consistency in his game over the next year to merit real consideration.
James van Riemsdyk
Burnside: Four years ago, many thought the Americans' lack of star power and depth on the blue line would be a major weakness, yet the blue line held strong throughout the tournament. This time around there's no reason the U.S. blue line shouldn't be even better with an infusion of some young skaters like Keith Yandle, Kevin Shattenkirk and Dustin Byfuglien. Still not in the same league as Canada's star-studded defense, but this is a nice young group with a lot of upside. I included Tom Gilbert given that he seems to have found some chemistry in Minnesota with Ryan Suter, who will carry a heavy load in Sochi. Also included in my list is Paul Martin, who would have been a shoo-in for Vancouver but for injury. This young group will need some solid, veteran ballast, and Martin will be a nice complement to teammate Brooks Orpik. Still, there are some good players who didn't make this early list, such as James Wisniewski, Nick Leddy and former Olympians Tim Gleason, Ryan Whitney and Erik Johnson. At one point, I considered throwing in Seth Jones' name as a ninth defenseman, but regardless of the promise shown by a young defender who will likely go first or second in June's draft, the Americans have too much depth to take a flyer on a player with just a few months of NHL hockey under his belt.Ryan Suter
LeBrun: I know John Carlson has struggled this season in Washington, but I think he'll figure it out. He has way too much talent to be left off this team. I may not have enough sandpaper in the eight D-men I picked, but I was focusing on big ice, transition game, etc. Probably will end up putting Erik Johnson on when we make our final picks next year, but for now, I put him on the radar list instead.
Burnside: The Americans are actually rich in goaltending depth, starting with defending playoff MVP and Vezina Trophy nominee Jonathan Quick. Throw in former Vezina Trophy winner Ryan Miller, who was the star of the Vancouver Olympic tournament for Team USA, and Ottawa's star netminder Craig Anderson and that's a pretty good one-two-three combination. But Miller's game will need to be revitalized if he hopes to return as a starter in Sochi. On top of these three, there are others to consider. Where will Cory Schneider's game be at in a year? Jimmy Howard doesn't get the recognition he's deserved as a workhorse in Detroit, but he will be on the U.S. Olympic radar. And what of another former playoff MVP and Vezina winner, Tim Thomas, who might make things interesting pending his potential return to the game next season and his level of play after taking a year off.
LeBrun: I know Ryan Miller and Jonathan Quick are struggling, but their body of work and the confidence in their ability to bounce back puts them on. If the Olympics started tomorrow, Craig Anderson would surely be your starter. He has been insanely good this season, plus he was very solid last season in Ottawa. You can make a compelling case for Jimmy Howard, and it wouldn't surprise me if he made the team in the end. Cory Schneider remains a wild card, waiting to establish himself as a No. 1 NHL netminder.
Burnside: Some interesting choices ahead for the U.S. management team. (I assume Brian Burke will return as the team's GM with strong input from a smart, experienced team that will likely include David Poile, Ray Shero, Paul Holmgren, George McPhee, Dean Lombardi and Dale Tallon.) Ron Wilson, the head coach in Vancouver, is playing golf somewhere, so the coaching staff really comes down to Dan Bylsma, John Tortorella, Peter Laviolette and Scott Gordon. I'll give Bylsma the nod as head coach, with the other three acting as associates in various capacities.
Head coach: Dan Bylsma
LeBrun: Really, I don't see any other choice besides Dan Bylsma, John Tortorella or Peter Laviolette for the head-coaching position.
Head coach: John Tortorella
On The Radar
Even though we expanded our pretend rosters to 25 men, not every player made the cut. Here is a list of guys that we will be watching over the next year to see if they can break into the group headed to Sochi for Team USA:
Looking To Sochi
Assuming that the NHL and its players are able to resolve outstanding issues with the International Olympic Committee and agree to take part in the 2014 Sochi Games, it will be just one part of an evolving international landscape for the league. Scott Burnside »