That's what Team USA General Manager Brian Burke stressed on a day when he and his managerial group officially announced Anaheim's Ryan Whitney and Carolina's Tim Gleason would replace injured defensemen Mike Komisarek and Paul Martin at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver later this month.
"(Whitney and Gleason) are good players," Burke said. "I do believe this team lacks the big-name star power that prior U.S. teams had from the greatest generation, but USA Hockey has given us lots of options to choose from and I think we've tried to identify a particular skill set in putting this team together.
"If you look at the replacement parts here, the players going in are eerily similar to players they are replacing in terms of what they bring to our roster in a short tournament."
Whitney and Gleason attended this summer's USA Hockey Olympic Orientation camp in Chicago. Burke admitted both players were among a group of about 10 the managerial team deliberated over, including Rob Scuderi of Los Angeles, Alex Goligoski of Pittsburgh, Ron Hainsey of Atlanta and Keith Yandle of Phoenix.
"In Ryan Whitney, here's a guy with size, is reliable defensively and can move the puck well, a la Paul Martin," Burke said. "And Tim Gleason, like Komisarek, can kill penalties, block shots, finish checks and chew up some ice time against big bodies. These were players who were very much alive to the bitter end of the selection process and were guys knocking at the door before we named the team (Jan. 1)."
Komisarek hurt his shoulder Jan. 2 and the injury has not responded to treatment -- the physical defenseman is facing season-ending surgery. He consulted with noted surgeon Dr. James Andrews last week before opting out of Team USA consideration.
"I met with Mike three days to talk about it and talked on the phone with him (Wednesday) night, and my guess is it was an agonizing decision that caused both players great anguish," Burke said. "But they did the right thing for the program and acted with honor. It wasn't a fun phone call -- I think it was one of the worst phone calls I had to make to both of those kids."
Burke said Gleason is the type of player who'll play a different type of leadership role within the U.S. dressing room. He also likes the fact Carolina coach Paul Maurice routinely sends Gleason on the ice against the opposing team's top forwards.
"He's a different player in terms of his psychological makeup -- he's more of a guy who speaks with his actions," Burke said. "He's not a chatty guy. He's a guy who would be your worst nightmare to get stuck in a fishing boat with because he isn't going to do much talking, but I like the way he shows up and prepares for games and the way he plays. These guys have been warriors for Team USA before."
Gleason, of Clawson, Mich., has played for Team USA on three occasions -- most recently at the 2008 World Championships. He's also a two-time member of the U.S. National Junior Team (2001, 2003) and has compiled 2 assists in 14 games while representing his country.
Gleason, 27, also has good playoff experience. He had a goal and four assists in 18 games during the Hurricanes' run to the Eastern Conference Finals last season.
He currently ranks second among Carolina defensemen with 89 blocked shots and has delivered 119 hits -- an average of 2.5 hits per game.
Gleason also is on pace for a record scoring output; he has a career-best 5 goals in 46 games this season, and with 15 points, he's on pace to smash his previous best of 21 points, set in 2005-06 with the Los Angeles Kings. After that season, the Kings dealt him to Carolina for Team USA teammate Jack Johnson.
The choice of Gleason as a replacement didn't come as a surprise to Carolina GM Jim Rutherford.
"If Eric Staal wasn't the new captain of the Hurricanes, Tim Gleason would be," Rutherford told NHL.com. "In as short an overview as possible, I think that about sums it all up. I don't want to second guess the people who pick the team because I know how hard it is to pick those teams, but I felt he could have been picked in the first selection group"
Whitney, 26, is playing more than 24 minutes a game for the surging Ducks and has 24 points. Three of his four goals this season have come on the power play.
"It'll be amazing," Whitney told the Ducks' Web site after learning of his selection. "I've played for my country before and it's quite a feeling. It's really a feeling like no other. You have a lot of pride and you're just happy to be a part of the team that is representing your nation. I can't wait. I'm so excited and I think it's going to be quite an experience."
Whitney played in the 2001 World Under-18 Championship and twice competed in the World Junior Championships (2002, '03), collecting 2 goals and 9 points in 20 total games. In 2000-01, he played for USA Hockey's National Team Developmental Program Under-18 Team, collecting 9 goals and 40 points.
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com.