New Jersey Devils forward Jamie Langenbrunner has been named captain for the U.S. Olympic Team headed to Vancouver next month.
Langenbrunner, a veteran of 13 NHL seasons, will be assisted by alternate captains Zach Parise, Dustin Brown
, Ryan Suter and Brian Rafalski. Team USA's roster, with an average age of 26.5, includes 13 forwards, seven defensemen and three goalies. Rafalski is the oldest player at 36 and Patrick Kane the youngest at 21.
Suter's father, Bob, played on the gold-medal winning 1980 "Miracle on Ice" team in Lake Placid and his uncle, Gary, skated for the 2002 U.S. Olympic Team that won silver in Salt Lake City.
Earning the captaincy for Team USA is something Langenbrunner won't take for granted. Even when his name had been mentioned as a possible candidate as early as last week, he deflected the notion, saying every American player selected to the 23-man roster was a leader in their own right.
And really, that's precisely what USA General Manager Brian Burke and head coach Ron Wilson were proclaiming all along.
"Ron (Wilson) and I are both big believers that leaders lead regardless of whether you acknowledge them with a letter or not," Burke said.
Langenbrunner has proven himself in his two-plus seasons as captain in New Jersey. Not to mention his propensity to come up big in big spots throughout his professional career. He's coming off a season in which he notched career highs with 29 goals, 40 assists and 69 points for New Jersey in 2008-09. And he hasn't slowed down this season, registering 13 goals and 40 points in 43 games, including 10 multiple-point contests.
Langenbrunner, 34, is currently riding a seven-game point-scoring streak, posting 5 goals and 6 assists over that stretch. It'll also mark his first Olympic appearance for Team USA since the 1998 Games in Nagano -- when the club finished sixth in the tournament.
"I know what my role will be and that's not going to change whether I wear a letter or not," Langenbrunner told NHL.com last week. "To even be talked about in those regards is a great honor and it's something I don't take lightly. I know there are several guys on this team who are well deserving of that honor too. It should be just exciting to be there and I'm excited about our chances once we get there."
Pressure has never seemed to faze Langenbrunner and there's no question that played a big part in the decision to name him captain. Consider the fact his four career overtime goals in the Stanly Cup playoffs rank tied for first -- with Chris Drury -- among active players in the League.
In 1999, when the Stars won their first Stanley Cup, Langenbrunner figured in scoring on 7 of the team's 16 game-winning goals. In 2003, the Devils captured their third Stanley Cup in nine years thanks to Langenbrunner, who led the League and matched a New Jersey record with 4 game-winning goals in a playoff season.
"I think I handle pressure well and I enjoy being in those situations and, fortunately, I've been in a lot of them," Langenbrunner said. "If you're afraid to be put in those situations or afraid of failure, you're going to fail. I don't think that way. I want to be counted on; I want to be out there if it means stopping the last goal or trying to score it.
"I look forward to those situations and I've been fortunate to be on teams where I had a chance to be successful. The biggest thing is not being afraid to succeed or afraid to fail; just go out there and do it."
Zach Parise -- Wearing the "A" on his sweater is nothing new to the native of Prior Lake, Minn. Parise is currently an alternate in New Jersey, where he's become a bona-fide force at even strength. He's also a threat on the power-play and has seen more ice time on the penalty-kill this season under Jacques Lemaire. Parise's currently second to Patrick Kane among American-born players with 46 points and is first with a plus-22 rating. He's experienced in international competition -- two World Junior Championships and three World Championships. Parise was named MVP of the 2004 WJC team that won gold in Helsinki, Finland.
Dustin Brown -- A solid choice as an alternate since Brown has been the Los Angeles Kings' captain since October 2008. He knows how to spark a team with his playmaking ability and his physicality. In addition to scoring 20 assists and 30 points this season, he's collected 156 hits in 45 games. He's played in two World Junior Championship tournaments and four World Championships for the United States.
Ryan Suter -- Another product of the National Team Developmental Program in Ann Arbor, Mich., the Nashville Predators defenseman has been a consistent force in his four-plus NHL seasons. Even though he'll be participating in his first Olympic Games, he's one of the more seasoned international skaters -- competing in three World Junior Championships and four World Championships. Suter is second on the team with 70 blocked shots and leads his defensive unit with 21 points in 45 games this campaign.
Brian Rafalski -- Rafalski, the elder statesman on the Olympic team at 36, will be making his third straight Olympic appearance for Team USA. He's scored 4 assists and 5 points in 11 Olympic contests but, more importantly, offers stability and a veteran presence to the blue line and in the dressing room. He's second on the Red Wings this season with 48 blocks, ranks third with a plus-9 rating and ranks second in scoring among defensemen on the club with 18 points. In his nine-plus NHL seasons, including seven in New Jersey, Rafalski has never finished with a negative plus-minus rating.
Author: Mike G. Morreale | NHL.com Staff Writer