At long last, the 2010 U.S. Olympic team headed to Vancouver in February has been finalized and there are plenty of fresh faces taking vital roles.
In the wake of yet another stunning spectacle that was the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Fenway Park, Team USA General Manager Brian Burke
formally announced the players who would make up his 23-man squad gunning for the country's first Olympic gold since 1980 in Lake Placid. And to coin a line from legendary English musician David Bowie -- "These are the young Americans."
Highlighting the team that Burke still feels is a considerable underdog entering the tournament are goalies Ryan Miller
and Tim Thomas
, defenseman Brian Rafalski
and forwards Zach Parise
and Patrick Kane
"Making this team has definitely been in the back of my mind because it's something you want to be a part of," Parise told NHL.com last month. "You're seeing more commercials for it and you do get more excited."
Joining Parise, Patrick Kane
, Jamie Langenbrunner
, Chris Drury
and Joe Pavelski
up front will be Paul Stastny
, Ryan Malone
, Phil Kessel
, Dustin Brown
, Ryan Kesler
, Ryan Callahan
, David Backes
and Bobby Ryan
will be joined on the back end by Paul Martin
, Ryan Suter
, Mike Komisarek
, Erik Johnson
, Jack Johnson
and Brooks Orpik
Thomas and Miller will be joined in goal by Jonathan Quick
. All three goalies were invited to orientation camp over the summer.
"We've been watching these kids," Burke said. "I think we have a good base. We tried to pick the team based on a body of work, rather than how a player has played at this particular time. A player who had a slow start should not be penalized if he's done good things in the past.
"We stressed character when we were putting this team together and wanted to identify people who would rise to the occasion," Burke said. "We've put together high hockey IQ's and versatile players and players with good foot speed.
"We want to play a fast, aggressive, forechecking style that tries to get the puck and control the puck all the time," Team USA coach Ron Wilson said earlier last month. "We hope, in the few days we have with the team before the Games, we're able to solidify that style of play and execute it on the ice."
There are 17 players on the roster yet to reach their 30th birthday and 13 are 25-or-younger. Like it or not, it's precisely what Burke envisioned when he began pinpointing players with Associate GM David Poile and Assistant Executive Director of Hockey Operations Jim Johannson during last summer's 34-player, three-day orientation camp in Chicago.
Just three players on the squad have previous Olympic experience, including forwards Langenbrunner and Drury and defenseman Rafalski. Drury and Rafalski played for the 2002 Team that won silver in Salt Lake City -- the year Canada won gold and Russia bronze. Those two clubs are the popular favorites yet again.
The fact so few veteran players were named to the roster isn't too surprising as Burke intended all along to give this team a distinct, fresh feel, unlike previous National Teams that relied heavily on veteran savvy.
"As I've said before, no bold predictions, no bulletin board material, we're there to win."
"We don't have the big-name recognition like we did at the 1996 World Cup, but we do have what we feel is a deeper and broader pool than ever before," Burke said.
One notable absence is Montreal's Scott Gomez
, who produced 5 points in six games for Team USA during the 2006 Games in Torino. Burke also passed on three-time Olympian Mike Modano
Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson is Team USA's head coach and will be assisted by New York Rangers
coach John Tortorella and Islanders coach Scott Gordon
On defense, it remains to be seen if Paul Martin
will be able to give it a go. The Devils' defenseman has been sidelined the last 29 games with a broken arm. If he cannot join the team, it's possible Burke could reach out to either Atlanta's Ron Hainsey
or Zach Bogosian
, Anaheim's Ryan Whitney
or maybe even Florida's Keith Ballard
. He'd have to make a decision by Feb. 15.
"It's going to be difficult considering we'll probably have just one practice before we begin play, but my job is to communicate the best I can with every player what we're going to try," Wilson said. "We'll hand out a video playbook that will highlight different things we expect (and attempted in) prior World Championships. But, even more, it'll show the forechecking, neutral and defensive-zone situations from our own games, in order to give the guys a general idea."
Burke says goaltending will be Team USA's ace in the hole.
"Right now, in my opinion, Ryan Miller
is the best goaltender in the NHL this season," Burke said. "And Tim Thomas
right now is probably playing just as well even though he struggled early. It's going to be a coaching decision who starts. The schedule lends itself early to a one-goalie tournament. We're playing every other night, no back-to-backs initially, so it screams for a one-goalie system. But it'll be up to the coaches to decide."
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com