In my last blog post, I highlighted Team USA, Canada, Sweden, Finland and Russia and chose who I thought should be named to the preliminary rosters. For the most part, I, and every other person who remotely follows the sport of hockey picked about 75-90% of the players named. There were some surprises that left you questioning what management was thinking. Personally I think some of the picks are downright political in nature as they tend to be in this sport.
The most interesting thing about these picks comes from the blue liners. I looked through all eight teams preliminary rosters and guess how many of the top-ten scoring defensemen in the league made their respective roster? You would think seven to ten, but would you be surprised if I told you that only three players made it? These defensemen are in the top ten in the NHL for scoring at their position. The NHL is the top league in the world and yet seven, SEVEN of them do not make the preliminary rosters (Burns, Klingberg, Letang, OEM, Subban, Barrie, Seabrook). What is going on here?
TEAM USA: I had Kessel, Backes and Ryan up front. Pacioretty, Oshie and Abdelkader were picked instead of these three. Pacioretty, I will admit, I completely forgot about and he probably makes up for Kessel as both are pretty significant goal-scorers. Oshie I believe fits in there as well, but Abdelkader? Really? First Detroit signs him to an extension after he has a career eight games (subsequently falling off the map) and now he makes the preliminary roster for Team USA? Final roster, maybe, preliminary, no way. Bobby Ryan is fifth overall in points for American born players in the NHL right now and he gets snubbed. I get the talks about him being lazy defensively and slow on the big sheet of ice, but then why after snubbing Byfuglien in the Olympics did they put him on the preliminary roster? Was he not in the same boat as Ryan?
Speaking of defensemen, I think they made the right choice. I think Big Buff should have been there in the Olympics and he is truly a presence when he is out on the ice. I think they have options to round out their defensive corps and really hope to see Faulk, Shattenkirk and Yandle make the squad.
TEAM CANADA: Four of the top ten Canadian point scorers in the NHL are left off the preliminary roster. I get it, Thornton is old and I didn’t really expect them to put him on the roster, period. He has had his share of international play and I think there are just as talented young guys that are ready to play at this level. The names left off that really surprise me are Hall, Giroux, and Burns. They are all in the top ten for scoring by Canadian players in the NHL. They were all also off the Sochi roster. So what is Team Canada thinking? Is a guy like Thornton going to make the roster? Are they trying to keep the same nucleus as Sochi when they won Gold?
As for their backend I don’t see how you can leave off Letang and Subban. Sure, they will probably make the final roster, but c’mon. These are superstar players. For Canada, I think its about image. It seems like guys like Giroux, Burns, and Subban play with an image that is unlike Toews, Crosby, and Vlasic’s. Either way, Canada has plenty of depth and that will allow them to be tough regardless of who they roster.
TEAM RUSSIA: No real surprises. I had Nichuschkin and Tyutin on my rosters, however, neither made the preliminary roster. Is Tyutin too old? He is younger than Markov, but not as good. Is Nichuschkin too young? I think the Russians look for a combination of skill and maturity. When analyzing these rosters it is more difficult because you have to wrap your head around the fact that they play the game differently. They are focused more on skill and creativity, so I choosing a roster, they have to provide for each players strengths and weakness based on their systems.
TEAM FINLAND: Much as the same with Russia, no real surprises. I has two extra defensemen on my roster and didn’t include Donskoi (I don’t even know who that is). Out of all the teams, they may be lacking in overall firepower, but as usual, I am sure they will be a competitive opponent.
TEAM SWEDEN: It boggles my mind that they left off some of the best defensemen on the planet. How do you not include Oliver Eckman-Larsson and Klingberg? Really? When I was putting together my preliminary roster and saw the talent they have on the blue line, it made me want to study how Sweden develops defensemen (Everyone remember Nick Lidstom, right?). I am assuming that these two guys will make the final roster, but I do not understand how Stralman was placed over either one of these players. Sure, Klingberg is young and maybe this season is a fluke, but OEM is a bonafide, elite, NHL defensemen. I mean, I guess they don’t care when they have Hank in net.
In conclusion, I just want point out how interesting it will be to see Team North America compete against veteran players. Will they have the stamina for a lengthy NHL (and for some playoff) season? Are they young enough where their bodies recover faster and the wear and tear of several years in ‘the Show’ hasn’t effected them? Will McDavid, Gadreau and Eichel play together and make players look silly? That will definitely be a team to watch and definitely a team that could win a medal.