Since we are a little less than a month out from the start of the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, I decided that now would be the time to analyze Team USA (and hopefully the other teams in future posts). Team USA won the Silver Medal in the 2010 Olympics, but had a poor showing in 2014 (4th) and the last time they won the World Cup of Hockey was 1996 when they were lead by a fellow named Brett Hull.
Fast-forward 20 years and the lineup for Team USA has definitely changed. The oldest player on the team is David Backes at 32 years of age with several other players at the age of 31. The youngest player at 25 is Derek Stepan.
Our first bit of analysis will focus on the goalies, which I think are, without a doubt, the strongest point of the team USA roster. I feel confident that Bishop, Quick, and Schnieder can get the job done between the pipes. Quick led the NHL this past season in games played, while Bishop posted some of the highest GAA and SV% marks of any other goaltender in the league, certainly of any goaltender with over 45 games played. Schneider has quietly put together consistent seasons ever since the blockbuster trade that sent him from Vancouver to New Jersey. He has not received the accolades of the other two, but he isn’t to blame for that. Schneider is definitely an elite goalie, he just happens to be on a sub-par team. All things considered, my depth chart for goalies would be Schneider, Quick, Bishop. Overall Grade: A-
Next let’s take a look at the blue-liners. The top four were all pretty much solidified in my opinion. There is no arguing that Byfuglien, Carlson, McDonough and Suter belong there. After that, however, I believe the talent pool drops significantly. In my previous post predicting and analyzing the preliminary rosters, I had hoped that Team USA would have chosen Faulk, Shattenkirk and Yandle to round out the defensemen. Instead, we got the Johnson’s and Niskanen. Is there something I missed here? When you look at the entirety of the Team USA roster, it appears as if they just ‘settled’ on making some safe choices, and choices they have made in the past. I have never been big on the Johnson’s, though it seems like ever since they were youth hockey players that have been given the opportunity to play for Team USA. I understand they are perhaps more responsible in the defensive zone, then the other three selections, but when you don’t have a Kessel or Ryan upfront, where do you expect your scoring to come from? It shouldn’t come as a surprise, however, as Tortorella is big on playing a sound defensive game. Overall Grade: C-
Moving to the forwards, I still don’t understand how Kessel gets snubbed. When the final rosters were announced, his team was heading to the Stanley Cup Final and he had 9G, 9A = 18P in the playoffs. He led his team!! He was performing better than Crosby and Malkin!! How does he not make the cut!? To top it off, he only scored 5G, 3A = 8P in 6 games in Sochi and was probably the only highlight of a disappointing American squad. When the preliminary rosters were announced, Bobby Ryan was 10th overall among American born players in scoring, yet he still got the snub. So who did Team USA actually pick? Dubinsky, Abdelkader, Callahan and JVR are the guys that I question. There is no questioning the remaining forwards (Kane, Pavelski, Backes, Kesler, Oshie, Pacioretty, Parise and Stepan). Again, in my opinion it appears as if Team USA settled with guys who they picked before (mainly Dubinsky, Callahan and JVR). JVR hasn’t played a game since January 9th after he broke his foot. Callahan had 28 points in 73 games. The #7 and #10 American born scoring leaders are left off a team that lacks scoring depth, why? I haven’t even mentioned Okposo (#6) or Galchenyuk (#11). How did these four top 11 scorers for their respective country, get left off the roster? Why is it filled with marginal, albeit, premier role players? Overall Grade: C+ (it’s hard to mark it so low when you have the NHL point scoring leader on your roster, but the decisions are still boggling)
Overall, I think the management and Team USA staff could have done a much better job at picking a more competitive roster. My analysis saw Team USA with the potential to really have a fast, high-octane offensive style team, similar to the European style of hockey. Instead, they decided to go with their traditional picks. Either way, the pressure would have been on the goaltending, which wouldn’t have mattered in my eyes, because Team USA is arguably the strongest of any team in that category. I may be going out on a limb, but the North American team is a more dynamic squad than the Team USA roster. If Gibson, Hellebuyck, or Murray are hot and Jon Cooper works his magic, that team is a shoe-in for no less than 4th place.