US Olympic Hockey Team 2014 Roster: Ranking the Biggest Snubs and Surprises
The NHL players representing Team USA at the 2014 Sochi Games were announced on Wednesday, and as always, half the fun is looking over the roster and picking out the names of the guys who were expected to make the team but fell just short.
Which players were surprise omissions for the American Olympic Team? Who might the U.S. brain trust come to regret leaving behind? Read on for the 10 players most surprisingly left off the roster and our take on whether or not it was the right call.
10. Cory Schneider, New Jersey Devils
Why it's surprising: Schneider isn't really a surprise omission from the team given the depth Team USA has in net, but he's still something of a snub, particularly given that his .926 career save percentage tops all American goalies with more than 50 games of NHL experience.
Was it the right call? It's debatable whether Schneider's record over a relatively short career should have entitled him to a spot on the team, but his play this year made him an easy omission.
9. Jack Johnson, Columbus Blue Jackets
Why it's surprising: Jack Johnson is a tremendous athlete, and he marries skating and puck-moving ability to a 6'1", 238-pound chassis. He's a veteran of the 2010 Games, adds a physical dimension not in great supply on the U.S. blue line and seems a logical fit for the big ice.
Was it the right call? Absolutely. Johnson has long been one of the game's most overrated defenders, a player who has consistently bled shots and goals against even when he's playing on good teams.
8. Jason Pominville, Minnesota Wild
Why it's surprising: Among legitimate candidates for Team USA in Sochi, only David Legwand (551 points) has more career points than Jason Pominville (493), and his 0.78 points per game over his career puts him ahead of all Americans other than Patrick Kane and Zach Parise. Add in familiarity with Parise, and it's easy to see why Pominville deserved consideration.
Was it the right call? He's scoring at just over a 50-point pace, and offence is his primary calling card. He must have been considered, but he's a sensible player to leave behind.
7. Kyle Okposo, New York Islanders
Why it's surprising: With a physical edge, fantastic top speed and scoring at just a hair under a point-per-game pace (the best number of his career), Kyle Okposo was considered by many an excellent choice for Team USA.
Was it the right call? There is a case to be made either way here, but given that Okposo's spike in performance comes just as he's united with John Tavares and that his history isn't nearly as good, it's understandable that the American management group was skeptical.
6. Brandon Saad, Chicago Blackhawks
Why it's surprising: Saad plays in all situations for Chicago, including on the penalty kill, and given his surprising offensive punch this season, he's looked a lot like a guy who might be handy to have in a spare forward slot, the kind of player who could step in as needed on any line and do reasonably well.
Was it the right call? Yes. While Saad is a rising star, his offence for the Blackhawks is suspect given the players he regularly lines up alongside and the way his numbers cratered in last year's playoffs when he got bumped down the lineup.
5. Erik Johnson, Colorado Avalanche
Why it's surprising: Colorado's top defenceman is another veteran of the 2010 Olympics, and another rearguard who combines size with and speed. Add in that he's a right-handed shot on a team taking five left-shooting defencemen, and adding a veteran like Johnson as a spare would seem to make great sense.
Was it the right call? If an injury crops up on the right side, does it make more sense to flip Paul Martin to his off-hand and pair him with Brooks Orpik or to place him on a pairing with Johnson? Ultimately, other defencemen deserved to go more than Johnson did, but he merited definite consideration.
4. Dustin Byfuglien, Winnipeg Jets
Why it's surprising: A big defenceman with loads of talent, Byfuglien plays extremely tough minutes in Winnipeg and drives the play. The fact that he's a major offensive producer and capable of switching to forward in a pinch should have made him an even more attractive option for Team USA.
Was it the right call? Byfuglien would have been a nice fit as the team's fourth right-shooting defenceman and a player capable of legitimately stepping in and outplaying one of the top three options (John Carlson, Kevin Shattenkirk and Justin Faulk). He probably should have been named to the team.
3. Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning
Why it's surprising: Ben Bishop leads all American starters with a 1.89 GAA and 0.935 save percentage; he also boasts a 20-5-3 record for a Tampa Bay team that has been lost without him. He sits second only to Cory Schneider in terms of career save percentage among American goalies.
Was it the right call? The case against Bishop is basically a lack of experience. If Jonathan Quick was in danger as one of the team's top two goalies, Bishop deserved to go. But it's also difficult to blame the American management for wanting a veteran as its third-string goalie, especially given that if he plays, it will happen quickly.
2. Keith Yandle, Phoenix Coyotes
Why it's surprising: An exceptional skater and passer, Yandle leads all American defencemen in scoring over the last five seasons and has an offensive skill set arguably unmatched among his countrymen.
Was it the right call? While Yandle's omission from the team is going to be one that raises a lot of eyebrows, it's worth noting that he's generally been used as more of an offensive specialist than a complete defender in Phoenix and that he might well be exposed defensively against the best players in the world. He likely should have been on the team, but this isn't a slam-dunk mistake.
1. Bobby Ryan, Ottawa Senators
Why it's surprising: Four offensive wingers stand out head and shoulders above the pack of good American players. Zach Parise, Patrick Kane and Phil Kessel were all widely considered locks, and deservedly so. Bobby Ryan is the fourth member of that group, a four-time 30-goal scorer and a player on pace to top that number again this season.
Was it the right call? No. As much as Team USA needs to play a complete game and structure itself for the big ice, it is going to be extremely difficult to score on other contending teams. Ryan adds that hard-to-find element in a way most of the roster doesn't. He should have been in the American top-six; instead, he misses the team entirely.