Team USA will head to the Sochi Olympic Games with a men's hockey team hungry to grab the gold medal that eluded them in Vancouver in 2010, when Canada sent the Americans to silver with an overtime win in the gold medal game.
There are plenty of holdovers from the team that came so close to glory in 2010. As a matter of fact, 13 players, which is over half of the 25-man roster, on this team are holdovers from Vancouver.
Only the Pittsburgh Penguins' Brooks Orpik and the Minnesota Wild's Ryan Suter are holdovers from the defensive corps from Vancouver.
In a press release by USA Hockey announcing the roster, David Poile, general manager of the 2014 U.S. Olympic Men's Ice Hockey Team, offered up this assessment of the newest roster:
We're fortunate to have probably the deepest talent pool we've ever had in our country, and that made for some very difficult decisions. In the end, however, we're confident we've selected a group of players that puts us in the best position to have success in Sochi.
There is no doubt this roster is loaded with talent and has the potential to return with a gold medal. That doesn't mean there weren't some surprises among the committee's selections. With all the talent available to the selection committee, there were bound to be some notable snubs.
Check out the full roster, and then I'll take a look at the names on, and not on, the roster that surprised me the most.
Forwards: David Backes, Dustin Brown, Ryan Callahan, Patrick Kane, Ryan Kesler, Phil Kessel, T.J. Oshie, Max Pacioretty, Zach Parise, Joe Pavelski, Paul Stastny, Derek Stepan, James van Riemsdyk and Blake Wheeler.
Defencemen: John Carlson, Justin Faulk, Cam Fowler, Paul Martin, Ryan McDonagh, Brooks Orpik, Kevin Shattenkirk and Ryan Suter.
Goaltenders: Jimmy Howard, Jonathan Quick and Ryan Miller
The Remade Defense
The selection committee appears to have made a priority of giving this team a younger, more mobile defense on the big ice.
This is certainly a sound strategy, but one that only makes the exclusion of Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson even more puzzling.
Johnson has been lining rosters of U.S. international teams since he was a teenager. He has excellent speed on the ice, and his game has always been well suited to the big ice.
Instead, the selection committee sided with the likes of Cam Fowler of the Anaheim Ducks, Justin Faulk of the Carolina Hurricanes and John Carlson of the Washington Capitals.
Although Johnson is just 26, all three of these guys bring more youth to the roster. They have also enjoyed strong starts to the NHL season and appear to be talents on the rise.
Still, we'll see if the committee regrets leaving Johnson off the roster.
With Jonathan Quick and Ryan Miller on the roster, the U.S. has the top-two spots in goal on lock down. Both men are worthy and experienced choices in goal.
The selection of the third goalie is not as cut and dry. The Detroit Red Wings' Jimmy Howard is struggling. He recently returned to the ice from knee issues and has not looked good. He's played in two games since being forced from the lineup with his knee issues after playing on Dec. 10 and has allowed seven goals.
He is getting beat with ordinary efforts and looks like he has a ways to go before flashing the kind of form that would make him worthy of his spot on this team.
Given this, the selection of New Jersey Devils goalie Cory Schneider or Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop would have made more sense. Both are having far better seasons than Howard.
Exclusion of Ottawa Senators forward Bobby Ryan
Goal-scoring maestro, Bobby Ryan did not crack this roster. He has 18 goals and 36 points already this NHL season, and he is well on his way to posting 30 or more goals for the fifth time in six seasons.
He also has solid experience, as he picked up a goal and an assist in Vancouver in 2010.
This committee obviously placed an emphasis on speed, and Ryan can credit his goal-scoring success to his hands more than his speed. He doesn't offer a lot of versatility, and the Americans aren't starved for depth at forward or other goal-scoring options.
Still, that is a lot of production to leave off of any roster.
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