Position-by-Position Comparison of the 2010 and 2014 USA Olympic Hockey Teams

Jonathan WillisNHL National ColumnistJanuary 26, 2014

Position-by-Position Comparison of the 2010 and 2014 USA Olympic Hockey Teams

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    Four years ago in Vancouver, Team USA came within a single goal of winning Olympic gold. Sidney Crosby scored the winner in overtime of the tournament's final game, when it could very easily have gone the other way.

    Can the 2014 group do better? How do they compare to their predecessors? Read on for a position-by-position breakdown of the two teams.

    All statistics are courtesy of IIHF.com. For more pieces by Jonathan Willis, follow him on Twitter

     

Left Wing

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    2010 Team:

    • Zach Parise
    • Patrick Kane
    • Ryan Malone
    • Bobby Ryan

    2014 Team:

    • Zach Parise
    • Patrick Kane
    • James van Riemsdyk
    • Max Pacioretty

    Summary: The big guns are the same as they were in Vancouver, with Parise still in the heart of his career and Kane now an experienced 25 rather than a callow 21. 

    The depth players have different names, but provide similar skills to the 2010 group, with van Riemsdyk replacing Malone's size and Pacioretty supplying Ryan's goal-scoring. 

Centre

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    2010 Team:

    • Ryan Kesler
    • Paul Stastny
    • Joe Pavelski
    • David Backes
    • Chris Drury

    2014 Team:

    • Ryan Kesler
    • Joe Pavelski
    • David Backes
    • Paul Stastny
    • Derek Stepan

    Summary: The cast is virtually unchanged, with the only movement in the "spare" centre department, with current New York Ranger Derek Stepan replacing retired New York Ranger Chris Drury. 

    The top four players are now in their late 20s after playing in Vancouver in their mid-20s. Some are a little better now than then, others a little worse, but there is not much difference in terms of overall ability here. 

Right Wing

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    2010 Team:

    • Jamie Langenbrunner
    • Dustin Brown
    • Phil Kessel
    • Ryan Callahan

    2014 Team:

    • Phil Kessel
    • T.J. Oshie
    • Dustin Brown
    • Ryan Callahan
    • Blake Wheeler

    Summary: Three of Team USA's forwards return, but Kessel is a much better player than he was in Vancouver, an elite weapon today when he was only a supporting player back then. He gives the American side a more solid, experienced option at the position than it had in 2010.

    The rest of the roster is arguably a saw-off; Oshie is a strong addition, but Langenbrunner played well in 2010.

Left Defence

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    2010 Team:

    • Ryan Suter
    • Brooks Orpik
    • Tim Gleason
    • Ryan Whitney

    2014 Team:

    • Ryan Suter
    • Ryan McDonagh
    • Brooks Orpik
    • Cam Fowler

    Summary: Suter returns in the leading role, but the depth behind him is dramatically improved from 2010. Cam Fowler, the No. 4 on the left side for the 2014 team, would arguably have been in the No. 2 slot in Vancouver, and McDonagh is a huge asset the Americans did not have last time. 

     

     

Right Defence

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    2010 Team:

    • Brian Rafalski
    • Jack Johnson
    • Erik Johnson

    2014 Team:

    • Paul Martin
    • John Carlson
    • Kevin Shattenkirk
    • Justin Faulk

    Summary: Rafalski is a huge loss; he was named the top defenceman at the 2010 tournament, and the Americans could really use him again. On the other hand, Martin's health is a big win, particularly since it gives Team USA a fuller slate of right-shooting rearguards. 

    The depth overall is better, too. Both Johnsons were eligible for this year's team and were passed over in favour of other options. Still, with Rafalski gone, the Americans do not have the same punch at the top end of the depth chart. 

     

Goalie

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    2010 Team:

    • Ryan Miller
    • Tim Thomas
    • Jonathan Quick

    2014 Team:

    • Ryan Miller
    • Jonathan Quick
    • Jimmy Howard

    Summary: The starting job this year is up for grabs; Quick is the consensus favourite, but Miller has had a superb season for a terrible team and could very well play his way into the top job during the round-robin phase. 

    Even for Miller, though, it will be difficult to match his standout performance in 2010, when he posted a 0.946 save percentage and was named MVP of the Olympic hockey tournament.

Final Analysis

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    How do the groups compare overall?

    At left wing and centre, it is mostly a wash; the players are largely the same, and those who are not play similar games. At right wing it is tempting to say the same, but the emergence of Phil Kessel as a truly elite talent makes that impossible; he gives the Americans a weapon they did not have last time.

    On defence, the Americans are down one exceptional defenceman in Brian Rafalski, but are dramatically improved in terms of depth and should be better overall for that reason. In net, the names are solid, but Ryan Miller was so good last time that it is difficult to imagine anyone matching that performance.

    The 2014 group is probably the better team, but will face a steep challenge to better the work of the 2010 silver-medal-winning squad.