US Olympic Hockey Team 2014: Why Men's Team Has Excellent Shot at Gold

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistFebruary 7, 2014

CHICAGO, IL - MAY 3: Zach Parise #11 of the Minnesota Wild skates up the ice in Game Two of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Chicago Blackhawks during the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the United Center on May 03, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)
Bill Smith/Getty Images

A plan is in place. Glaring weaknesses don't exist. The confidence from 2010's silver-medal performance is fresh in the mind. The 2014 United States men's Olympic hockey team is prepared to compete for the gold, and has an excellent chance at winning it.

Sure, the United State doesn't have the overall talent of Canada, or the home-ice advantage of Russia, or the goaltending that red-hot Henrik Lundqvist provides Sweden. But there is nonetheless plenty to love about this team.

For one thing, this is not a group that was haphazardly selected. Rather, a painstaking and thorough process was undertaken to name this team, as documented in great detail by Scott Burnside of ESPN.

Joe Delessio of Sports on Earth takes a look back at that selection process and what the selection committee hoped to accomplish:

They assembled the team with an eye on building a certain type of first line, and certain type of checking line, and so on. They know already what they want their power play to look like. And players like Bobby Ryan and Keith Yandle were left off the roster because they didn't fit into that plan. The idea is to build a team that looks like a team, rather than picking the best players regardless of role or position and then figuring out what to do with them from there.

Hey, it worked for the Team USA Olympic basketball team under Mike Krzyzewski after the team only took home a bronze in 2004. Perhaps it can work again for the country's national hockey team.

There is talent on the attack, spearheaded by players like captain Zach Parise and Patrick Kane. There are talented defenders, led by stalwart Ryan Suter. If Jonathan Quick gets hot, the United States will have as talented a goaltender as any nation in this tournament.

Yes, Canada is strong. But can they trust Roberto Luongo between the pipes? Yes, Russia has every motivation to win the gold and is steeped with talent, but will they buckle under the pressure? Sure, the larger ice surface favors the European teams, but it's not as though the U.S. team was built to be a big, physical but immobile unit.

The hope for the U.S. is that they'll play like a team and surprise folks, much like they did four years ago.

According to alternate captain Suter, the team plans on winning with hard work and determination, telling, "I just hope we go over and compete the way we’re capable of playing. We had such a good run in 2010 and hopefully we can come with the same work ethic and determination."

The 2010 tournament was thrilling, all the way up to the epic, overtime finish in the gold-medal game between Canada and the United States. The Canadians will be hungry for a repeat. The Russians will be desperate for a gold in their home country. The Swedes will feel they can pull off the feat.

But the United States will have a say in the proceedings, you can believe that. This team might not be the favorite, but a gold medal is far from out of the question.


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