Heading into Friday's Team USA announcement, there was a sense that Brian Burke was going to go in a more youthful direction. Many of the American players who helped Team USA to the gold medal game in 2002 and also a World Cup championship in 1996 were retired, and the best current Yankee hockey players were on the younger side.
As the announcement was made post-Winter Classic on the ice at Fenway Park, Burke indeed went young and inexperienced with just three players, Chris Drury(notes), Jamie Langenbrunner(notes) and Brian Rafalski(notes) having prior Olympic experience.
Team USA's average age is 26.5, with Rafalski the elder statesman at age 36. Two former American stalwarts, Mike Modano(notes) of the Dallas Stars and Bill Guerin(notes) of the Pittsburgh Penguins, weren't found on many prediction lists beforehand and their omissions signified a passing of the torch within USA Hockey.
Should any of the Team USA veterans that were "snubbed" have made the 2010 Olympic team?
The 39-year old Modano -- who has served Team USA at the World Junior Championships, World Championships, Canada Cup, World Cup, and the Olympics -- said he wasn't expected to be named to the roster and realizes as his NHL career is coming to an end; his time serving his country could be over, as he told Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News:
"It is disappointing. This would have been a really fun time, especially in Vancouver. But I understand the process and I understand what they were doing. I guess the hardest part is this pretty much was the last chance to play for (Team USA) but when you get to my age there are going to be things like this that are inevitable.''
A rejuvenated Guerin, 39, had his name thrown into the discussion after winning a Stanley Cup riding shotgun with Sidney Crosby(notes) and the Pittsburgh Penguins; but unlike Modano, wasn't invited to the August orientation camp. Guerin's played for Team USA in every competition, except the World Championships. His omission, along with Modano's, isn't shocking given how the rest of Team USA's youthful roster shakes out.
Conspiracy theories aside, it's clear that Burke has made his imprint on this Team USA roster and is setting the stage for 2014 in Sochi -- if the NHL and NHLPA can end their spat with the Kontinental Hockey League by then.
The American team heading to Vancouver will be overlooked and not expected to do much (unless you're talking to Ryan Kesler), but much needed experience will be gained for the many first-time Olympians. Veterans such as Modano, Guerin, Keith Tkachuk(notes), Doug Weight(notes) and Brian Rolston(notes) who wore the Team USA sweater many times throughout their careers will be given a heartfelt thank you for their service and helping to grow the program.
The future successes of American hockey now rest in the hands of a youthful bunch that may not be as talented as the Canadians, Russians or Swedes; but the hunger will be there, and in a short tournament that could be dangerous.
- Team USA
- Brian Burke