COMMENTARY | As the U.S. Olympic camp gets underway, 48 players will be vying for a spot on the team that competes in Sochi, Russia in 2014.
Justin Abdelkader, who was nothing more than a third-line winger a year ago for the Detroit Red Wings, spent a considerable amount of time with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg on the first line during the 2012-13 season.
It was a rough transition, for sure. Back in March, I even wrote an article stating Abdelkader's lack of skill was handcuffing Datsyuk and making the Russian obsolete. Datsyuk would make a tremendous pass to Abdelkader, only to have Abdelkader fumble the pass and cause a turnover.
I argued Abdelkader couldn't keep up with Datsyuk and needed to be put back on the third line where his style of play is best suited.
However, as Abdelkader spent more time on the first line, he became more comfortable with his role and added some grit to a finesse-laden line.
Abdelkader even scored a career-high 10 goals last season, despite playing just 48 games in the lockout-shortened campaign.
Abdelkader certainly isn't a lock to make the U.S. team, but U.S. general manager David Poile, along with his selection committee, should think about adding Abdelkader to the roster.
Abdelkader won't put up a point per night, but he brings a lot of toughness and isn't afraid to do the dirty work for his linemates. Datsyuk described Abdelkader's role perfectly back in March when he said: "It's like somebody needs to pull the piano and somebody needs to play the piano. This is a guy who pulls the piano."
If he makes the U.S. team, he won't be on the first line playing against the likes of Sidney Crosby or Datsyuk, but he could make a nice third- or fourth-line winger. What Abdelkader has working in his favor is he is a guy who, if needed to, could jump up to the first line and contribute there as well as on the third or fourth line.
Role players are great, but aren't necessarily there to contribute on the scoreboard. But role players who can transition from the third or fourth line to the first line are invaluable. Role players are needed to do the dirty work and give time and space to the skill players. Abdelkader is one of those guys and should be considered for spot on the U.S. team.
Tom Mitsos is a Michigan native who covers the Detroit Red Wings for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. He also is a high school sports reporter at MLive Media Group. You can follow Tom on Twitter.
- Sports & Recreation
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- Justin Abdelkader
- Pavel Datsyuk
- Detroit Red Wings