February 20, 2009
In the last two weeks, everyone and their mother have released a prospective men's ice hockey roster for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. We kept getting requests for our opinions on what Team USA might look like, which was flattering but ultimately wishful thinking that Leahy and I could overcome our slothful comportment to actually hit the one-year-away date that some people did for their predictions.
Alas, we are nothing if we are not true patriots. So we decided to
sober up take some time to list 12 forwards, six defenseman and three goalies apiece for the U.S. Olympic team, analyzing this collection of potential champions with flimsy justifications and pithy comments.
(Please note that we didn't formally list a coach, as we both hold out hope for Zombie Herb Brooks to take the reins.)
With that, here are the Puck Daddy selections for Team USA in 2010. We agreed on most, disagreed vehemently on some and have generally crafted a roster that we feel will provide a smooth ride to the gold ... as long as Russia, Canada, Sweden, Finland and several other nations decide to boycott the games. (We're really not holding out much hope for Canada in that regard.)
The Wingers We Agree On
WYSHYNSKI: Parise is a lock, both for his aggression on the puck and on the off chance they begin awarding extra goals for adorability.
LEAHY: Speed will be a factor on the NHL-size ice in Vancouver. Parise's coming into his own now just at the right time. I also eagerly await Pierre McGuire chastising the fifteen teams that passed him over in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft again.
WYSHYNSKI: I expect Kessel to come in as a first line forward, and then gradually fall down the lineup as people question his attitude and work ethic. (/2006 Draft Expert)
LEAHY: The guy has gone from a falling draft prospect to beating testicular cancer to now being a consistent scorer at age 21. Just the feel-good story NBC can produce into one of those weepy vignettes during the Games.
WYSHYNSKI: The Russian players will simply stand around and talk about how much better he is than Crosby. And that's right were we want them.
LEAHY: As long as he brings his cute sisters to Vancouver, I'm game.
Jamie Langenbrunner, New Jersey Devils
WYSHYNSKI: As a Devils fan, I like the idea of Parise and Langenbrunner playing on the same line for Team USA. They work well as wings, and could elevate any center they play with. Add in the fact that the guy has one of the best play-by-play names in hockey, and it's aces.
LEAHY: Veteran leadership with international experience is what the likely young makeup of Team USA will need.
WYSHYNSKI: Prototypical player for Team USA, in the sense that he's a gritty forward with some occasional offensive flourish. He's a talented worker on a team of talented workers. And he was born five hours away from Lake Placid. So there you go.
LEAHY: A big bodied forward who adds another leadership presence to the team, not to mention the always-important game show experience.
WYSHYNSKI: A dual citizenship guy, having been born in Quebec. After Brett Hull retired, we need a new source of Canuck double-agent espionage. Also, if the Sabres send the PR assistant that ghostwrites it, he can be the official Team USA blogger.
LEAHY: Yes, I'm eagerly awaiting Pominville's blog discussing the finer points of curling and the best places inside the Olympic village to trade pins.
The Centers We Agree On
WYSHYNSKI: Another dual citizenship guy, and by far one of the most naturally gifted offensive players on the Team USA roster. Good goal scorer, very solid on the power play. An essential part of this team. Luckily for us, the Canadians have roughly 10,000 centers to choose from.
LEAHY: In a tournament likely filled with those dastardly composite sticks, Stastny still brings the wood to the rink every day. He decided to play for Team USA so to have the chance to play with his brother, Yan. Luckily, the USA depth chart is pretty decent, so thanks but no thanks, Yan.
WYSHYNSKI: Not exactly a popular pick because he's not exactly been a "good" player for the Rangers this season. But Gomez remains one of the world's top open-ice stick-handlers in the right system. He had five points in six games back in 2006.
LEAHY: Maybe putting him on a line with former teammates Zach Parise and Jamie Langenbrunner will bring back the glory days.
Chris Drury, New York Rangers
WYSHYNSKI: Another guy that's underwhelmed in the Big Apple but that has a butt-load of international hockey experience. The paucity of U.S. centers makes his selection a solid one.
LEAHY: Seems to excel when he's not "the guy". We know his ability to step up in big games and what other athlete can say they've won an Olympic medal and a Little League World Series title?
The Defensemen We Agree On
WYSHYNSKI: B-Raf is arguably the best American-born defenseman in the NHL right now, and would play a huge role on offense, defense and special teams. A lock.
LEAHY: A guy who deserves more credit for what he does in all aspects of the game.
WYSHYNSKI: If there's any way this guy can play 35 minutes a game, we'll be in really good shape.
LEAHY: Someone has to push those Swedes, Canadians, and Russians around. A monster on the blue line who's even more valuable because of his no-fear attitude to blocking shots.
LEAHY: He's won three goal medals in World Junior competitions and is developing into a nice offensive producer while being cognizant of his duties in his own zone.
WYSHYNSKI: Have to say I've been really impressed with Ballard since the trade to the Panthers, having not seen all that much of him before this season. Just a solid pro to have back there.
LEAHY: Another solid guy to try and keep the puck out of the net. Doesn't stand out much, just does his job.
John-Michael Liles, Colorado Avalanche
WYSHYNSKI: If we're going to win us some gold, we're going to need puck-moving dudes like this to play keep-away from the Russians and Canadians. Plus, he played for the Iserlohn Roosters of the German League, which is something to cro ... I'll stop.
LEAHY: It's key to have someone like Liles be able to move the puck out of the zone since players won't be dealing with the usual large ice surface in 2010.
The Goalies We Agree On
Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres
WYSHYNSKI: We've been bowing to this guy all season for being the goalie we're waited for him to be in career: Steady, smart and winning games on his own. I'd give Miller the starting nod not only with an eye towards 2014 (if the NHL participates), but because his style is a little more conservative than Thomas.
LEAHY: Somewhere Rick DiPietro is thinking this could have been his job for the taking. Miller is that steady presence between the pipes that you need in a short tournament like the Olympics. He doesn't get too emotional and mentally take himself off his game.
Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins
WYSHYNSKI: The fact that Thomas is on this roster, with a chance to start for the Americans, remains one of the greatest comeback stories in recent U.S. hockey history. There's also the slim chance that he could start a goalie fight in the Olympics, which would pretty much be the greatest bit of over-the-top Winter Games violence since Gillooly.
LEAHY: Timmy is the kind of guy who you can't help but root for. His story is too touching and you know he's savoring the opportunity to be a part of Team USA.
The Ones Leahy Likes But Wyshynski Doesn't
WYSHYNSKI: Unless there's some sort of tattoo quota we're in danger of missing, I just don't see what Bugsy brings to a team on the international stage.
LEAHY: I like Malone's presence in front of the net and the ability to mix it up. He adds some toughness to the lineup
Christopher Higgins, Montreal Canadiens
WYSHYNSKI: Honestly, I had no idea Higgins was American. But then again, I went to Maryland, not some highfalutin school like Mr. Higgins' "Yale."
LEAHY: I might be biased because Higgins is a fellow Long Islander and I work with his cousin, but in my best Americanized Don Cherry voice, "He's a good ole American boy!"
WYSHYNSKI: OK, I think this is a fair selection ... for 2014. And yes, the guy who's putting Blake Wheeler on the team just called Bobby Ryan too green.
LEAHY: You're going against the Jersey boy and former Iowa Chop, Wysh? The kid may be green, but overall it's young squad to begin with. Ryan is getting his opportunity finally in the NHL and proving his worth.
WYSHYNSKI: The only Free Candy that should be found at the Olympics are weird jellied fruit from the Japanese and mints that taste like fish from the Finns.
LEAHY: Who the heck is going to slow down those Canadian and Russian forwards? Those (insert Pierre McGuire voice here) monsters like Orpik and Komisarek.
Ty Conklin, Detroit Red Wings
WYSHYNSKI: ConkBlock? Seriously? What, are they playing some of the games outdoors?
LEAHY: I'll have you know Conks is undefeated in international play (5-0-3) and like third goaltenders really get any playing time at all? He'll be busy checking out the luge to worry about playing.
The Ones Wyshynski Likes But Leahy Doesn't
Rick DiPietro, New York Islanders
WYSHYNSKI: Seriously, if there's still a chance we can trade him for Luongo again, we should look into that.
LEAHY: DiPi will be recovering some another surgery at this point next season as Garth Snow checks his calendar to see how many more years until his "franchise" goaltender's contract ends.
Jack Johnson, Los Angeles Kings
WYSHYNSKI: If he had eyes in the back of his head, he'd tell his opponents that they looked good as he skated away.
WYSHYNSKI: An American victory in Olympic hockey would piss off a ton of people. So does Kesler.
LEAHY: I think the fine folks of Vancouver would have a hard time booing their boy, even if he's donning the red, white, and blue.
David Booth, Florida Panthers
WYSHYNSKI: Gotta have a power forward like this on the roster. Booth's dream is to kill a bear with a bow and arrow. We've only been to Vancouver once, but from what we saw he ride our wing any time.
LEAHY: Booth is my fantasy hockey BFF as you told him, but I think it'll come down to a numbers game where he'll be one of the more debatable picks that are either left home or put on the taxi squad.
Blake Wheeler, Boston Bruins
WYSHYNSKI: A good sniper for a depth line. Fun facts about Blake Wheeler - his music tastes run from "2Pac to Taylor Swift" and if he could have any puppy in the world, it would be a Cavalier King Charles. Which, incidentally, has as many NBA titles as a Cavalier King James.
LEAHY: Taylor Swift? We can't have a guy defending our country's honor in hockey be listening to Taylor Swift.