November 05, 2009
Taking a gander at the three U.S. Men's Olympic hockey team rosters since 1998 there's one prominent trait that's lacking: goaltending depth. The keepers in question:
1998: Mike Richter, Guy Hebert, John Vanbiesbrouck
Team USA's No. 1 netminder was an obvious choice all three years, and known in advance. Richter was still the man after his performance in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey. In '02, DiPietro was the man to take the torch from Richter and was USA Hockey's shining beacon of light in goal. We all know how that story's gone since the games in Turin.
The choices for backups went from "best American goaltenders that are available" to "best American goaltenders who play on a regular basis" as the years went on.
For 2010, USA Hockey will have its deepest goaltending trio between Ryan Miller(notes), Tim Thomas(notes) and Craig Anderson(notes), who stamped his place on the roster with a red hot month of October. The battle now for the next three and a half months will be about which one will watch from the press box at GM Place and which two will dress.
Coming into this season the debate was between Miller and Thomas for the No. 1 job; but if Anderson continues to carry the Colorado Avalanche, how can his place in the argument be denied?
Team USA's potential strength in goal is even impressing Canadian journalists like Sportsnet's Mike Brophy:
If we had told you at the start of the season Team USA would have an edge over Team Canada at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, would you have believed it?
Didn't think so.
But isn't that exactly what has unfolded thus far?
All of that said, if it comes down to goaltending in the Olympic tournament, I like Team USA's chance of winning a medal.
I might not have said that a month ago.
While USA goaltending is on the rise, Team Canada has questions that need to be answered in their own goal.
Roberto Luongo(notes) and Martin Brodeur(notes) were expected to battle for the No. 1 job while Cam Ward(notes) was to be the No. 3 guy. Since the Canadian Olympic orientation camp in August, the script has been flipped. Luongo's currently injured, Ward is playing himself off the team and it's been Marc-Andre Fleury(notes) who's manifested his own destiny by winning 10 of his first 12 starts.
The next 57 days will determine who makes the final cut for USA and Canadian Olympic squads. Hockey Canada will announce their 20 skaters and 3 goaltenders on Dec. 31st, the same day that the US and Canada face off in the final group game of the World Junior Championships. The next day during the Winter Classic at Fenway Park in Boston, USA Hockey will announce their roster.
What we thought in August has already changed now that we've reached November. With a little over a month and a half until the final rosters are revealed, and with the current injury crisis in the National Hockey League, who makes the final 23 for both teams will likely include some surprises -- and some extraordinarily tough decisions for both Brian Burke and Steve Yzerman.
The roster announcement dates for the other countries can be found at the IIHF Web site