DETROIT, MI – The U.S. Olympic men’s hockey roster for the 2014 Sochi Games will be revealed at the conclusion of the Winter Classic on Jan. 1. There’s strong speculation on-site in Detroit that a significant name could be left off that list.
That player? Forward Bobby Ryan, the Ottawa Senators star and an Olympian for the U.S. in 2010.
Kevin Allen of USA Today, who has his finger on the pulse of the USA Hockey braintrust, left Ryan off his final roster projection for Sochi, with this explanation:
The most difficult decision was leaving off Bobby Ryan (Ottawa Senators). He might be en route to his fifth 30-goal season. His hands are exceptional. But the Americans are deep on the wing, and other players have more to offer. Ryan is not a skater, nor a defensive zealot. Wheeler was my pick over Ryan because of his speed, size and reach. All are important on the wider surface.
Ryan’s offensive credentials are well-established. He has 18 goals in 42 games this season, and scored over 30 goals each season from 2008-2012. He had a goal and an assist in six games for the U.S. in Vancouver. On the international ice surface, he had seven points in eight games for the U.S. in the 2012 IIHF World Championships in Slovakia and scored 13 points in 11 games with Mora IK in Sweden during the lockout last season.
But the Sochi tournament demands speed that Ryan doesn’t necessarily possess. And the U.S. lineup doesn’t lend itself to Ryan being in the top six among forwards; why have him around for limited action if you’re worried about his defense on an international surface?
Ryan, of course, wants nothing more than a chance at Olympic gold after winning silver in 2010. But he acknowledged to the Ottawa Sun that he’s battling for a bottom six forward role:
Ryan said he's in a group with St. Louis' T.J. Oshie and L.A.'s Dustin Brown that are battling for spots because guys like Chicago's Patrick Kane, Minny's Zach Parise, Toronto's James van Riemsdyk and Montreal's Max Pacioretty are locks.
"If I'm not going to be in the top six then my role will be as an energy guy and I'd be up against those guys," said Ryan.
Oshie appears to be a good bet due to his speed and, potentially, as a linemate with St. Louis Blues teammate David Backes. Brown isn't exactly Apolo Anton Ohno in the speed department, but he's a better defender than Ryan. (Brown, incidentally, also has his general manager in the Team USA braintrust).
The U.S. roster announcement figured to have some surprises, but none as seismic as Bobby Ryan being left off, as one of the American’s most accomplished offensive talents.
Again, there’s been nothing official, but that’s the current speculation and Allen’s projection would seem to underscore it.