There were plenty of questions and head scratching when USA Hockey announced its roster for the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver. Jamie Langebrunner? Chris Drury? That seemed to turn out OK in the end.
Four years later, there was plenty of that again when the 2014 team was revealed at the end of the Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium on Wednesday.
Aside from the many players who were expected to be named to the team, there were also a handful of snubs and anger from many NHL fanbases that their guy wasn't included. With just over a month until Team USA's first game against Slovakia, there is still the chance that injuries could open the door for those player's left off. General manager David Poile said that certain players were given strong messages that pretty much said "be ready, just in case."
But as we see the construction of Team USA, it won't simply be the next best player available should an injury arise. If an injured player filled a specific role, his replacement will be looked upon to do the job.
Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle was on many roster projections, but he was considered too risky to include on the final list. In Scott Burnside's excellent behind-the-scenes piece for ESPN.com, Brian Burke put it bluntly when discussing Yandle: "I always assume a disaster's going to happen."
Coyotes GM Don Maloney understood the tough decisions the USA Hockey staff had to make in putting together the final roster.
"I have to think that Keith, excluding him from the defense, was maybe the hardest.
"He's been our best player the last month. He's driving our team. He's an assistant captain. So just for me, USA will have a terrific defense if Keith Yandle is not one of their eight. He's been that good for us, but obviously they're some other good players in this league as well."
We detailed on Wednesday why Jack Johnson didn't make the team. He told Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch that he felt his "up and down" season likely played a role in losing out to Cam Fowler.
Kyle Okposo is currently the second leading scorer among American forwards, but Poile and his staff felt the New York Islanders winger, like the Minnesota Wild's Jason Pominville, wasn't suited for the bigger ice and their names were dropped early in the process.
Okposo's exclusion didn't sit well with the Islanders, as Newsday's Arthur Staple Tweeted:
And for those who asked, #Isles management -- all alums of USA Hockey at some level -- are livid at Okposo's exclusion.
— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) January 2, 2014
The competition in goal came down to Jimmy Howard, Ben Bishop, Tim Thomas, Craig Anderson and Cory Schneider, with the Detroit Red Wings netminder winning out.
Bishop's lack of big game experience was a knock against him, according to Burnside. Also, losing the starting job to John Gibson at last spring's World Championships was mentioned several times. Gibson would help Team USA win bronze.
"Obviously, I'm a little upset," Bishop told Damian Cristodero of the Tampa Bay Times after the Lightning beat Vancouver Wednesday night. "But those are three really good goalies and I wish them the best of luck."
Like Bishop, Schneider's lack of playoff experience was a big factor in debating his chances versus Howard's. And his splitting time this season with Martin Brodeur made it tough for the Team USA staff to evaluate him.
“You kind of make your own luck and you have a lot of control over what happens, so it’s up to you to make things happen and do your best,” Schneider said. “They’re picking the team to compete with the best in the world and you have to be exceptional to be on that team and there were moments when I wasn’t quite there and probably could have played better at some points during the first half. So, it is what it is and I’m just moving on and focusing on the second half.”
Finally, one of the biggest snubs on Team USA was Ottawa Senators forward Bobby Ryan, who was on the 2010 team in Vancouver. He wasn't seen as part of the final top-six, so the staff felt better options should be chosen to fill the third and fourth lines.
Burke, Ryan's former general manager in Anaheim, was not a fan.
"He is not intense. That word is not in his vocabulary. It's never going to be in his vocabulary. He can't spell intense."
An unattributed member of the staff added: "I think he's sleepy. I think he skates sleepy."
Would it shock anyone to see Ryan start scoring at an Ovechkin-like pace over the next month after all this?
Ryan, meanwhile, in response to a Tweet from Ottawa Sun writer Don Brennan had this to say:
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