With the US Olympic orientation camp over and done, I'll take a minute to put together a potential lineup. Coach Ron Wilson and GM Brian Burke basically stated that this was not a "try out" of any kind. It was exactly what it was billed to be- namely, an "orientation" in which players got to know each other and the expectations of the folks that are building this team. Their try out consists of the first half of the 09-10 NHL regular season. That doesn't just go for the folks that skated in Chicago this week, but for every American born player in the league.
It's going to be a young squad no matter how you slice it. Barring an amazing resurgence from some of the older folks like Modano, Tkachuk, Guerin, and Weight, the "old men" of the 2010 US Men's Ice Hockey team will consist of Chris Drury, Ryan Malone, and Timmy Thomas. The good news is that the US National Development program will see the fruits of its labors for the first time in the Olympics this time around, with a lot of talented players filling the roster.
This is a pretty quick and dirty lineup, not paying attention to which wings players normally favor or how chemistry would force a shuffle. It's just my initial sorting-out of players and lines based on skill and reliability. So without further ado, here we go:
1- LW Z.Parise C C.Drury RW P.Kane
2- LW B.Gionta C P.Stastny RW P.Kessel
3- LW K.Okposo C S.Gomez RW B.Ryan
4- LW R.Malone C J.Langenbruner RW R.Kessler
1- P.Martin and M.Komisarek
2- R.Hainsey and B.Rafalski
3- J.Johnson and B.Orpik
Of course, I'd love to see Zach Bogosian get a shot with this team, and if he keeps up the momentum he had at the end of last season, it'd be hard to keep him off the ice in Vancouver next February. Rob Scuderi is another guy who could easily unseat someone on that blueline. Erik Johnson, Ryan Whitney and Tim Gleason will also keep the heat on the six D-men I've listed above. Nobody's got room to take a night off between October 3 and February 15.
I've already mentioned the prominent Team USA veterans still playing in the NHL that I've left off my roster above. Since Brian Burke is making the lineup, I could see him eschewing youth and skill in favor of grit, so don't count Tkachuk out yet. There's also plenty of younger guys who fit Burke's idea of blue collar workhorses who may get the nod over some of their more one dimensional countrymen. Joe Pavelski, Dustin Brown, David Booth, David Backes, and T.J. Oshie would all probably appeal to Burke more than someone like Brian Gionta, and if someone like Kyle Okposo or Bobby Ryan shows that he can fill that top six role, it'd open up a spot on one of the more "grind" oriented lines below.
The crease will be occupied by either Timmy Thomas or Ryan Miller. It's just going to depend on who has the better first half this season. My money is on Thomas, since he'll have a better team in front of him in Boston than Miller will in Buffalo. True, Burke and Wilson should take that into account when evaluating the two, but we all know it's hard to mentally handicap a comparison that way. (Who is better, Kovalchuck or Ovechkin? If they swapped teams, who would win the Richard Trophy?)
I don't see Mike Modano making the cut for Vancouver. Not at his age, not with the year he had in Dallas last season, and not after the whining and complaining he did after the fiasco in Turino. If I'd been in Burke's shoes, I wouldn't have even invited him to Chicago.