Friday, August 21, 2009

Olympic Daydreaming

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:

Forward lines:

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

Defensive pairings:

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.


Mortimer Peacock said...

I've been wondering about this recently as well. I figure Drury is the captain, but I wonder if it's really best to put him on the top line. Perhaps that spot should be reserved for Gomez? My ideal forward lines would something like:


So not all that different from your lines, I suppose. All I know is that, beyond the obvious players (Parise, Kane, Kessel, etc.), I INSIST that Ryan Kesler and Bobby Ryan make the team.

The only difference I have with your defense is that I would add Erik Johnson, and possibly put him alongside Jack Johnson so my dream of a Johnson&Johnson line can become a reality. I hope Bogo can wrangle himself a spot. It looks like Ronald SASG Hainsey is a lock, bless him.

As for goalies, I don't want to leave it all up to Rick di Pietro, so yeah, Thomas and Miller, in that order.

Mortimer Peacock said...

But wait a second...Dustin Brown. HE has to be on the team.

Razor Catch Prey said...

Like I said, this is quick and dirty. I agree, I'd love to see Dustin Brown on the team, and since Burke is the GM, it's probably a good bet he'll be anchoring the third or fourth line. You can probably take some of those smaller guys I've got on there like Gionta and strike them for that same reason.

Burke is going to have to check some of his own tendencies in order to make sure the team has scoring punch. As much as I would love to field a team of Dustin Brown and Adam Deadmarsh clones, the 2.5 goals per game that team would average just wouldn't keep up with the Canadians, Fins, or Russians.

My god, this team is going to have to try to outscore a Ruski squad that will have this power play line:

Kovy! Datsuk! Ovie!

Malkin! Gonchar!


If we don't have at least two lines that are legitimate threats to put up big numbers, even Timmy and Miller-time arent' going to keep us in that game.

Razor Catch Prey said...

As for Drury being on the top line, that is what I meant by "reliability" being a factor. Simply put, Drury is Mr. Big Game Performer. Give him the "C" and give him the responsibility to get the puck to our top snipers.

It hasn't worked out so well for the Rangers, and I'm not sure why. Of course he doesn't have Milan Hejduk or Peter Forsberg playing with him, but Nick Zherdev and Marcus Naslund are no Patrik Stefans, either. And he didn't have world class linemates in Buffalo when he was putting up big numbers, either.

That being said, I think putting Drury between Parise and Kane is an alchemists formula for turning ice into gold.