Defence a concern for U.S. Olympic hockey team
American blue-line features rising stars
It has been suggested the best defence is a good offence.
If you are playing for Team USA at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia in February, you’d better hope that old adage is true.
The United States announced its men’s Olympic hockey team following Wednesday’s Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings outdoor game in Ann Arbor, Michigan and clearly the team’s strength should be its potential to light it up on offence.
Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks highlights a group of high-scoring forwards who will wear the red, white and blue. Kane, 25, who has a Stanley Cup-winning goal on his resume, is second in NHL scoring with 23 goals and 53 points in 42 games.
He will be supplemented by the likes of Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Joe Pavelski of the San Jose Sharks, Zach Parise of the Minnesota Wild and Blake Wheeler of the Winnipeg Jets.
The question remains, do the Americans have a good enough defence to be gold medal-threats?
This is not to suggest the defence is weak, but among those named to the team – John Carlson (Washington), Justin Faulk (Carolina), Cam Fowler (Anaheim), Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik (Pittsburgh), Ryan McDonagh (New York Rangers), Kevin Shattenkirk (St. Louis) and Ryan Suter (Minnesota) – only Sutter is considered a Norris Trophy candidate.
Carlson, Shattenkirk and Fowler are rising stars who will need to be at their very best for the Americans to seriously compete for a medal.
One surprising omission from the American blue-line is Keith Yandle of the Phoenix Coyotes. The 27-year-old Boston, Mass., native, who has four straight seasons of 10-plus goals and is eighth in NHL scoring among defencemen, has six goals and 27 points in 29 games this season. He had two goals and three points (and was plus-3) in a win over Edmonton Tuesday. He was the game’s first star.
Also, the Americans went with Ryan Miller (Buffalo), Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles) and Jimmy Howard (Detroit) in goal. Quick is out with a groin injury and Howard has also had injury problems this season. Left off the team was Ben Bishop of the Tampa Bay Lightning who is third in the NHL with 20 wins.
The Americans made it to the gold medal game in 2010 in Vancouver largely on the strength of Miller’s superb play and came within a goal of winning the tournament. Canada won it thanks to an overtime goal from Sidney Crosby.
There is a lot to like about Team USA, but the defence will be a real concern.