At 5th in the IIHF rankings the U.S. team the 2010 Olympics will see, is coming in with hopes of a medal. The hopes for any medal contention will fall solely on the shoulders of Ryan Miller. Tim Thomas might be the Vezina trophy winner, but Miller is far & away the better goalie. The battle for number 3 is one that I wont be surprised if I get wrong. Its in my opinion a 4 horse race. Early in the season Craig Anderson looked like a lock. Lately Jonathan Quick seems like the odds on favorite, but few have considered Ty Conklin & Jim Howard, both who have had exceptional seasons as well. Theres even the small (although highly unlikely) potential of Robert Esche, one of the top goalies in the KHL this season being on their radar, but I think he will be snubbed for a North American playing goalie.
The team on defense is young, but not as young as it would have been had Tyler Myers been eligible to play for it. The 18 yr old stud defenseman, American born, opted to play for Canada in the junior championships & thus is not eligible for the U.S. team.
Forwards are a good mix of young, old, speedy & skilled. With young studs like Parise, Stastny, Kane & Ryan, they wont have to worry about scoring. Guys like Kesler, Rolston & Langebrunner will be able to play solid defensive games and contribute a bit offensively.
Overall, the U.S. squad is one of the more rounded ones they have had in awhile. Chances for a medal are decent.
Ryan Miller- BUFFALO SABRES (NHL) The undisputed best goalie in the U.S. right now. Leads in GGA, SPCT, SO & 1 win out of 1st in wins. He is the starter without hesitation.
Tim Thomas- BOSTON BRUINS (NHL) Solely based on his performance last season Tim will be here as the back up. Realistically, hes had an average season & there is likely more deserving players, but a Norris trophy winner last year gets him a partial pass on an average season so far.
Jim Howard- DETROIT RED WINGS (NHL) I am picking him solely because in the last few weeks hes had amazing stats, hes been a starter now & hes managed to climb from the bottom of my prospective goalies list to almost the top in a matter of weeks. Best of the bunch over the past while & has been the backbone of a resurgence of the Wings lately. This is by far a lock though, especially if Burkie had his choices made prior to the start of December for his goalies.
Erik Johnson- ST LOUIS BLUES (NHL) The probable 1st unit PP QB for USA, Erik will be a probable top pair starter.
Alex Goligoski- PITTSBURGH PENGUINS (NHL) Although hes cooled off a touch this last couple weeks, he is still having a sound defensive game as well & clearly has an offensive flair as well which makes his capable in all situations.
Matt Carle- PHILADELPHIA FLYERS (NHL) Maybe its Chris Pronger who has had something to do with it, but Matt Carle is set to possibly have the best season of his short career already.
Ryan Suter- NASHVILLE PREDATORS (NHL) The Preds are climbing the standings right now & you can put a large chunk of that on their defense core, including Suter. With 7 pts & a +8 in their last 8 games, he has cemented what was already a probable spot before then.
Ryan Whitney- ANAHEIM DUCKS (NHL) His strong offensive game will be his ticket onto the team. If they dont feel the need for his offense, he might not be here though. Defensively there are better options.
Andy Greene- NEW JERSEY DEVILS (NHL) Who had Andy Greene even on their short list at the start of the year? Probably no one, including me. But injuries in NJ (including Paul Martin who might replace him depending on his return status) has seen Greenes stock rise dramatically & right now, I would have to question leaving a dman with 3 GWG & 4 PP goals off your roster. That +8 rating likely doesnt hurt his chances either.
Brian Rafalski- DETROIT RED WINGS (NHL) One of the most experienced dmen the U.S. has. Brian will be here not just on his past championship & major international tourney experience, but on the fact hes had a decent year again at both ends of the ice.
Zach Parise- NEW JERSEY DEVILS (NHL) The top goals, assists & points scorer for the U.S. last year, Zach has returned to that same form this year, leading the American offensive charge again. He will be expected to carry the load offensively.
Paul Stastny- COLORADO AVALANCHE (NHL) The Avs are fighting for a division title early in this season, and much of that is because of Paul Stastny & his offensive contributions. USA will hope for the same contributions in Vancouver.
Patrick Kane- CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS (NHL) His off season issues have not seemed to have damaged his game much. Patrick is again having a solid year offensively. A pt per game pace & a likely top line spot & lots of PP time will make him dangerous.
Ryan Kesler- VANCOUVER CANUCKS (NHL) A Selke trophy finalist last season, Ryan has perhaps even improved on that performance this season. Offensively he has picked his game up a notch, maybe even two.
Jamie Langenbrunner- NEW JERSEY DEVILS (NHL) Has lots of offensive talent, but is also an exceptional defensive minded forward who will probably get lots of time in all situations.
Ryan Malone- TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING (NHL) A literal resurgence for Ryan Malone this year has placed him on this team. He is struggling a bit lately, but his early season efforts have him safely on the team. The American staff is just hoping he gets that touch back by February.
Bobby Ryan- ANAHEIM DUCKS (NHL) If this tourney was a year later I think he would be on the top line. Since its now however, he'll do quite fine as their 2nd unit winger.
Phil Kessel- TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS (NHL) The Leafs have come on strong since Kessel returned from an injury. His pt per game avg has him on the team, even if the National teams GM didnt have a club team connection to him in Toronto.
Tim Connolly- BUFFALO SABRES (NHL) Will fill a 3rd line scoring role. Could be moved to a 2nd line spot if others falter.
RJ Umberger- COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS (NHL) Long as he can get along with sure thing Ryan Kesler, RJ Umberger should do well in a checking role & still bring offensive skills to the position.
Dustin Brown- LOS ANGELES KINGS (NHL) A good offensive player, it will be a defensive role the American staff will probably put on him here though. Expect him as a 3rd liner.
Jason Blake- TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS (NHL) Playing for the National teams GM will get him on the team. Brian Burke will put Jason here for no other reason but to hopefully give his player a boost of confidence for the rest of the NHL season. He has the stats to justify it as well.
Brian Rolston- NEW JERSEY DEVILS (NHL) my first roster at the end of Oct, he wasnt even on my "outside chance" list. Mid Nov list still not on it. Finally at the end of Nov I placed him at the bottom of my "outside chance" list. If I am wrong about him being here I wont be shocked. His surge has been only recently & maybe its too late to get recognized. But his stats & experience make me consider him an option & if he keeps it up thru till decision day, maybe Burkie scratches out whoever he has here & puts him in instead.
maybe- Craig Anderson, Jonathan Quick, Brooks Orpik, Zach Bogosian, Jack Johnson, Keith Tkachuk, Dustin Byfuglien, David Booth, Jason Pominville, Kyle Okposo.
The L.A. Kings were in town, but I wasnt too concerned. So I barely put in an effort for them. They were here on the same day there was an autographe vent for local legend Trevor Linden, so I passed going for them after practice. So my report is pretty thin.
JONATHAN QUICK & ERIK ERSBERG- no reports
DAVIS DREWISKE- 0 autographs. I had nothing for him, but watched as he signed everything asked of him.
DREW DOUGHTY, RANDY JONES, JACK JOHNSON, MATT GREENE, SEAN ODONNELL, ROB SCUDERI- no reports
DUSTIN BROWN- 1 autogrpah. With a small crowd of only 3-4 people, Dustin still only signed 1 item when 2 were presented.
JUSTIN WILLIAMS- 1 autograph. A notoriously bad signer, signed but looked quite put out to be doing it. Strict 1 per.
WAYNE SIMMONDS- 2 autographs. Not much of a signature, but he signed multiples at least.
BRAYDEN SCHENN- 0 autographs. Willingly signed whatever was asked of him by those with items.
ANZE KOPITAR, RYAN SMYTH, JARRET STOLL, ALEXANDER FROLOV, MICHAL HANDZUS, SCOTT PARSE, TEDDY PURCELL, RAITIS IVANANS, BRAD RICHARDSON- no reprots
BILL RANFORD- 5 autographs. 6 items presented, did 5 & handed the pen back quite firmly. Still happy with 5, just always find it interesting when a player signs so many then stops 1 short of all of them.
in other news...
TREVOR LINDEN- 4 autographs. Did them with a smile on his face. Hes become a really great signer at these events that he is doing since retiring.
Los Angeles autographs- 9
Canadagraphs Hockey Blogs
From time to time I have something to say on hockey. Whether its the Vancouver Canucks, NHL in general, Womens Hockey or International Hockey...if I have something to post, it will be in here.