Big, BIG congrats to the USA men's hockey team on their silver medal in Vancouver. Why am I so happy about a silver? Considering the fact that we weren't supposed to win one - or at the very least only win bronze - this was a great Olympics for the US team. Only one loss, and unfortunately it was in the gold medal game. Ryan Miller was absolutely stellar, winning MVP of the Olympics for his great goaltending turn. He might've looked morose, but there was nothing for him to be upset about. He set a Team USA record for best GAA with a 1.35. Absurd.
We had a team built on youth that forced the older Canadians to overtime. If you think about it, in 2014, the Americans will have a great deal to build on. Look at the roster and their ages:
- Tim Thomas, 35 (Boston Bruins)
- Ryan Miller, 29 (Buffalo Sabres)
- Jonathan Quick, 24 (Los Angeles Kings)
- Craig Anderson (Colorado), 28
- Brian Rafalski, 36 (Detroit Red Wings)
- Ryan Suter, 25 (Nashville Predators)
- Paul Martin 28 (New Jersey Devils) - withdrawn due to injury
- Mike Komisarek, 28 (Toronto Maple Leafs) - withdrawn due to injury
- Erik Johnson, 21 (St. Louis Blues)
- Brooks Orpik, 29 (Pittsburgh Pittsburgh)
- Jack Johnson, 23 (Los Angeles Kings)
- Ryan Whitney, 26 (Anaheim Ducks) - injury call-up
- Tim Gleason, 27 (Carolina Hurricanes) - injury call-up
- Matt Niskanen (Dallas), 23
- Ron Hainsey (Atlanta), 28
- Alex Goligoski (Pittsburgh), 24
- Matt Carle (Philadelphia), 25
- Rob Scuderi (Los Angeles), 31
- Zach Parise, 25 (New Jersey Devils)
- Chris Drury, 32 (New York Rangers)
- Dustin Brown, 25 (Los Angeles Kings)
- Jamie Langenbrunner, 34 (New Jersey Devils)
- Paul Stastny, 24 (Colorado Avalanche)
- David Backes, 25 (St. Louis Blues)
- Patrick Kane, 21 (Chicago Blackhawks)
- Phil Kessel, 22 (Toronto Maple Leafs)
- Ryan Kesler, 25 (Vancouver Canucks)
- Bobby Ryan, 22 (Anaheim Ducks)
- Joe Pavelski, 25 (San Jose Sharks)
- Ryan Malone, 31 (Tampa Bay Lightning)
- Ryan Callahan, 24 (New York Rangers)
- Jason Pominville (Sabres), 27
- David Booth (Panthers), 25
- Scott Gomez (Canadiens), 30
- T.J. Oshie (Blues), 23
- Brian Gionta (Canadiens), 31
Not half bad, eh? The players in italics are ones that might be considered too old for 2014. There are a total of six players or alternates (Thomas, Rafalski, Scuderi, Drury, Langenbrunner, and Gionta) who may not participate in the Sochi games (let's say for argument's sake that Bettman isn't an idiot and allows them to play). You could expect that some of the alternates from this season sneak up and fill those spots.
Defensively, I could see Hainsey (being a homer, I know) or Carle sneaking up, with Bogosian easily being an alternate in 2014, if not a dark horse to make the team. A lot depends on Hainsey and Bogosian's defensive play - their +/- stats this season are not up to snuff. They both, along with Carle, fit very well into what Brian Burke looks for in a hockey player.
Anderson will be the alternate goaltender if his play keeps up like it has been this season. He's a huge part of why the Colorado Avalanche have been such a success this season. If this play doesn't maintain - and there's some argument that he's just having a hot season - he might not be the third in line. There's a slight shortage of quality American born goalies who will be of a good age come 2014. The only big name is Rick DiPietro, and that one is so dependent on injury it's not even funny. If he's healthy, he's in. If his hip is shot, then obviously he's out. The alternate to Rick D is probably Jimmy Howard, who despite the fact that he is a Red Wing is my bet to make the team as the 3rd goalie. He's been outstanding this season and has really usurped Osgood's starting role (not like that was difficult) and should be given a long look by Burke come 2014.
Ben Bishop of the Peoria Rivermen was drafted 85th overall by the Blues in 2005, and although he was born in Colorado, he was raised in St. Louis and is a homegrown talent. He should be in the league in the next two years or so if his development remains solid. If it's a good idea to consider a kid who only has a few years under his belt in line for an Olympic goaltending job, well that's beyond my call, but it's something USA Hockey's going to have to look at. The other top prospect is Cory Schneider who is currently playing for the Manitoba Moose and was drafted 26th overall by the Vancouver Canucks. Solid kid who looked good in the couple of games he played last season for the 'Nucks. Between the two of these young prospects, my bet is on Schneider to be the alternate for 2014.
Forwards, well, TJ Oshie without a doubt is going to be in the games in 2014. Burke has just about said as much. If Booth keeps his play up, he's in as well. Brandon Dubinsky and Tim Connolly are either going to be on the alternate list or will squeak into the top forwards. Between the two, Connolly is obviously having a better season, though how much of that is a part of what teams the two guys play for is unknown. Both have solid +/- ratings (Connolly at +10 and Dubinsky at +11). Either would be a solid addition to the team.
If you're still feeling bummed out by the loss after reading that and looking at where Team USA's headed, check out this article on Deadspin - they're right. That game turned millions onto hockey who might have never watched a game before, or it made stronger fans out of the casual ones. There isn't any loser from today - and at the very least it was proven that it's still North America's game. Take THAT, KHL.