by PuckStopsHere on 01/02/10 at 04:42 PM ET
Yesterday during the Winter Classic hockey game, the US Olympic Team was announced. Here were my selections. I expected that about 25% of my selections would not be selected to the actual team (at least until I saw James Mirtle’s picks who agreed with all but two of my picks), but the actual team was not as close a match. Sixteen of my selections made the American team and seven did not. I will explain why I made my selections in place of the players who were actually selected.
Jason Pominville over David Backes Backes is hard working gritty winger, but he lacks the talent of Jason Pominville. Pominville has three seasons with 65 or more points including an 80 point year in 2007/08. Backes has a career best of 54 points. It is a mistake to give up the level of talent that Pominville has, even if Backes will be a useful hard working player, Pominville offers a lot more to a team.
Tim Connolly over Ryan Callahan Callahan is another hard working gritty forward, who is versatile enough to play several forward positions, but again he is taking the spot of a player with significantly more talent. Connolly has had injury issues throughout his career, but he has been healthy lately. While healthy he has been able to score at near point per game rate (for example last year he scored 47 points in 48 games). Callahan meanwhile had a career best season last year scoring 40 points in 82 games. The strongest Olympic teams have frontline players who will play the third and fourth lines for them., These players offer significantly more to the team as they can offer offence as well as the defence and penalty killing skills that a player like Connolly possesses. I think it is a mistake to pass over more highly skilled playerstot get NHL role players for your fourth line.
Scott Gomez over Joe Pavelski Scott Gomez has very strong puck possession numbers and has successful Olympic experience (with five points in his six games in the last Olympics). I think he is the most important omission on the American team. Gomez is a very good setup man, who would do very well if lined up with top goal scorers. Joe Pavelski is a rising scoring talent, but he is not as complete a player as Gomez is. I think the pick of Pavelski over Gomez is part of an attempt to show the American team has turned over a new generation, but it is a mistake to pass over a player with the talent and experience of Scott Gomez who is still a very good player.
Alex Goligoski over Jack Johnson Johnson is a proud product of the US National Team program who is yet to make the jump to the level of a top NHL defenceman. Goligoski has shown more talent in the NHL, but lacks the international experience as a junior and in the World Championships (as Pittsburgh has had runs to the Stanley Cup finals). This is not a case of picking a role player over a more talented player, as many of the forward choices are, this is a case of picking the lesser player because he has been chosen for international play at a younger age and sticking with that selection despite evidence it was not the right one.
Ryan Whitney over Mike Komisarek Komisarek has been a very good shutdown defenceman, but he has struggled this year in Toronto. I am happy to use Brooks Orpik in a shutdown role and select the far more talented Whitney in his place. Whitney has been a top scoring NHL defenceman since he arrived in the league. He has a career best of 59 points and has not had the struggles this year that Komisarek has.
Andy Greene over Paul Martin Martin is the better player. Martin is also injured. It is questionable that Martin will be healthy enough to play by Olympic time and be at close enough to 100%. I guess it is a safe bet to add him to the team, with the expectation that he will likely be replaced when he remains injured. Greene is a solid checker who is having a surprising offensive season. He is the top scorer among American defencemen in the NHL this season. This is a surprise for a player who has a previous career best of ten points.
Craig Anderson over Jonathan Quick Anderson is the better goalie. He regularly posts a better saves percentage than Quick (currently it is .916 to .904). Anderson has never had the benefit of playing for a truly top team (he has been in Florida and Colorado in the last few years) and has never been given a team’s number one job before this season, as a result Quick has better win totals. Quick also may have been selected on the misguided idea that sitting on the bench and not playing at the Olympics is somehow a useful step to groom a goalie of the future, should it be possible to identify such a player with any success level (four years ago Ryan Miller and Tim Thomas were not considered goalies of the future - they were left off the Olympic team). Anderson is the better player and he should be selected.
These differences between my selections and the Team USA selections are likely not of huge significance. They are players who will be on the fringe of the team in all likelihood. I think the most important omission is that of Scott Gomez. He could be a very good forward on the team. He has successful Olympic experience and very good puck possession skills. Paul Martin, were he healthy, would also be a significant addition to the team, but I don’t think that is an option. This American team might be able to surprise if Ryan Miller has a great series, but they are not likely a medal favorite.
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