Answer by Weibo Chen, Ottawa Senators fan
To start, here is the roster for the 2014 US hockey team. Players who were also on the 2010 Olympic team are listed in bold:
James van Riemsdyk
2014 vs 2010: Goaltending
Not much has changed from 2010 as Miller and Quick are both back. However, this time around it is not as clear cut who will be the starting goaltender for Team USA.
In 2010, Quick was only 24 and not very established. He was clearly the number 3 goalie behind Ryan Miller and Tim Thomas. 2010 was Quick's first season playing as the Kings starting goaltender and he put up rather pedestrian numbers - a .907 SV% and 2.54 GAA. On the other hand, Miller finished that season with all-star stats. He amassed 41 wins in the 69 games he started, a .929 SV% and a 2.22 GAA. Miller's SV% and GAA were second in the league amongst goaltenders who started 40+ games.
The gap is now much closer between Miller and Quick. Quick won the Stanley Cup with the Kings in 2012 and was named the Finals MVP. He has a .918 SV% and 2.05 GAA this season which compares favorably to Miller's .927 SV% and 2.60 GAA (which are very good numbers for being on the last place Sabres). Both have shown that they have elite level skills and would be very capable of backstopping USA to a gold medal.
Overall, I'd say goaltending is about the same as it was for USA in 2010.
2014 vs 2010: Defense
This is the area where there has been the most turnover for Team USA. Only 2 of the 8 defenseman selected for 2014 were on the team in 2010. The biggest loss for the Americans is the retirement of Brian Rafalski in 2011. Defensively reliable and a good puck mover, Rafalski was the best American defenseman other than Ryan Suter. In Vancouver, Rafalski had 8 points (4 goals, 4 assists), which was more than the rest of the Team USA defense combined and tied for the team lead in scoring with Zach Parise.
The other defensemen who played in 2010 but were not selected for the 2014 team are:
Gleason and Whitney were both added to the team in 2010 after Paul Martin and Mike Komisarek were injured. Erik Johnson is a former number 1 draft pick and Jack Johnson a former number 3, both are good all-around defensemen that never quite reached their full projected potential.
As a collective group, I think the players that were selected in favor of the ones that played in 2010 are an improvement.
Shattenkirk and Fowler are both quality, offensively-focused defensemen that give the US more scoring punch than they had in 2010. Ryan McDonagh is one of the top 10-20 defensive d-men in the league with decent puckhandling skills. Orpik and Martin are dependable defense-first defensemen who will be counted on to shut down the opposing teams scoring lines.
Ryan Suter will be the anchor of the American defense. He's very reliable defensively, capable of chipping in offensively, quarterbacking a powerplay and averages the most ice time per game of any player in the league at nearly 30 mins / game. I expect Carlson and Faulk to be the reserves and not to play much if there are no injuries.
One of the confusing things to some outsiders was the decision to not select Dustin Byfuglien or Keith Yandle. Over the last 5 seasons, Yandle has been in the top 3 in scoring among American born defensemen every year. He leads all Phoenix defensemen in average ice time with over 24 mins / game.
Byfuglien has been in the top 3 in scoring among American born defensemen in each of the last 4 seasons and is currently the leading scorer among American defensemen this season. He possesses one of the hardest slapshots in the league, is capable of throwing big hits, is a very effective and hard to move goalie screening presence in the crease and provides good versatility with his ability to also play on the wing at forward. Byfuglien is currently averaging 25.5 mins / game, second only to Ryan Suter amongst US born defensemen.
I think the 2014 Team USA blueline has a good mix of offensively and defensively focused players with a bit more scoring ability on average than the 2010 squad. The retirement of Rafalski leaves them with only one truly elite level defensemen in Suter, although the overall depth of the defense is still solid.
To give a rough assessment of the general skill level of each of the 6 starters:
Suter: No. 1 d-man on virtually any NHL team. Perennial All-Star and potential Norris Trophy candidate for best defensemen
McDonagh: No. 1 d-man on some NHL teams, a No. 2 on a deep NHL team. Very good shut down d-man with a decent but not great offensive skill set, borderline all-star
Fowler, Shattenkirk: No. 2-3 d-man and powerplay quarterbacks on a good NHL team
Orpik, Martin: Reliable No. 3-4 defensive / shutdown d-man on a good NHL team
Overall, I would say the defense is about the same if not slightly better than in 2010 but I think choosing not to select Byfuglien and Yandle leaves them with a less skilled group than they could have had.
2014 vs 2010: Forwards
There are a lot of familiar faces at forward for Team USA with 9 players returning from the Vancouver team. Let's start by comparing at each of these 9 players in 2010 to 2014.
Team USA has a trio of gritty, hard working and defensively sound forwards in Ryan Callahan, Dustin Brown, and David Backes. Each of these three are generally 25 goal and 50-60 points a season type of guys, although this year both Callahan and Brown are having a bit of an off-year in terms of offensive numbers while Backes is on pace for a career high 33 goals on a very good St. Louis Blues team. I expect them all to perform effectively in the tournament as their game is built on an exceptional work ethic which generally translates to a pretty consistent level of play. The one downside for the three will be the larger international ice surface which favors a speedy, finesse game over a gritty, hardworking type of forward.
In 2010, Ryan Kesler had a career year with 75 points (25 goals, 50 assists) and was a Selke Trophy finalist for best defensive forward. He was considered a legitimate No. 1 type center on a good NHL team and just a cut below elite level status. He's had some nagging injury issues and hasn't posted over 50 points since the 2010-11 season. I would say that Kesler's level of play has diminished somewhat from 2010 but he is still a very good two-way center.
Patrick Kane and Phil Kessel will be the USA's primary offensive weapons in the tournament. Kane scored 88 points (30 goals, 58 assists) in 2010, his best season to date at the time and the only occasion he has eclipsed the 80 point mark. He is on pace for 92 points this season with 56 points (23 goals, 33 assists) in 50 games.
Kessel has improved significantly from 4 years ago. Hockey fans and pundits no longer criticize the Toronto Maple Leafs as much for having traded away two 1st round picks and a 2nd round pick for Kessel. At the time, Kessel was a good goal scorer having notched 30+ goals twice but had not yet developed the same level of playmaking ability. He had never posted more than 25 assists or 60 points a season. Over the last three seasons, he has become an elite-level point per game player with 182 points (80 goals, 102 assists) in 180 games played.
In contrast to Phil Kessel, Paul Stastny has seen a significant deterioration in his offensive production. From 2006 to 2010, he had 3 70+ point seasons and only had lower numbers in 2008-09 due to injuries that forced him to miss almost half the year. From the 2010-11 season onwards, Stastny never scored more than 57 points and was at times relegated to a 3rd line center spot in Colorado behind Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly. However, Stastny has had somewhat of a resurgence so far this season with 36 points (13 goals, 23 assists) in 44 games which is a 67 point pace over 82 games.
Zach Parise was the USA's highest scoring forward in 2010 with 8 points (4 goals, 4 assists). In 2010, he was coming off a career-high 94 point season (45 goals, 49 assists) in 2008-09 and had 82 points (38 goals, 44 assists) in 2009-10. In 2010-11, Parise missed most of the season with injuries and ended up only playing 13 games. The next season he had 69 points (31 goals, 38 assists), still very good but not quite the elite level seasons he had in the 2 years prior. He scored a respectable 38 points (18 goals, 20 assists) in 48 games in the lockout shortened 2012-13 season. Parise is currently injured after re-aggravating a foot injury. He has 27 points (15 goals, 12 assists) in 37 games this year. I don't think we'll every really see Zach have another 40+ goal or 90+ point season in the NHL. He is still a star forward but is now at best Team USA's 3rd most dangerous scorer after Kane and Kessel.
Joe Pavelski had a good 51 point season (25 goals, 26 assists) in 2010 as the third line center behind Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau on a very deep San Jose Sharks team. This season Pavelski is at nearly a point per game pace with 48 points (25 goals, 23 assists) in 49 games. He's now surpassed Thornton in average ice time per game and is second only to Patrick Marleau among Sharks forwards.
A rough summary of the 9 returning forwards:
Brown, Callahan: Having down years for offensive production (Callahan on pace for 45 points, Brown only 27) but they will likely be playing in a primarily defensive, checking role rather than offensive. I expect them to be equally as effective in 2014.
Backes: Role should be similar to Brown and Callahan. On pace for 68 points which would beat his best offensive season by a few points.
Kesler: Has regressed somewhat since 2010 due to nagging injuries.
Kane: Should be just as dangerous in 2010, arguably USA's top scorer.
Kessel: Significantly improved since 2010, arguably USA's top scorer.
Stastny: Regressed significantly since 2010, has shown some signs of turning it around this season.
Parise: Offensive numbers have decreased by a considerable amount since 2010. Was considered USA's most dangerous scorer alongside Kane in 2010 but has now been surpassed by Kessel.
Pavelski: On pace for a breakout season offensively. Possibly USA's no. 1 centre at the Olympics.
Overall, the 9 returning forwards as a group have a similar amount of talent as they did in 2010. You have some players who have gotten worse like Stastny, Parise, and Kesler, but it is offset by somewhat by the improvement that Kessel and Pavelski have experienced.
These are the forwards who are not returning from the 2010 team:
The retirement of Drury and Langenbrunner means the USA loses a couple of it's most experienced forwards. Both had a lot of leadership experience and had been key players for teams with a consistent culture of winning. Drury from his time with the Colorado Avalanche and Langenbrunner with the New Jersey Devils. Langenbrunner was a ~20 goal, ~60 point kind of guy in 2010 while Drury had pretty much lost his scoring touch (32 points in 77 games in 2010) and was more of a defensively minded center. Drury averaged 3 mins / game of penalty killing time in 2010, the most of all Rangers forwards.
Ryan Malone was a big 6'4" power forward type of player who could chip in a bit offensively as a secondary offensive threat on a good NHL team. Bobby Ryan was a budding star having scored 31 goals in 64 games in 2008-09. The decision to not include Ryan on the 2014 team was surprising to many as he has had 4 30-goal seasons since 2008-09 and is one of the best American goal scorers. An in-depth, behind the scenes by Scott Burnside of ESPN on the selection process for the 2014 team reveals that the reason for this decision was concerns that Ryan was too much of a one-dimensional player.
Here are the new forwards who will be taking the other spots on the 2014 team:
James van Riemsdyk
Derek Stepan had a breakout season in 2012-13, posting 44 points (18 goals, 26 assists) in 48 games and played as the de facto number 1 line center for the New York Rangers due to Brad Richards suddenly deciding to become terrible. Ideally, Stepan is a good 2nd line center on a deep NHL team.
James van Riemsdyk is a good, but not all-star, offensive winger and Phil Kessel's linemate in Toronto. The two have good chemistry together so it was a pretty obvious choice to include him on the team. James van Riemsdyk has 37 points (19 goals, 18 assists) in 48 games this season. He brings a bit of a physical element to his game also with 84 hits in 48 games this season (a >1.5 hit per game average is very high for scoring forwards).
Blake Wheeler is a speedy 6'5" forward with decent but not great offensive skills. Wheeler has 38 points (17 goals, 21 assists) in 50 games this season. Similar to van Riemsdyk, he also has 84 hits this season.
Max Pacioretty has a similar level of offensive output to both Wheeler and Van Riemsdyk (21 goals, 9 assists in 40 games) but lacks some of the physical presence that both bring.
TJ Oshie is having a great season so far with 41 points (11 goals, 30 assists) in 47 games which has him on pace for 72 points. His previous career best was 54.
With this new group of forwards, I think you have a deeper, more consistent level of good but not great offensive talent than in 2010. van Riemsdyk and Wheeler are not quite power forwards but are still physical and offer more scoring power than Malone could bring to the table. There is really nobody in this group that can replace Drury's penalty killing and defensive play, but I think Backes and Callahan should be able to fill that gap.
The biggest loss in my mind was excluding Bobby Ryan. None of these 5 forwards have the " " type of ability that Ryan does. For example:
Overall, I think USA's forwards are about the same or perhaps slightly worse than in 2010. Not a very exciting answer I know.
As a team, USA is about as strong as they were in 2010. I think had they decided to include Ryan, Byfuglien, and Yandle on their team, they would have had more high end skill, but they chose to go with players that they thought played a less risky type of game and took more of a team approach rather than just assembling as many stars as possible.
The big improvement for USA is the amount of players that they had to select from this time. I feel like a lot of the players that were not chosen would have been shoo-ins to make the team in 2010, but the fact that USA Hockey had to make some hard decisions on who to include and who to leave out shows that their talent pool has gotten deeper.
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