The United States roster for the men’s hockey tournament at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi was announced on Wednesday, and there were several star players left off the team.
The blue line was a particular point of emphasis, where veterans such as Keith Yandle and former Olympians including Jack Johnson were not selected to the final 25-man squad.
Here’s a look at the biggest snubs from the 2014 Team USA roster.
Keith Yandle, Defenseman, Phoenix Coyotes
Yandle is one of the best power-play defensemen in the NHL, and his exceptional playmaking skill, shot from the point, skating ability and experience would have been a real asset to Team USA. His offensive-minded skill set is a perfect fit for the larger international ice surface that will be used in Sochi.
One knock on the Coyotes defenseman is his defensive skill, and while he’s not a shut-down defender, Yandle is capable of playing major minutes against quality competition. He’s had a positive plus/minus rating in four of the last five years and has excelled on one of the NHL’s most defensive-minded teams for his entire career.
The Boston native has tallied 27 points (six goals, 21 assists) in 39 games this season.
Bobby Ryan, Forward, Ottawa Senators
This is the most glaring omission from the 2014 squad.
Ryan is an elite scorer and has the speed and skill required to dominate in international competition. He leads the Senators in scoring with 36 points, and his 18 goals are the 11th-most in the league. He ranks fifth among all American forwards in scoring. Ryan’s 129 goals since the 2009-10 season are the second-most among American-born players behind Toronto’s Phil Kessel.
Brian Burke, the man who drafted Ryan in Anaheim and now serves as President of Hockey Operations for the Calgary Flames, provided some interesting comments on his former player’s Olympic snub.
"Not intense. That word is not in his vocabulary. It's never going to be in his vocabulary. He can't spell intense." - Burke on Bobby Ryan— Mike Halford (@HalfordPHT) January 01, 2014
As a power forward with a high level of offensive skill and previous international experience, Ryan’s omission from the final roster is a strange one.
Ben Bishop, Goaltender, Tampa Bay Lightning
Bishop has been exceptional for the Lightning this season, and his consistently strong performance is a primary reason why the team has remained in the playoff race without elite center Steven Stamkos.
He has an impressive 20-5-3 record with a 1.89 GAA and a .935 save percentage. He ranks third in the league in wins, third in third in GAA and second in save percentage.
Jimmy Howard of the Detroit Red Wings made the final roster despite a 6-9 record and a .906 save percentage. Howard has more NHL experience than Bishop, but the Lightning netminder has been a far better and more consistent player this year.
Bishop didn’t play well at last year’s World Championships, at that may have been a factor in the construction of Team USA’s Olympic roster.
Jack Johnson, Defenseman, Columbus Blue Jackets
Johnson was on the 2010 squad and was expected to be a lock heading into the 2013-14 NHL season, but he hasn’t played as a legitimate No. 1 defenseman and it has cost him a spot on the final Team USA roster.
Despite his struggles, Johnson’s previous Olympic experience would have been a quality addition to the Sochi squad. He’s also represented the United States at a few World Championships, including the 2012 team that he captained. His playmaking skills, scoring ability, speed and ability to quarterback a power play would translate well to the larger ice surface.
Johnson was one of two players who failed to make the final roster after competing in the Vancouver Games and taking part in last summer’s orientation camp.
Brandon Saad, Forward, Chicago Blackhawks
The Blackhawks winger was a Calder Trophy finalist last season and has played well in his sophomore season in the NHL. The 21-year-old forward has 30 points (14 goals, 16 assists) in 42 games this season, and he was a key part of the Chicago team that lifted the Stanley Cup last year.
Saad not only provides offense, he’s also a reliable player in the defensive zone and is trustworthy enough to be on the ice late in games. He’s also a fundamentally strong player with the speed and skating ability needed for international competition.
Just talked with Brandon Saad: "It's disappointing. But it's a tough team to make. Hopefully there will be other opportunities." #usa #hawks— Josh Yohe (@JoshYohe_Trib) January 01, 2014Filed under: Boston Bruins, NHL, Nicholas Goss, Olympics, Top Stories
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