The 2018 Winter Olympic opening ceremonies are Friday night. I’ve always loved the Winter Olympics. All the bobsled-type events, the speed skating, and that one that looks like Russian prisoners of war preparing to escape the Gulag. Biathlon maybe? I don’t know. Hockey has always been my favorite though, obviously.
I love watching the American hockey teams play, both the men and the women. I’ve even, until recently, been able to stomach watching Patrick Kane play. I once enthusiastically cheered for David Backes in NHL games as he went after Canadian Olympians during regular season play. I still have a USA Hockey hat that barely fits over my giant adult head that I’m considering pulling out tonight with the first events being broadcast on TV.
The NHL not allowing players to go to the Olympics is robbing hockey fans of an awesome experience, but it’s also screwing easily the bestAmerican men’s hockey team of the last 20 years and probably ever.
When the World Cup of Hockey took place it really hit me how much talent the US team has now after years of being “just ok”. They have enough talent now to be disappointed when they don’t medal. Even more has emerged as the year has progressed.
Up the middle they would have Auston Matthews, Jack Eichel, and Joe Pavelski for sure. Dylan Larkin should go for his speed alone. Paul Stastny or Derek Stepan could have made it in a depth spot. He has missed a lot of time, but you know Ryan Kesler would have been the fourth center. It isn’t Sidney Crosby and McDavid 1-2, but if I’m USA Hockey I’m proud to go to war with that group.
The wingers are obscene by American standards. Phil Kessel is 2nd in the league in scoring and has been on top of the leaderboard at times. After being left off of the roster for the World Cup for ridiculous reasons he scorched the earth a bit:
It should be a no-brainer that he would have been there, but we know USA Hockey. I’m going to ignore the possibility of them doing something silly and assume Phil would be there. The other locks for wingers are full of star power. Patrick Kane, Blake Wheeler, Max Pacioretty, Johnny Gaudreau and Calder Trophy front-runner/All Star game MVP Brock Boeser are givens. Hell, that gets you to the third line with legit stars on the wings. You only need three more guys to fill out the roster, and they would have had a lot of options.
Timothy Jimothy Oshie and James van Riemsdyk are old national team standards you could have seen make it. Brandon Saad, Nick Foligno, Chris Kreider, Kyle Palmieri, Kyle Okposo, or Cam Atkinson would have made sense too. They could have gone the fun route and gone all young with depth with Matthew Tkachuk, Clayton Keller, Alex DeBrincat, Jake Guentzel, or Kyle Connor.
The young guys plus the stars (who are mostly young) would have been so much fun. Even the defense is young and fun and good. Check out the defensive scoring leaderboard some time. John Carlson (4), Shayne Gostisbehere (6), Ryan Suter (10), Seth Jones (11), Jake Gardiner (12), Torey Krug (13), Nick Leddy (16), and Keith Yandle (17) are all Americans in the top 20 of scoring. Several more (including rookie Will Butcher) are just outside. Canada, for the record, also has eight in the top 20.
I was absolutely floored by how many defensemen were up that high. There’s no way they would have taken all of those guys, but it would have been criminal to leave Carlson or Ghostbear off. Suter and Jones would be locks too. Ryan McDonagh is probably making it unless he pisses the organization off the way Kessel did.
Gardiner, Krug, Leddy, Yandle, and Butcher could all fit in those last couple of spots. Zack Werenski, Dustin Byfuglien, Justin Faulk, Jaccob Slavin, Jacob Trouba, Matt Niskanen, Kevin Shattenkirk, Noah Hanifin, and Charlie McAvoy could all make claims. The sheer number of American defensemen who are legitimately solid is stunning. I think I’d take Werenski, Slavin, and McAvoy, but I’d have to think about it.
In goal you know they’d start Jonathan Quick with Cory Schneider or Jimmy Howard backing him up.
The more I’ve thought about this the more I’ve been annoyed by it. This would have legitimately been a really fun team to root for despite the presence of Patrick Kane. This is the best collection of American talent possibly ever and instead we’ll get to see Mark Arcobello lead the squad to hope and pray for a chance at a bronze medal. The only saving grace here is how young they are. If the NHL gets it together the American team should be great in 2022.
2022! Jesus, I’m old.
Look at Phil again in that ugly jersey.
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