By Evan Presement
Wow. OK. So Team USA has announced their final World Cup of Hockey roster and, uh, man, how do I put this nicely? It’s… bad.
Before I jump in to this, here’s the complete roster:
Phil Kessel left off Team USA: pic.twitter.com/w82chRy7US
— James Mirtle (@mirtle) May 27, 2016
There’s so, so, so much wrong with this – where the hell do I begin? Well, as Brian Burke loved to say (but never followed through on), I’ll critique the roster from net-out.
This is the only area of the roster that I don’t really have an issue with. But then again, that’s probably because Team USA only had seven active NHL goalies who have played over 100 games to choose from. Cuts down their margin for error, you know?
Anyways, Schneider, Quick, and Bishop is a pretty solid group. Schneider almost undoubtedly has to be the starter, with Bishop backing him up, and Quick firmly planted on the bench.
Of course, most of the universe inexplicably views Jonathan Quick as one of the best goalies in the NHL, and it really wouldn’t shock me to see him start, but we’ll see. Team USA has made some awful decisions so far, so I guess you can’t really come to expect anything out of this squad.
Defensively, USA could have fielded one of the better defensive groups in the tournament. Instead, they opted to select Jack Johnson, Matt Niskanen, and Erik Johnson as their final-three d-men. Also, let’s not forget that Ryan McDonagh is vastly overrated, leaving Dustin Byfuglien, John Carlson, and Ryan Suter (also overrated) as the teams’ only legitimate top d-men.
So, who could they have taken instead of their final three? Eh, I don’t know, how about Nick Leddy, Kevin Shattenkirk, Justin Faulk, or Keith Yandle?
Let’s see how each of these players stack up to the ones that Team USA eventually chose (point stats are all situations, possession stats are even strength. From the 2015/2016 season and courtesy of War-On-Ice.com)
There’s even a case to be made for some of these players over Suter…
As you can see, Dean Lombardi has absolutely no idea what he’s doing. There is virtually no argument to be made for taking any of Niskanen, E. Johnson, or J. Johnson over the four d-men I presented.
This is probably where Lombardi’s choices have made the most headlines.
If you look closely at the final roster, you’ll probably notice a well known American Sniper has been left off of the list. Yes, that’s right. Phil Kessel, who has scored the 25th most goals of any American who has ever played in the NHL (5 goals away from top-20), was left off of team USA.
Surely, there must be some sort of good reason. Yes, Kessel had somewhat of a down year (60 points is a down year for him), so maybe a couple players who had great years replaced him?
Well, uuuh, not exactly.
Justin Adbelkader and Ryan Callahan made the team. Justin Abdelkader’s career high in points is 44. Ryan Callahan’s in 54. Phil Kessel’s lowest EVER (full) single season point total outside of his rookie season is 59. Grit! Truculence! Compete!
Also, let’s not forget that Kessel lead the Sochi Olympics in scoring (tied for first with Erik Karlsson) and is one of the favourites to win the Conn Smythe trophy in this years’ playoffs. But yeah, he doesn’t perform when it matters, or something.
Steve Simmons shed some light on why Lombardi may have left Kessel off of Team USA. I’m not going to link to the article because it’s pure trash, but here’s an excerpt:
Lombardi is all about character, it’s what he believes in. And it’s deep rooted within him. It’s why he has interviewed almost all the pertinent people involved with Team USA ’96 to find out how it was that Ron Wilson’s team came out victorious.
Alright, so there’s a lot to digest here.
First of all, despite every single one of his teammates, both in Toronto and Pittsburgh, saying Phil is a great teammate, hard worker, etc. Simmons is yet again going to infer that Kessel has ‘bad character’. Doubling down on stupidity.
The next hilarious thing in this little nugget is that Dean Lombardi is looking at Team USA’s 1996 team as a blueprint to win a game in 2016. The game now vs. 20 years ago is almost unrecognizable. This is one of the dumber things I’ve ever seen in hockey.
The type of team that you think can beat Canada
“The type of team team that you think can beat Canada.”
Those are Dean Lombardi’s actual words when asked why he left certain people off of team.
In what sick world does Justin Abdelkader, Ryan Callahan, David Backes, Derek Stepan, Matt Niskanen, Erik Johnson, and Jack Johnson help you in your quest to beat Canada more than Phil Kessel, Paul Stastny, Kevin Shattenkirk, Nick Leddy, Justin Faulk, and Keith Yandle?
With the roster as it’s currently constructed, it will be a miracle if this team even gets the chance to face Canada. There’s no way in hell this team medals. Zero. None.
Sometimes, though, you’ve got to hit rock bottom before you can bounce back up, and I really believe that after Team USA gets absolutely dismantled at the upcoming World Cup of Hockey™, GMs will stop with the archaic line of thinking regarding how to build a team, and realize that the game is won by speed and skill, not grit.
Mark this down as exhibit A as to why the more I think about it, the more I truly believe Lombardi lucked in to assembling the team he has in Los Angeles.