World Cup of Hockey Team Preview – USA

World Cup of Hockey Team Preview – USA
By Evan Presement

Noted overrated GM Dean Lombardi is at it again!

Seriously, what was he, along with the rest of Team USA’s brain trust, thinking when they constructed this roster? Oh yeah, that’s right, they constructed it based off of USA’s 1996 world cup winning team. Yep, a team from 20 years ago. It’s not like the game has changed since then, right?

Also, what’s the deal with John Tortorella as the coach? Has he not done enough to establish himself as one of the worst, most outdated coaches in the entire league? Apparently not.

The main issue that so many have with this team is that they’ve admitted that they’ve excluded better talent for the sake of making a “type of the team that you think can beat Canada.” Apparently, the type of team that can beat Canada does not include any of Phil Kessel, Paul Stastny, Kevin Shattenkirk, Cam Fowler, Justin Faulk, or Keith Yandle. However, it does include Justin Abdelkader, Erik and Jack Johnson, and Brandon Dubinsky. More on this later.

PROJECTED LINES

Forwards
L1:
 Pacioretty – Pavelski – Kane
L2: Parise – Stepan – Wheeler
L3: Abdelkader – Kesler – Oshie
L4: Palmieri – Backes – Dubinsky
Extra: Van Riemsdyk

Defense
D1:
Suter – Byfuglien 
D2:
McDonagh – Carlson
D3:
J. Johnson – Niskanen
Extra:
E. Johnson

Goalies
G1:
Schneider
G2:
Bishop
G3:
Quick

Roster Notes:
The very basis of this team is flawed. Here’s a quote from GM Dean Lombardi on how the roster was selected:

“It made it essential that you do all your research in terms of not only the quality of the player and his ability but their history of being a good teammate and things like that,” Lombardi said Tuesday in a phone interview. “There was a lot to choose from, don’t forget. There are a lot of good players and you could easily argue that this guy should be here and everything else, and you wouldn’t be wrong.”

Remember, this is a two-and-a-half week tournament. Two-and-a-half weeks! Correct me if I’m wrong, but in a tournament that lasts under a month, does ‘meshing’ and ‘chemistry’ matter? No, it doesn’t, You know what does matter, though? Skill, and lots of it, considering the teams you have to beat are chock-full of high-end players.

Does the character™ of Justin Abdelkader and Brandon Dubinsky outweigh the skill of Phill Kessel, Paul Stastny, Bobby Ryan, or Kyle Okposo? If your answer is ‘yes’, then I’m not sure how to help you.

The same goes for the blueline. There are so many great players that they left off the roster in the name of ‘grit’ and ‘compete’, it’s like they’re stuck in 1996.

Outside of Pavelski, Kane, Wheeler, and Byfuglien, there are no difference makers in this lineup. Sure, there are some good – great players, but no one outside of that group that can change a game on their own. Because of the quality of players on other rosters, it shouldn’t be hard for any team to match up well against Team USA.

Also, overrated GM Lombardi is most likely going to stick with his guy, overrated goalie Jonathan Quick – a blessing to every team in this tournament. Imagine having a weapon like Cory Schneider sitting on your bench so you can dress a goalie who’s posted a SV% above .920 once in his career. It’s absurd.

PROJECTED TOP PERFORMERS 

Forward:
Patrick Kane is the best player on this team, and it’s not close. There’s not much else to say. He should easily lead USA in scoring.

Defense:
While Dustin Byfuglien may be the easy answer, John Carlson shouldn’t be ignored. Carlson is coming off of a season in which he scored 39 points in 56 games, which put him on pace for a 57-point season. Not playing against other teams’ first lines should also benefit Carlson, as the quality of player that Byfuglien will be facing will be better, although marginally, than Carlson, as a first line d-man.

WHERE WILL THEY FINISH?

Fortunately for Team USA, they’ve got all the intangibles in the world. Unfortunately for Team USA, they’re not very good. There’s a pretty good argument to be made that they’re they third worst team in the tournament, maybe even second worst. Either way, it doesn’t really matter. They’re not getting anywhere near the finals. Prediction: USA places 3rd in their group. 

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