Hockey, American Style

 

ARTHUR:

After an overtime finish to an exciting Winter Classic, Team USA announced its representatives for the 2010 Olympic Men's Hockey Team, and among its honored roster is Anaheim's own Bobby Ryan.  Ryan Whitney, who attended Orientation Camp with his young teammate this year, did not make the final cut.

Daniel, looking at the Team USA squad and the roster that attended Orientation Camp, was Ryan Whitney snubbed and was anyone snubbed in favor of Bobby Ryan?

DANIEL:

I don't think that anyone was snubbed for Bobby Ryan.  His 19 goals have him tied for 10th in the league. That tops all U.S. scorers. I'm not saying there weren't a few snubs up front.  Byfuglien comes to mind, as does Mike Modano, who is playing pretty well on Dallas' fourth line and is, in my opinion, the greatest example of American Hockey.  In fact, he would have been a better choice than Chris Drury or maybe Jamie Langenbrunner.  I don't like the Stars and have always disliked him a little bit ever since he hated on Giguere during the 2003 playoffs, but you can't deny he's been the biggest name in American hockey for almost two decades. He deserves to lead this team in his last chance at Olympic gold.

As for Ryan Whitney, my initial reaction is that yes, he was snubbed. Among American defenders, only Shea Weber has more points, and Erik Johnson is tied. Whitney is also second in PPG, again second to Weber.  He leads all Americans in TOI/game, and while his -1 might not be very impressive, it's the same +/- as Erik Johnson and far better than Komisarek's -9 and Jack Johnson's -11.

On paper, this team doesn't look like a strong candidate for a medal this Olympics, but in 4 years, these players might be a heavy favorite. If that is the case, then getting the Johnson's Olympic experience might be invaluable for the 2014 games.  On stats alone, I think Whitney has been having a much better year than Jack Johnson, and he plays almost 4 minutes more per game than Erik. To me, that means he warrants a spot. The Johnson's are two young guys who play pretty important roles for their teams, but so is Whitney. There isn't a lot of sense behind Burke's selection, but it's also very like Burke to do what he wants no matter what conventional wisdom says. This might be a way for Burke to put his stamp on the team.  It might pay off four years from now, but it's got to be disappointing for Whitney who, despite a couple of bad games recently, has primarily outplayed the defenders on the American squad.

 

ARTHUR:

I also don't think anyone was snubbed in favor of Bobby Ryan.  I might have liked to see T.J. Oshie on this team, but I would have cut Callahan or Drury to put him there, especially Drury after his concussion in November.

When it comes to Burke's choices on the blueline, I feel like he invited a lot of size to Orientation Camp, and he settled on the wrong players.  The 6'4" players were Ryan Whitney, Mike Komisarek and Erik Johnson.  The 6'3" players were Tom Gilbert and Ron Hainsey.  Only Komisarek and Johnson are going to Vancouver.  If size matters to Burke, I just don't see how Whitney doesn't stand out in that group.  Granted, the Toronto GM gets a closer look at Komisarek, who may be off the charts on the something-I-don't-know-o-meter, but has Johnson really played that much better than Whitney?  

I know Johnson had a hot start this season and Whitney had an incredibly slow one, but the latter has proven what he can do on a good team and the former has recently played himself into a healthy scratch on a bad team.  You're right that there's something to be said for investing experience in some young superstars, but there's also something to be said for playing professional hockey long enough to come in and make a difference.  Johnson might be just as good four years from now without this experience.  By then, he'll have four more years of NHL experience under his belt and he'll be almost as old as Ryan Whitney is today.

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