Faceoff with Steve and Mike: Forecasting Team USA’s roster for Sochi

With the Winter Classic and the much anticiapted announcement of the United States roster for the 2014 Winter Olympics just a few days away, Puck Drunk Love decided it was time to get into the prediction game. In this edition of Faceoff with Steve and Mike, discuss their projections for who will be representing the Yanks in Sochi, Russia.

Take a look at who we think will be putting on the red, white and blue in February, and tell us what you make of the reasoning behind our selections.

Mike Salerno: Well Steve, it's about that time. While interest may have waned somewhat this year in "24/7 Leafs-Wings: Road to the Winter Classic,"  we sit just two days from the unveiling of the American hockey roster for the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia during the league's marquee event.

Let's go position-by-position, starting up top. Now there are some things to consider this year, since the rosters have been expanded from 23 to 25 since the Vancouver games in 2010. With all the success at the youth level in recent years, it's certainly not out of the realm of reality to think some younger players may not only make the team, but play pivotal roles.

So Steve, with that in mind, give me your line combinatons, in addition to two extra forwards. Who's leading the charge up front for the Americans?

Steve Lepore: 

Zach Parise Joe Pavelski Patrick Kane
James van Riemsdyk David Backes Phil Kessel
Dustin Brown Ryan Kesler Bobby Ryan
Max Pacioretty Paul Stastny T.J. Oshie
Derek Stepan Kyle Okposo  

I really, really wanted to take Ryan Callahan and put him on that line with Dustin Brown and Ryan Kesler, which sounds like hell to play against on paper. But his injuries and the fact that he just hasn't been the same player when healthy this season just makes him too big a risk.

Kyle Okposo has blossomed into a really solid power forward and shouldn't be discounted for playing on a bad team. What do your lines look like, Mike?


Zach Parise Joe Pavelski Patrick Kane
James van Riemsdyk Ryan Kesler Phil Kessel
Max Pacioretty Derek Stepan Bobby Ryan
T.J. Oshie David Backes Ryan Callahan
Brandon Saad Dustin Brown  

We agree on the top line, both optimistically selecting to ignore the news that Zach Parise will miss the large majority of time between now and the Americans' first game on February 13.

However, my overall sentiment when constructing these units was concern over the fact that this team is completely devoid of a true number-one center to compliment their superstar wingers. In fact, given his previous success on the international stage, don't be surprised if Derek Stepan plays a major role for this team. That's a testament both to Stepan's growth as a player and the lack of depth the US is dealing with at center.
I've included Stepan's teammate Ryan Callahan, who's had injury problems of his own this season, but his grit is something that can't be replaced. In the event he is unable to play, I suspect Blackhawks sophomore phenom Brandon Saad will be inserted into the lineup.
I profiled Saad's case for a spot earlier this season, and he's only continued to improve since. Leaving him off the roster for the likes of Kyle Okposo may be a mistake. Okposo is indeed enjoying a fine season, but seems more like the next marginal forward John Tavares is making relevant.
Speaking of linemates, I think an X-factor for this team could be the pairing of T.J. Oshie and David Backes. The duo has accounted for most of the offense in St. Louis so far this season, and will 
only rely on each other even more between now and the Olympics in the absence of Alex Steen.
What does your blue line look like, Steve?


Ryan Suter Kevin Shattenkirk
Ryan McDonagh Dustin Byfuglien
Keith Yandle John Carlson
Cam Fowler Andy Greene
Andy Greene of the New Jersey Devils is my Hail Mary here. If I gave you a defenseman that led his team in ice time, played against the top forwards of the opponent, and was on pace for a 40-point season, you'd take that, right?
The only defenseman not on my team with more points than Andy Greene is Torey Krug, a rookie who rarely plays difficult minutes. Greene wasn't on the long list to make camp in Washington, but David Poile and co. need to give him a second look.
Which rearguards are you taking to Sochi, Mike?
Ryan Suter Kevin Shattenkirk
Ryan McDonagh Dustin Byfuglien
Erik Johnson John Carlson
Keith Yandle Seth Jones
We see eye-to-eye on five of our six starting defensemen, with the only difference being Erik Johnson as opposed to Yandle. I've got Yandle on the team as well, but I'm not sure he brings anything to this team that Shattenkirk and Byfuglien don't already. It's a reason I decided to omit Cam Fowler, Nick Leddy, Torey Krug and others who are given that "offensive defensemen" label.
And while the goal of course is to medal once again in this tournament, I think it's important that Seth Jones comes along for the ride. He's won gold at the U-18 and U-20 level, but when the whole world's watching, it's a totally different experience. It will serve him well for the future if he gets a taste of Olympic hockey.
As we touched on in our holiday installment of Faceoff, the American goaltending situation is far from ideal at the moment. With that said, it's time for some tough decisions to be made. For now, let's ignore a report that was leaked earlier today, but has yet to be confirmed. Who's manning the crease for you? 


Jonathan Quick Ryan Miller Cory Schneider
As for the goaltending, it's a little bit more of a risk than it seemed at the start of the season. Jonathan Quick is still my number one, but the Los Angeles Kings play without him concerns me.
Ryan Miller (terrible team) and Cory Schneider (mediocre team with a goaltending controversy) are having solid seasons in difficult situations. Ben Bishop should be given careful consideration, but I'll take Quick if he's healthy with Miller and Schneider.


Ryan Miller Jonathan Quick Cory Schneider
The names are the same, but my order is different. Aside from a brilliant two-month stretch in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Jonathan Quick has been extremely underwhelming. Couple that with the recent success of Martin Jones and Ben Scrivens you alluded to, and I've got my doubts about how well Quick would hold up against the unrelenting attacks of Canada, Sweden and Russia.
Ryan Miller, on the otherhand, has shined as bright as a star possibly can while also in Buffalo since his all-world performance at the 2010 Winter Olympics. Any temporary success that team has enjoyed in the last four years has been because Miller strung together a bunch of great performances that are largely overshadowed by the organization's inefficiencies. It'll be "Miller Time" again in 2014, whether the IOC likes it or not.
Who do you want to see David Poile, Dan Bylsma & co. choose to represent the United States in the Winter Olympics? And remember, Puck Drunk Love is your home for all things Sochi. Stick with Steve, Mike, Jeff, Laura and David from now through February for the latest news on the biggest international hockey tournament around.