Big decisions like the one the United States National Hockey Team made on Wednesday aren't easy. And in some ways that's a good thing. The United States selected the 25 men who would be representing the Red, White and Blue at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, and with their selection came a lot of yelling, screaming and stomping. Which, in a way, is good, because it means the United States had a very nice pool of players to chose from.
A huge misconception with national team sports is that the team should be built like an All-Star team would be. The 25 best player should go and that would be that. Pack it up and send it in.
In a vacuum that makes sense, but it's not the reality of team sports. There has to be some cohesion. It's a living, breathing organism, and it needs to be built that way. For example, there needs to be a fourth line on this team. And while it would be amazing if Bobby Ryan made the team, would he be able to play fourth line minutes (and a fourth-line defensive role) since it's clear he wasn't a top-six selection for the USMNT committee? The answer in their minds (and I agree with them) is no, he can't play that role. So you select a player who can. Even if said player isn't a 30-goal scorer.
|Jimmy Howard||Syracuse, N.Y.||Detroit Red Wings|
|Ryan Miller||East Lansing, Mich.||Buffalo Sabres|
|Jonathan Quick||Milford, Conn.||Los Angeles Kings|
|John Carlson||Colonia, N.J.||Washington Capitals|
|Justin Faulk||South St. Paul, Minn.||Carolina Hurricanes|
|Cam Fowler||Farmington Hills, Mich.||Anaheim Ducks|
|Paul Martin||Minneapolis, Minn.||Pittsburgh Penguins|
|Ryan McDonagh||St. Paul, Minn.||New York Rangers|
|Brooks Orpik||San Francisco, Calif.||Pittsburgh Penguins|
|Kevin Shattenkirk||New Rochelle, N.Y.||St. Louis Blues|
|Ryan Suter||Madison, Wis.||Minnesota Wild|
|David Backes||Minneapolis, Minn.||St. Louis Blues|
|Dustin Brown||Ithaca, N.Y.||Los Angeles Kings|
|Ryan Callahan||Rochester, N.Y.||New York Rangers|
|Patrick Kane||Buffalo, N.Y.||Chicago Blackhawks|
|Ryan Kesler||Livonia, Mich.||Vancouver Canucks|
|Phil Kessel||Madison, Wis.||Toronto Maple Leafs|
|T.J. Oshie||Warroad, Minn.||St. Louis Blues|
|Max Pacioretty||New Canaan, Conn.||Montreal Canadiens|
|Zach Parise||Minneapolis, Minn.||Minnesota Wild|
|Joe Pavelski||Plover, Wis.||San Jose Sharks|
|Paul Stastny||St. Louis, Mo.||Colorado Avalanche|
|Derek Stepan||Hastings, Minn.||New York Rangers|
|James van Riemsdyk||Middletown, N.J.||Toronto Maple Leafs|
|Blake Wheeler||Robbinsdale, Minn.||Winnipeg Jets|
With that being said, three New York Rangers made the final cut. Ryan McDonagh and Ryan Callahan were locks, but Derek Stepan was on the bubble. Let's take a look at what the committee was thinking when they selected those three:
Ryan McDonagh: Would it shock you if McDonagh was the first player who locked a spot on the team? I don't know if he was or not, but he had to be one of the top five players to earn a spot. Without question, McDonagh is one of the best young defenseman in the game. His play in his own zone is nothing short of amazing (look at the players he continuously shuts down in his own end) and his offense play is blossoming to life before Rangers fans eyes this year.
If McDonagh's offense continues to produce, and he brings that part of his game with him overseas, he and Ryan Suter are going to make life miserable for the United States' opponents in both zones. Think about that. Teams like Canada boast PK Subban and Drew Doughty, Slovakia boasts Zdeno Chara and now the United States has Suter and McDonagh.
I don't think there was any question for this selection. It would have been insane on a level I can't properly articulate here to leave him off.
Ryan Callahan: Callahan was another lock, if for no other reason than him being part of the five-man leadership core determined before the team was selected. With his level of leadership and Olympic experience, he was a lock for this particular role in the selection.
Sure, his play this year has been somewhat underwhelming, if for nothing else than the injuries he's sustained that's kept him out of action. However, even with his struggles Callahan is scoring at a 25-goal pace, and can easily handle any role the US coaches might as of him.
That last part is the most important. In an article written by Scott Burnside of ESPN about how the team was selected (seriously, if you lock hockey read that article, it's amazing) you learn about how the team is going to be expected to play. A more defensive, transition-heavy team is what they're going for, and that type of a team requires players who can do a little of everything. Callahan is a player who can do that. And the leadership is just another cherry on top.
Derek Stepan: This was the selection no one was sure the United States was going to make. It became very clear as this process continued to move along that there were a plethora of bubble players who were sitting on the fence. In the beginning, Stepan was not one of them. His play from last year was enough to earn him one of the "lock" selections before the season began.
His slow start removed that "lock" from his name, although in the end his total package was appealing enough to be selected. And while the Bobby Ryan supporters of the world will scream bloody murder about this particular inclusion (and other fringe players, but I'm focusing on the Rangers' selections) it does make sense.
It would have been insane for the United States to not go with a fifth center in case of injury. And if the United States is focusing a little more on defense then Stepan is a solid choice. Many of you are displeased with his offensive game this year but his defensive game has been fantastic. Throw that in with his vision and passing ability (which is even more threatening on the open, big Olympic ice surface) and his selection doesn't seem as outlandish as some will have you believe.
That's it for the USA selections from New York. While the Rangers should have a few more names called for their respective countries (Henrik Lundqvist, Carl Hagelin, Mats Zuccarello, Rick Nash and Marc Staal are among those who might see their names called) this is it for now.