When Brian Burke and David Poile helped put together the 2010 United States men’s Olympic hockey team, it was the end of an era.
Highly decorated American veterans such as Chris Chelios, Mike Modano, Brett Hull and Keith Tkachuk didn’t get the call.
“We had our fingers crossed that players like Ryan Suter and Zach Parise could take the torch from these guys and be the next great generation of USA players, and I think it’s happened,” said Poile, the Nashville Predators general manager and the man tasked with putting together the 2014 U.S. Olympic team in Sochi, Russia.
February will mark four years since Suter and Parise, now top performers for the Wild, made significant contributions on that 2010 team that won a silver medal in Vancouver.
“Ryan Suter should be our best defenseman and Zach Parise should be our best forward [in 2014],” Poile said Tuesday on a conference call to discuss the 48 players invited to next month’s Olympic orientation camp in Arlington, Va. “We think the world of them, and we’re counting on them off and on the ice to be our best players.”
Parise figures to be one of the top contenders to be named captain. Poile said his management team and the coaching staff, including head coach Dan Bylsma, will discuss the team’s abundance of leadership heading into camp.
Another top candidate would be Columbus’ Jack Johnson, who has worn the Team USA sweater 69 times by representing the U.S. in the 2010 Olympics, five world championships and two world junior championships. Johnson gained instant respect in 2010 when he chartered a flight from Los Angeles to Vancouver so he could walk with his fellow Americans in the opening ceremony. Others who could wear the “C” include Suter and three players who are captains on their NHL teams: Los Angeles’ Dustin Brown, St. Louis’ David Backes and the New York Rangers’ Ryan Callahan.
As always when players are chosen to attend a camp of this magnitude, much of the talk centers on players deemed as snubbed rather than who actually is invited.
The Wild’s Jason Pominville, 30, the former Buffalo Sabres captain who has a track record of scoring, was not invited to camp. He was born in Quebec and lives in Canada, but he has dual citizenship and represented the U.S. at the 2008 world championship.
Lesser-established players were invited. But Poile said the U.S. wanted to reward success (players who have medaled at recent tournaments) and invite youngsters, who while they might have little chance of making the team are considered the future of USA Hockey.
Poile assured that just because a player wasn’t invited to camp doesn’t mean he can’t make the team. In fact, because of “ridiculous” insurance costs, players won’t even take the ice next month for evaluation.
The camp mostly will be about meeting the coaches, player bonding and filling out administrative paperwork such as registering for the Olympics and the anti-doping program.
Poile said the evaluation to determine the final roster, which will be announced in late December, will occur in October, November and December during the NHL’s regular season.
Bylsma filled out the rest of his staff Tuesday, and one assistant includes Todd Richards, the former Wild coach who now coaches Columbus.
Fourteen Minnesotan players were invited to camp. Those players are Parise, defensemen Dustin Byfuglien, Justin Faulk, Jake Gardiner, Erik Johnson, Nick Leddy, Paul Martin and Ryan McDonagh, and forwards Backes, Nick Bjugstad, Kyle Okposo, T.J. Oshie, Derek Stepan and Blake Wheeler.
“To see 14 players that all came through different but very similar youth structure in Minnesota rise up the ranks and be involved in this camp says a lot for how hockey is run in Minnesota and the continued emphasis of having kids play in their community,” said Rochester’s Jim Johannson, USA Hockey’s assistant executive director of hockey operations.