Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Analysis Of My US Olympic Pick Discrepancies

Yesterday, the US Olympic Team was announced. A few days earlier, I had posted my picks. Eighteen players made both lists. Five players on each list were different. Today, I will justify why I picked those five players and not the ones selected for the US Olympic Team.

My Picks:

Tony Amonte - He has been a long term member of US National teams in international tournaments. He played for the Olympic team in 1998 and 2002. He also played on the 1996 and 2004 World Cup teams. As recently as 1999/2000, Amonte was a point per game player, although those days are over, Amonte still has some scoring ability. So far this year, Amonte has 19 points in 31 games with Calgary. On Calgary he is fitting in well to a hard working role that includes checking and penalty killing. A versatile guy with experience internationally who is capable of scoring but used to other roles on a top defensive team would be a good addition to the Olympic Team.

Brian Leetch - Leetch is arguably the best American born player in NHL history. Leetch has even more international experience then Amonte. He played in the 1991 Canada Cup and the 1988 Olympics as well as the teams that Amonte was on. Leetch is a very good defenseman who is very good at moving the puck. Even at age 37, he plays a big role with his team. He plays almost 26 minutes a game for Boston. He has 14 points in 23 games so far this year. A very good offensive defenceman who can play first line minutes and has plenty of international experience would be a good addition to the Olympic Team.

Paul Mara - Mara has been one of the better American offensive defenceman in the NHL so far this season. He has 21 points in 32 games for Phoenix. He looked as though he was becoming a deserving member of the US teams in international play after a strong performance in the 2005 World Championships. Mara is the top offensive defenceman on the Phoenix Coyotes. He would be a good addition to the Olympic Team.

Paul Martin - Martin is a very reliable young defenceman in his second year in the NHL. He looked like he was going to be a charter member of US national teams. He played in the 2004 World Cup and the 2005 World Championships. Martin has 12 points in 30 games for New Jersey. He is a very good skater and plays a good positional game that translates well to international sized ice. Martin would be a good addition to the Olympic Team.

Michael York - York is a good offensive talent. He has international experience playing with the 2002 US Olympic Team. He has 24 points in 32 games so far this year with the New York Islanders. He took a month or so to get used to a new franchise but has 11 points in 7 games so far in December. He is a potential point per game player. The US Olympic Team could have used a player like him.

The players actually selected for the US Olympic Team in their place:

Jason Blake - Blake has been a late bloomer. In 2001-02 at age 28 he first earned a regular NHL job. He is a hard working grinder with 24 points in 30 games with the Islanders. He has a short track record of NHL play, but seems to have established himself as a roughly 50 point scorer. He played on the 2004 World Cup team. I tend to be skeptical of late bloomers in that they may already be in the decline phase of their careers once they first get to be established NHLers. I gave Amonte his roster spot because he is roughly as good a scorer as Blake today but plays a solid defence on a more defensively oriented team. Amonte has been a much better player than Blake ever will be and has that upside. I think Amonte could still be a solid scorer if that was his role in Calgary.

Jordan Leopold - Leopold looked like he was an up and coming offensive defeceman. He scored 33 points for the Calgary Flames in 2003/04. He is off to a horrible start this year. He only has 4 points in 33 games so far this year. He does have international experience in the 2004 World Cup and three of the last four World Championships. I would rather have somebody who is having a better season this year take his roster spot, so Paul Mara got his spot.

John-Michael Liles - Liles is a second year NHLer who is becoming one of the better American offensive defencemen in the NHL. He did play a minor role for the US World Cup team in 2004 (he only dressed for two games). He also played in the 2005 World Championships. Although I think Liles will be a good player (and thus I put him on the taxi squad. I am not convinced that Liles is as reliable on the international stage as a player with Brian Leetch's experience. I am not sure Liles' defensive play stands up well to international sized ice.

Aaron Miller - Miller is experienced internationally having played in the 2002 Olympics and the 2004 World Cup. He is a very solid defensive player with little offensive upside. At age 34, he appears to be slowing down and he never was particularly fast. He never was the all star defenceman that other aging defencemen on the team like Chris Chelios and Darian Hatcher were. I think Chelios and Hatcher make Miller redundant. Miller doesn't have the speed or the offensive ability of Paul Martin. Martin can play a solid defensive role which would be more valuable to the team then Miller.

Mark Parrish - Parrish is an offensive player with little defensive value. He has 21 points in 28 games so far for the Olympics. Parrish has played on three World Championship teams but until now had never been selected for the more prestigious international play. I see Michael York as a better offensive player so I picked him for Parrish's spot.

In the end, these will be some of the lesser players on the US Olympic team so who holds these spots makes little difference. I think of the omissions from the team, Brian Leetch is the one who will be the biggest loss to the team.

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