Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Bobby Ryan Never Had a Chance to Make Team U.S.A.



According to Scott Burnside's in-depth piece on the selection process for the 2014 U.S. Olympic hockey squad, Bobby Ryan was on the out from the very beginning. That was made official when the American team was announced to the public during Wednesday's Winter Classic game in Ann Arbor, Michigan, but according to Burnside's piece, Team U.S.A. brass was squeamish from the start about Ryan.

Ryan, who helped Team U.S.A. to the silver medal in 2010, went 1-1-2 with a plus-two in six games in the Vancouver games, but the four-time 30-goal scorer was up against it from the beginning of the 2014 team's selection process.

Burnside, who was given unprecedented access to team U.S.A.' bigwigs from the beginning, had this to report on Ryan's chances:

Bobby Ryan was also in Vancouver and has been the most consistent of U.S.-born scorers, having tallied 30 or more goals four times for Anaheim before being dealt to Ottawa in the offseason. And yet there is surprising resistance to simply penciling him into a spot on the wing.

The issue is where he fits. If he's not a top-six forward, his skating doesn't really lend itself to him being a third-line checker. He cannot kill penalties, and while in Anaheim, he was not on the team's top power-play unit.

"I think he's sleepy. I think he skates sleepy," offers one member of the selection committee.

Poile asks for a show of hands: "Are guys nervous about Bobby Ryan?" A flurry of hands go up in the air. "That's a lot of guys," Poile notes.

And so Ryan, unbeknownst to him, finds himself in a battle for a place on The Board with wingers like Max Pacioretty, James van Riemsdyk, Blake Wheeler and T.J. Oshie before Ryan has set one skate on the ice.

Eventually, Ryan would not make the club, but not after much heated debate about Ryan's ability to score weighed against his lack of power-play prowess compared to other more well-rounded players, such as Max Pacioretty and Blake Wheeler.

Ryan is the fifth-leading point-getter among Americans in the NHL this season, but evidently his ability to generate offense was not as important as opinions about his "sleepy skating" and lack of two-way prowess. His experience was given consideration too, but in the end, too many people thought too little of Ryan's ability to help the Americans bring home that much coveted gold medal.

Also given consideration, but getting snubbed at the end was Phoenix defenseman Keith Yandle. Here's what brass had to say about Yandle.

But Burke remains skeptical about Yandle's place on the team.

"I always assume a disaster's going to happen," he says.

What happens if Paul Martin goes down on the first shift of the first game?

"Who plays those minutes?" Burke asks.

"If Keith Yandle goes in our top four, I think everyone we play is excited," Burke says.

It's a fascinating read, with a whole lot of perspective and POV's on America's top players. Whether you feel your favorite player was snubbed or not, there is not doubt that the process was inclusive and open-minded and intended to foster the best possible squad for the Americans. Did they get all the decisions right? Only time will tell. With Sochi just over a month away, we'll all find out soon enough.