USA Hockey named its 2009 Olympic Orientation Camp roster today. The Lightning's Ryan Malone was named to the 34-man roster. Jeff Halpern, a long time fixture on Team USA, was not.
2009 U.S. Olympic Men's Ice Hockey Orientation Camp Roster
Goaltenders: Ryan Miller, Jonathan Quick, Tim Thomas
Forwards: David Backes, David Booth, Dustin Brown, Dustin Byfuglien, Ryan Callahan, Chris Drury, Scott Gomez, Patrick Kane, Ryan Kesler, Phil Kessel, Jamie Langenbrunner, Ryan Malone, Mike Modano, Kyle Okposo, T.J. Oshie, Zach Parise, Joe Pavelski, Bobby Ryan, Paul Stastny.
Yesterday, former Lightning and current head coach of the New York Rangers, John Tortorella, was named one of the assistant coaches a well. Scott Gordon, the head coach for the New York Islanders was named the other assistant. Ron Wilson is head coach of the American Olympic team and Brian Burke is its general manager, both holding the same positions with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
I have to admit that I'm a bit surprised by this roster. Mike Modano but not Halpern? Jonathan Quick but not Ty Conklin?
Of course, nothing is set in stone and no one has to name a team made up of just these players. Team rosters aren't finalized until December, I believe, so anyone can still make it on if they have a strong first half of the NHL season. Even having said that, it appears that there's a certain type of player that Burke and Wilson want, and they tend to be on the young side.
The problem with Team USA...well, actually, there are several problems. But a problem that many American teams have in any team sport is that they lack a clear identity on both the national and international stage. It's not good enough to just be representing your country. You've got to be genuinely proud to represent your country as part of a team - as in, no "I" in the word team - and that's been seriously lacking in many American international teams.
For Canadians, it's a matter of pride to win the gold medal in hockey. They won't accept anything less. For Europeans, international competition is more prestigious than anything else offered in their individual nations or around the world. For the US, it comes down to "I'm honored to be named to the team" - and that's just not good enough to win any medal, let alone the gold.
Hopefully, Tortorella puts to starch in their back when it comes to that. He's very Old School, and won't stand for anything less than everyone's best and total commitment. Wilson may be the head coach, but Tortorella will become the heart and soul of that team. And that's what Team USA desperately needs: heart and soul, with a good dose of pride thrown in.