We're coming up on the deadline for Olympic rosters to be set. Initially this was to be December 31, but it has been moved back to January 7, so most teams will have one more week to figure out what they're going to do (TeamUSA will still announce on Jan. 1, as part of the Winter Classic event, they say.) And the Lightning are poised to be fairly well represented this time around. Who's likely to get the call?
- The team has said that Steven Stamkos will be on the initial roster, despite a still-uncertain timetable for his return from a broken tibia. If necessary, they will replace him as an injured player later on.
- Martin St. Louis is probable for the squad in my opinion, although some pundits have him on the bubble. I can only assume, however, that Steve Yzerman is aware of the contributions he can make, as he's been instrumental in keeping the Lightning afloat while Stamkos is out. I personally think it would be beyond silly to leave him off the roster, but it is possible that I am biased.
G A P +/- PIM 2013 - Martin St. Louis 14 19 33 7 4
- Teddy Purcell has played in the past two World Championships for Team Canada, but is unlikely to make the cut when there's all of the NHL available to choose from
- Both Radko Gudas and Ondrej Palat were on the Czechs' preliminary camp roster in August. Of the two Gudas is a more solid bet to make the final cut, but Palat's still in the mix, I would think, despite being ignored by the national media.
G A P +/- PIM 2013 - Radko Gudas 1 6 7 2 76
- Andrej Sustr is a very long shot to make the squad. He'll most likely have to wait until next time for another chance.
- Valtteri Filppula and Sami Salo are near certainties for the squad. Filppula's stellar season has even generated some chatter that he should be their first center, although that job will probably fall to Mikko Koivu in the end. As always, sisu Suomi!
G A P +/- PIM 2013 - Valtteri Filppula 12 12 24 1 8
- Syracuse Crunch goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis was Latvia's third goaltender in the 2013 World Championships this past May. An injury and a bad start got him in a game and he never let the spot go. (He then proceeded to get drafted by a guy who'd come over to judge Canadian players.) While there are other choices for Latvia, I would predict Gudlevskis making at least the third spot on the Latvian team again.
- Richard Panik made the Slovakian preliminary roster and might make the final roster as well.
- Remember Jaroslav Janus? Well, believe it or not, he's still in the discussion (the Lightning retain his North American rights while he plays for HC Slovan Bratislava in the KHL). He's a possible third goaltender for the Slovak national team, despite his less than stellar results so far this season.
- Victor Hedman is, like Filppula and Salo, a shoo-in for these games. Barring injury, he'll be in Sochi.
- Nate Thompson and Matt Carle have both played with the national team in the World Championships but they probably won't make the cut for the Olympics.
- Ben Bishop's chances are hard to gauge. He's the best American goaltender in the NHL so far this season, but he also has probably the least amount of experience. And his trip to the big ice in May did not go well. Most people are giving Ryan Miller the nod for the starting spot, and I'd have to agree with that assessment. Then common wisdom will generally give Jonathan Quick the second spot. This is where things get strange. Quick's (a) been out with a groin injury for more than a month, and (b) not doing all that great before that or over last season.
Still, he is Jon Quick, and this could very well be a case where the numbers obscure the actual performance, as save percentage can sometimes do, especially over small samples. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Quick get spot #2, but I also wouldn't be surprised to see him passed over this season, unfairly or not.
That leaves the third spot, and in the land of the pundits this is generally given to Cory Schneider over Bishop (or sometimes Jimmy Howard.) I can understand that reasoning on the grounds of his experience. Schneider's simply been very good over more games than Bishop's been in the NHL and, in fact, Bishop was left off the initial camp roster in August. I disagree with this choice based on current level of play, however. Even accounting for differences in the teams in front of them, Bishop has outplayed Schneider over the past two and a half months.
In the end, however, I don't think there's really a bad decision between the two, at least from the team's standpoint. David Poile can afford to take a chance on a younger and less experienced guy for the third chair, but both Schneider and Bishop fit that bill. But I think that if you aren't talking about Ben Bishop for Sochi, you've missed the boat.
GP MIN W L EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO 2013 - Ben Bishop 24 1404 16 5 48 2.05 693 645 .931 2