Saturday, February 21, 2009

Bleed Teal's 2010 USA Olympic Team Picks

Everyone and their grandmother it seems has an opinion on what the 2010 USA Olympic Men's Team should look like, and now it's Bleed Teal's turn to provide ours. With much of the American old guard that won the '96 World Cup and medaled at Salt Lake in '02 closing in on retirement, the likes of Keith Tkachuk, Mike Modano, Bill Guerin and Chris Chelios give way to Zach Parise, Paul Stastny, Dustin Brown and Ryan Suter on what looks to be a surprisingly solid squad for the Americans as the countdown begins to the 2010 Vancouver Games.

LW Zach Parise - C Paul Stastny - RW Jamie Langenbrunner
The quintessential scoring line: a through-the-roof collective hockey IQ, a decent amount of grit and a truckload of skill. The two speedy Devils wingers flanking the Avs' star center seems to be the consensus top line for USA, and with good reason.

LW Dustin Brown - C Phil Kessel - RW Patrick Kane
While Kessel has largely been slotted on the wing during his tenure with the Bruins, he's a natural centerman and would likely thrive as the pivot on this highly-skilled unit. Kane brings the superior vision and passing ability, Kessel lends his sniping prowess and Brown completes the trio with his unique power forward combination of imposing physicality and impressive scoring ability.

LW David Booth - C Joe Pavelski - RW Jason Pominville
Although Ryan Kesler has been the popular pick for third-line USA center, I'll defer to Mike Chen here and gladly hop on the Joe Pavelski bandwagon. The Sharks center has had a fantastic second-half to the season and brings almost unparalleled hockey sense, a great wrist shot and strong two-way play to the table. Booth and Pominville are both speedsters as well as streaky scorers who can contribute on the penalty kill.

LW Ryan Kesler - C Scott Gomez - C Chris Drury
Calling this unit a "spare parts" line is probably a bit unfair, especially since they're all pretty damn good spare parts. But with the underwhelming seasons Gomez and Drury are having in the Big Apple, their inclusions on the team, which would have been marquee just one season ago, feel like afterthoughts. Still, with Kesler providing defensive conscience, this has the potential to be one of the most dangerous fourth lines in the tournament.

LD Ryan Suter - RD Brian Rafalski
Rafalski is in all likelihood the top American defenseman, while Suter is decidedly the poster boy for the next generation of Team USA blueliners, making for a very solid top pairing.

LD Paul Martin - RD Keith Ballard
You won't get too much offense out of this pairing, but the speed of both blueliners ensures for a versatile unit that will likely be given the assignment of shutting down opposing top lines.

LD Matt Carle - RD Brooks Orpik
Carle is having an impressive season with the Flyers and deserves to be on the team if for no other reason than that USA is in desperate need of a puck-moving blueliner outside of Rafalski. Orpik perfectly complements Carle's offensive punch by bringing his trademark take-no-prisoners physical game to the table.

G Tim Thomas
Arguably the top Vezina Trophy candidate at the moment, Thomas has backstopped an unlikely Bruins team to the NHL's top record and deserves to be Team USA's No. 1 guy.

G Ryan Miller
Of course, Miller will undoubtedly have a say in the matter of deciding the team's starting goalie, as the Sabres netminder is enjoying an excellent comeback year after having been rewarded with a lucrative five-year deal in the offseason.

G Rick DiPietro
Third goalies are usually irrelevant anyway, but a healthy DiPietro remains one of the top goalies in the game.

Team USA is a lot deeper than most pundits would like to think and, although medaling seems to be a difficult proposition with the likes of Russia, Canada and Sweden bringing what look to be top-flight teams to Vancouver, the Americans have the talent and the work ethic to pull of a Lake Placid-caliber upset.

Friday, February 20, 2009

We're not dead. Yet.

So I disappeared for a longer amount of time than Joe Thornton does in the playoffs, likely losing the few sorry individuals who comprise my "reader base" (if you can call it that) in the process. But with a new layout and a grotesque banner hastily constructed in MS Paint, Bleed Teal is back! Of course, since our last post was in November regarding Claude Lemieux's stint in China and the post preceding that one recaps the season opener, we've got some catching up to do. So here's the SparkNotes version of the 2008-09 San Jose Sharks season thus far:

--Sharks post 9-2 October record playing a decidedly Todd McLellan-influenced brand of fast-skating, offensive hockey. Sharks fans breathe collective sigh of relief after a tumultuous offseason that involved the firing of Coach Ron Wilson and the turnover of half the blueline.

--Speaking of that blueline, Dan Boyle and Rob Blake enjoy phenomenal starts to their respective San Jose careers, with Boyle in particular proving to be the key component of McLellan's speed-based transition-reliant system.

--Patrick Marleau proves last season was an aberration with a terrific start to the campaign, and sustains his pace while serving as left wing on one of the hottest lines in the league with Joe Thornton and breakout sophomore Devin Setoguchi.

--Christmas comes early for Sharks naysayers (a.k.a. the Canadian media) as San Jose suffers a 6-0 drubbing in Detroit Dec. 18. A previous 4-2 win over the Wings provides little consolation and the Sharks gradually begin to (gasp) lose games.

--Sharks finally lose at home in regulation, ending a ridiculous streak spanning 11 months without a loss in 60 minutes at the Tank.

--Two days after said regulation loss, Sharks come out to play against the Wings, winning 6-5 in one of the most exciting games ever played on HP Pavilion ice. Hockey world collectively shits itself at prospect of Sharks-Wings Western Conference Finals series.

--Sharks endure first rough stretch of season, suffering 6 losses in 7 games, albeit 5 in overtime and the shootout. Despite struggles, secondary unit of Milan Michalek, Joe Pavelski and Ryane Clowe establishes itself as one of the best second lines in the league.

And that's about where we stand today. The Sharks are three points up on Detroit for first place in the West, and the long wait for the playoffs to begin continues, a wait made significantly more bearable now that Bleed Teal is back in action. Or something like that. Anyway, this certainly won't be another one-and-done copout as we've got (Note to self: stop using "we" -- you're the only one writing this) a decidedly premature projection of Team USA's 2010 Olympic team coming up tomorrow. (Gee, it's not like anyone's done that recently, right?)