Remember the 2006 Olympics when Team USA seemed slow, lethargic, and almost uninterested? Most of the publicity about the team was negative as Mike Modano and others complained about travel arrangements, as well as other things.
Apparently, Brian Burke was paying attention. Team USA's new general manager swept away Don Waddell's old guard and constructed a brand new team, the youngest in these Olympics. Instead of selecting players with the most recognizable names, he went with the best "team" players he could find and looked for specific needs that players could fill. Perhaps he took a page out of Herb Brook's book?
For the sake of nostalgia, here is what the 2006 roster looked like.
Goalies: John Grahame, Rick DiPietro, Robert Esche
Defense: Chris Chelios, Derian Hatcher, Jordan Leopold, John-Michael Liles, Brian Rafalski, Mathieu Schneider, Bret Hedican, and Paul Martin.
Forwards: Mike Modano, Jason Blake, Erik Cole, Craig Conroy, Chris Drury, Brian Gionta, Scott Gomez, Bill Guerin, Mike Knuble, Mark Parrish, Brian Rolston, Keith Tkachuk, Doug Weight.
Ryan Miller was the alternate goalie, who just happened to be red hot that season and had the best stats of any of the other USA goalies. But for whatever reason, he was overlooked.
Many of the players above are still productive players and might have made the team again had another GM taken a different approach. But Burke wanted youth. He wanted speed. He wanted hunger. And Team USA has responded with the best record, best stats, and most consistency of any team participating in this tournament.
But while USA defeated Canada 5-3 just a week ago, they have their work cut out for them in the gold medal matchup today.
Canadian Coach Mike Babcock switched the lines around after the loss to the Americans last Sunday and his team has been clicking very well since then. They look like a different team.
And not only will USA be going against a frenetic, vocal majority in the stands today, the referees selected for the game are both Canadian born. Apparently, there were not any neutral refs from Switzerland available.
There is no mistaking that Bill McCreary and Dan O'Halloran are both fine, experienced refs, but they both have family members, friends, and neighbors, north of the border and this game is for the gold medal. Nothing is more important to Canadians.
Is there opportunity for controversy here?
Win or lose, Brian Burke and his staff should be commended for sticking to what they wanted to do and for their success. The silver medal is not what the Americans want today, but even winning silver would be a huge step in the right direction for USA Hockey.
But winning the gold medal would mean that USA Hockey does not have to take a backseat to anyone. Can they do it? Millions will be watching what could be the game of the decade.
We will be using this for the open thread and will start another if it becomes too cumbersome. Have fun folks!