Things are going to be quite a bit different in Buffalo when you compare things to the last time the World Junior Championships came to town.
Downtown is far more vibrant, Canalside is slightly more developed and HarborCenter will serve as the second home for the tournament. No more jaunts to Dwyer Arena to catch the secondary matchups, which not only means that the corner of Perry and Washington will be home to more action throughout the tournament, some of the intriguing non-marquee matchups will be easier to access.
The WJC will always have a handful of can’t miss preliminary matchups and this year will be no different. The outdoor game between the US and Canada, which is reported to have a surprisingly low attendance number (paywall) at the moment, is the obvious headliner, but Russia-Sweden, USA-Finland and Canada-Finland will be well worth the cost of attendance as well. What fans in Buffalo should be aware of are the slate of games lacking headliners which will be both affordable and appealing from a Sabres-fan perspective. Continue reading →
Donning a special jersey for the game is a great decision, one that would have seemed silly to avoid from both USA Hockey and Hockey Canada’s perspective. So the impetus for the Bills mashup jersey is obvious. What isn’t obvious is why the powers that be decided to go in such a drastic direction. Continue reading →
It was the game that has spawned thousands of think pieces. As the US fell in uninspiring fashion to the Canadians last night, their World Cup failure raised questions about the team’s roster construction yet again.
While the 4-2 loss to Canada may have been expected, the previous shutout loss to Team Europe helped to stir memories of the pop-gun offensive efforts against Canada and Finland at the 2014 Sochi games. In fact, TJ Oshie’s goal late in the third period against Canada was the first scored by a US forward in 254:02; a streak that extends to Team USA’s preliminary round win against Slovenia in 2014. Only Ryan McDonagh’s goal against Canada kept that from being a shutout streak as well.
That is a stunning inability to score from a country seen as one of hockey’s super powers. Of course, the questions about the roster choices didn’t crop up over the past week. The choices made by USA Hockey have been questioned, in one way or another, since the original roster announcement earlier this year. Maybe this should be too surprising, as many of the same names criticized for questionable choices in 2014 – and highlighted by the in-depth, behind the scenes articles chronicling that team’s construction – remained part of the decision making process. Continue reading →
The final position left to prognosticate for the 2014 US Olympic roster is in between the pipes. I previously noted the impressive talent the Americans will have along the blueline, but in net is truly the strength of the team.
Tim Thomas probably won’t be part of the conversation this time around after a year away from the game in his bunker in Colorado – or however he actually spent the year. Ryan Miller will certainly be considered for a roster spot while Jonathan Quick will probably graduate from third to first string for the 2014 games.
Quick is the guy I’ve tabbed to be my started with Cory Schneider and Jimmy Howard to follow in behind as his backups. Continue reading →
Just as center is the assumed weak spot for the Americans entering the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, their most impressive position (outside of goal) is along the blueline.
The 2010 US team had to replace a pair of defensemen late in the year as Ryan Whitney and Tim Gleason were last minute replacements for Mike Komisarek and Paul Martin. Not only do I not see any of those four players (particularly Komisarek) getting any consideration for the US roster, there will also be holes left by Brian Rafalski (retirement) and basic roster turnover.
Both Erik and Jack Johnson will be left off my roster leaving only Ryan Suter and Brooks Orpik as the returning defensemen from the 2010 Olympics.
In nine months we’ll be four years removed from the impressive run that Team USA took to the sliver medal in Vancouver. While the US entered the 2010 Olympics as an underdog expected to finish behind the Swedes, Finns, Russians and Canadians, they will not enjoy the same treatment entering Sochi. In fact, the US might boast one of the most impressive rosters in the tournament when they arrive in nine months.
I took the time to lay out the roster that I think the Americans will bring with them to Russia and what should be a gold medal contender. I’ll begin with the forwards and move to the defensemen and goaltenders over the next two days.
One thing that the 2010 roster had was an interesting mix of veteran and up-and-coming talent. Olympic and NHL vets like Chris Drury, Jamie Langenbrunner and Brian Rafalski offered loads of international experience to an unhearalded roster. While all three of those players have since moved on, a majority of the players who made their US Olympic debut in Vancouver are all four years older as they prepare for Sochi.
With Drury and Langenbrunner both out of the picture, I also didn’t include Ryan Malone on my roster. Otherwise, the forward ranks are full of holdovers from the 2010 roster.
You can’t argue that Terry Pegula and the Buffalo Sabres aren’t interested in growing the game of hockey. The Sabres and USA Hockey hooked up for the second time in two years to announce that Buffalo will host the inaugural All-American Prospects Game.
The game will be played at First Niagara Center on September 29, 2012. According to the release from the Sabres and USA Hockey, 40 of the top draft-eligible prospects will participate. From the release:
“It’s a concept we’ve been talking about for a couple of years and we’re excited to bring it to life in partnership with the Buffalo Sabres,” said Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey. “The talent level on the First Niagara Center ice on Sept. 29 will be exceptional. We view this game as an opportunity to gain additional exposure for hockey and help influence growth of the sport through showcasing the future stars of the game.”
“We’re extremely pleased to have this inaugural event come to Buffalo,” said Ted Black, president of the Buffalo Sabres. “We have a tremendous working relationship with USA Hockey and I know our fans will embrace the All-American Prospects Game.”
The release specifies that the rosters will be comprised of players from major junior and collegiate programs with additional players from elite high school and prep hockey programs. Expect roster information to come out in June or July, with ticketing information to be released in May. Continue reading →
Since the Buffalo Sabres’ departure from the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs their players have dispersed to various locations. The “Black Aces” like Jhonas Enroth and Mark Mancari have been sent back to Portland to help with their playoff run. Meanwhile, Marc-Andre Gragnani and Paul Gaustad accepted invitations to represent their countries in the IIHF World Championships.
Gaustad recently joined Team USA for yesterday’s 4-2 win over Norway. Gaustad logged two penalty minutes and was given an ‘A’. It should be interesting to see if Gaustad’s time with the US will help him gain some additional experience against the best in the world and in clutch situations. Having another player with big-game experience will be huge moving forward. Continue reading →