GM: U.S. team looking for stars, grinders

Updated: August 19, 2009, 10:08 PM ET
Associated Press

WOODRIDGE, Ill. -- The final roster for 2010 U.S. Olympic men's hockey team probably won't resemble a glitzy All-Star squad of the highest-scoring, highest-profile Americans who play in the NHL.

Brian Burke, the team's general manager, said Wednesday that the team that skates at the Winter Games in Vancouver must be balanced with high-skill standouts and role players.

Speaking on the final day of the U.S. Olympic orientation camp in suburban Chicago, Burke said that probably 14 to 16 players who participated in the three-day camp are locks for the 23-man roster. The camp was not used as an evaluation but was a session for players to become acclimated with coach Ron Wilson's system while getting to know one another.

The team will be chosen by a panel of six NHL general managers -- led by Burke -- and it will be based on performances during the first half of the season.

"You can't just take the best 23 players," Burke said. "We have to take players who can perform specific tasks at a high level, even if that's a grunt task, even a blue-collar task if people can do it well.

"If you look at the course of a hockey game, the jobs that players are called on to perform, some of them aren't glamorous," he added. "Winning the key faceoff in your own end, killing penalties or blocking a shot at a key time. These are the things we're going to need to be successful."

The top two lines of the U.S. team most likely will be made up of offensively gifted, marquee skaters. But Burke suggested that the third- and fourth-line players could be the best full-time grinders, checkers and other specialists.

Burke said some versatile forwards at the camp -- including the St. Louis Blues' David Backes, Los Angeles Kings' Dustin Brown and Vancouver Canucks' Ryan Kesler -- might fit in well because they blend offensive, defensive and physical skills.

"We're going to play against physical teams and we're going to play against skilled teams," Brown said. "We're going to need a combination of both. I look at myself as a kind of a hybrid along with those other two guys. They both have good skill, but play a physical game."

Goaltending, led by Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins and Buffalo Sabres' Ryan Miller, is probably the most set and experienced position. Thomas and Miller will battle for the No. 1. job.

"I don't view it as a competition," Thomas said. "The season will be a competition against myself and how we play will be what's going to ultimately decide everything."

Burke's main message to all the players at camp -- where the average age was just 26.2 years -- was to go back to their NHL clubs and be themselves.

"If you're a hard-nosed player, you've got to play that way," he said. "Don't try to turn into a skill guy just to impress us. We're looking for some of those hard-nosed players, too."

Burke and the other five GMs plan to discuss the U.S. team's roster again around the start of the NHL season. The GMs will then travel and assess players.

The final roster is expected to be announced in late December or early January, possibly at the 2010 Outdoor Winter Classic at Boston's Fenway Park on New Year's Day.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press