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The Straight Edge: Team USA missing experience, but not skill and excitement

Ryan Miller was a no-brainer between the pipes for Team USA. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

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Ryan Miller was a no-brainer between the pipes for Team USA. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

The Americans will arrive at the Vancouver Olympics young, enthusiastic and inexperienced on the world’s biggest stage. Whether that hinders the team put together by GM Brian Burke remains to be seen.

Stalwart names such as Mike Modano, Keith Tkachuk and Bill Guerin were not named to the squad, while some of the league’s best young snipers and bangers will wear the stars and stripes in February.

Along with the forwards above, NHL veterans such as Scott Gomez and Jason Blake were also left off the roster. Chris Drury of the Rangers and Jamie Langenbrunner of the Devils will instead provide the experience and leadership up front.

After that pair, the forwards corps is very young, but also very dynamic. Patrick Kane, Paul Stastny, Zach Parise and Phil Kessel are all elite NHL scorers, while Joe Pavelski and Bobby Ryan aren’t too far behind. Crashers and bangers such as David Backes, Ryan Kesler and Dustin Brown will keep the opposition on its toes all game long, as will Ryan Callahan and Ryan Malone.

The omission of Modano is probably most surprising, not because the American legend is entitled to a spot, but because he’s capable of playing a checking role at this point in his career and would have been a nice link to the past.

Of course, the history of the passing American generation of Olympians is checkered at best, so maybe a relatively clean break from those who came before was what Burke had in mind.

The defense features a good mixture of toughness (Mike Komisarek, Jack Johnson, Brooks Orpik) and offensive style (Brian Rafalski, Ryan Suter, Erik Johnson), plus the all-around solid work of New Jersey’s Paul Martin. It does not have the future Hall of Famers Canada or Sweden has, but it is a stand-up group and there are no glaring omissions.

The biggest surprise of the roster has to be third-string goaltender Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings. Buffalo’s Ryan Miller and Tim Thomas of the Bruins (who came out in a Team USA jersey when his name was announced live after the Winter Classic in Boston) were mortal locks, but the heavy money for that last spot was on Colorado’s Craig Anderson, who has played way past expectations for the supposedly rebuilding (and current Northwest Division-leading) Avs.

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Perhaps this was a nod to the future by the American brain trust. After all, should the NHL participate in the 2014 Olympics, Quick would be a likely candidate to back up Miller in Sochi, Russia. While the chances of him seeing any action in Vancouver are limited, the opportunity to soak up the experience of the Games and learn from seasoned pros Miller and Thomas will be invaluable.

And, like Anderson in Colorado, Quick has performed above expectations for the Kings this year – clearly his efforts did not go unnoticed.

But back to the experience notion. This roster only boasts seven Stanley Cup winners and even some of those players weren’t necessarily big contributors at the time. How will they handle the pressure in Vancouver?

Burke claims this team is heading to Canada to win, but based on the ages of most of the players, it seems as if this team is going to Vancouver to learn how to win for next time. At least they’ll be fun to watch.

Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appears Monday and Wednesday, his column - The Straight Edge - every Friday, and his prospect feature, The Hot List appears Tuesdays. 

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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