Ranking U.S. Olympic goalie candidates

Updated: January 4, 2012, 12:39 PM ET
By Craig Custance

There were moments during the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, British Columbia, that backup Team USA goalie Jonathan Quick would watch Ryan Miller shine on the international stage and imagine being out there. It's impossible not to. He was one of three American goalies on the roster, joining Miller and Tim Thomas, and so close to the action.

"Obviously that crosses your mind that you'd love to be out there; you wish you could be out there playing in that situation," Quick said during a Tuesday afternoon phone conversation. "Just kind of experiencing it, watching the game firsthand and being there was a great experience."

Two years ago, following the Winter Classic in Boston, the Olympic rosters were announced, and the American goalie situation was clear-cut. It was Miller's job, with Thomas providing the steady veteran presence behind him and Quick brought in to gain experience.

Now, things aren't so clear. If this were an Olympic year, the competition would be much more intense for the Team USA starting goalie job, and the options for Brian Burke and the other American general managers would be much deeper. Jimmy Howard leads the league in wins and it's not close. Miller has taken a step back from his Olympic-year dominance, while Thomas has regained his Vezina Trophy form.

"I could argue for five guys I think right now -- Quick, Thomas, Howard, [Cory Schneider] and Miller," said USA Hockey's Jim Johannson, who will have a strong say in who ultimately gets the job if NHL players compete in the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. "It's a position of strength."

Here's how I'd rank the candidates if the Games were played this year: