Tuesday, July 26, 2005
Some vets could be snubbed for 'best team'
By Scott Burnside
Special to ESPN.com
Much was made of USA Hockey turning a new page in selecting its World Championship team last spring, ignoring familiar veterans and turning to fresh, young faces.
But that was a walk in the park compared to the familiar feathers that are likely to be ruffled in the coming months if that philosophy is to be carried forward to the Turin Olympics.
"This isn't a contest to make sure that we take care of somebody," that's been part of the program for years, warned Don Waddell, the Thrashers general manager who was named general manager of the U.S. Olympic men's hockey team Tuesday.
Nor is it about giving someone a spot on the roster just because they're young, Waddell added.
It's about picking the best team, he said.
"We're going to leave a lot of good players off this team," said Waddell. "There's nothing personal about this," Waddell said. "I think players will respect the decisions we make."
Respect is one thing. Take what might be seen as a considerable snub with a smile, is another. These are the Olympics, and the competition for the final roster will be intense leading up to Jan. 10, when the final roster is announced.
When the World Championship team was announced this spring, it did not include the names of American stars Keith Tkachuk, Tony Amonte, Jeremy Roenick, Brett Hull, Bill Guerin, Brian Leetch and Chris Chelios.
Of the so-called old-guard that led the Americans to victory in the inaugural World Cup of Hockey in 1996, only Mike Modano and Doug Weight were part of the 2005 World Championship team that lost to the Czech Republic in a shootout of the first elimination game.
Of the many factors that will go into the team's selection will be the tournament's schedule that has the U.S. playing six games in nine nights after a trans-Atlantic flight.
Younger players or so-called "energy" players will be at a premium not just for the American squad, but for all of the teams competing. That seems to open the door for a return of players like Erik Cole, whom Waddell described as one of the team's best at the World Championships. John-Michael Liles, Paul Martin, Zach Parise and perhaps even Yan Stastny are other names in the mix.
"We do have some very, very good young players that are ready to take that next step," Waddell said.
Scott Burnside is a freelance writer based in Atlanta and is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.