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USA Hockey 2014 Olympics - Part III

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USA Hockey 2014 Olympics - Part III

By Ben Raby
CSNwashington.com

With the Olympic torch lit, and the 2012 London Games well underway, CSNWashington.com is already looking ahead to the 2014 Sochi Games.

NHL player participation in the next Winter Olympics is still pending approval from the Board of Governors in the next CBA, but assuming that the best players in the world will be made available to the worlds biggest stage, the United States should be in the mix for another podium finish.

In the days ahead CSNWashington.com will examine USA Hockeys 2014 Mens Olympic roster position by position in a four part series.

In Part One on Thursday we handicapped USA Hockeys goaltending options for 2014. In Part Two on Saturday we examined the blueliners who may represent the U.S. in Sochi. Today in Part Three, we look at the forwards.

LOCKS:

DUSTIN BROWN (Los Angeles Kings): The second American to captain a Stanley Cup champion (and first since Derian Hatcher in 1999), Brown has emerged as one of the NHLs best leaders and two-way forwards.

Brown has also finished in the top three in the NHL in hits in each of the past six seasons and despite his physical play, the 27-year-old has remarkably has not missed a single game in each of the last four years. Brown has played in 266 consecutive games- the sixth longest active streak in the League.
Brown was an assistant captain at the 2010 Vancouver Games, and should be in the running to the wear the C in Sochi.

Brown has represented USA Hockey at seven international events including four World Championships (2004, 2006, 2008 and 2009).

RYAN CALLAHAN (New York Rangers): The Rochester, NY native grew up in a working class neighborhood and prides himself on playing a blue collar game in the NHL. Callahans 271 hits were fifth most in the League last season and his 88 blocked shots were third most among forwards.

Callahans efforts earned him his third straight Extra Effort Award given annually to the Ranger who goes beyond the call of duty.

The Rangers captain also finished with a career-high 29 goals and 54 points while captaining the Rangers to their first Eastern Conference regular-season title in 18 years.

Callahan, 27, last played for USA Hockey at the 2005 World Junior Championships.

PATRICK KANE (Chicago Blackhawks): No American has ever been taken first overall in the NHL Entry Draft and won both a Stanley Cup and an Olympic gold medal. Kane could become the first in 2014.

The 23-year-old already has five full NHL seasons under his belt, but his 66 points in 82 games last year were a career-low, while his 23 goals last season were his lowest total since he scored 21 times as a rookie.

Kane has represented USA Hockey at four international events including the 2010 Vancouver Games.

PHIL KESSEL (Toronto Maple Leafs): Kessel finished with career-highs and led all Americans with 37 goals and 82 points last season despite his playing without a true No.1 center with the Maple Leafs.

The 24-year-old has had difficulty living up the lofty expectations in Toronto (the fact that Toronto gave up two first-round picks to acquire him doesnt help), but Kessels hot start last season (he led the League in scoring through October) was as big a reason as any that the Leafs still found themselves in a playoff position in February.

Kessel has represented USA Hockey at eight international events including the 2010 Vancouver Games.

MAX PACIORETTY (Montreal Canadiens): Less than a year after a vicious hit from Bostons Zdeno Chara left Pacioretty with a broken vertebra and severe concussion, the 23-year-old finished with career-highs of 33 goals and 65 points in 2011-12.

His comeback last year was recognized at seasons end when he won the Bill Masterton Trophy which is awarded annually to the player who best exemplifies perseverance and dedication to the game of hockey.

Pacioretty has represented USA Hockey at two international events including the 2012 World Championships where he led the U.S. with 12 points in eight games.

ZACH PARISE (Minnesota Wild): Parise struck gold this summer when he signed a 13-year 98 million deal with the Wild, but the Minneapolis, MN, native remains in search of his first career Olympic gold medal.

Parise was among the most coveted free agents this summer and could emerge as the Americans No.1 center at the Sochi Games. The 28-year-old has developed into one of the best two-way centers in the game and he has scored at least 30 goals in each of his last five full seasons.

Parise has represented USA Hockey at seven international events including the 2010 Vancouver Games.

JOE PAVELSKI (San Jose Sharks): If Parise is in fact USAs No.1 center, Pavelski could be the man in the middle on the Americans second line.

Pavelski, 28, led the Sharks last season with a career-high 31 goals and was famously nicknamed a Swiss Army Knife due to his versatility by U.S. general manager Brian Burke in 2010.

He does a whole bunch of different things well, Burke said. You can use him in every conceivable manpower situation. You can use him on the power play. You can use him short. You can use him 4-on-3. You can use him 3-on-4. He works hard and has a high hockey IQ.

Pavelski last represented USA Hockey at the 2010 Vancouver Games.

BOBBY RYAN (Anaheim Ducks): Despite his teaming with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf in Anaheim to form one of the Leagues top trios, Bobby Ryans days with the Ducks appear numbered.

After trade rumors followed him throughout the season, Ryan acknowledged at seasons end that a change of scenery may be in his best interest.
The 6-foot-2, 215-pounder has emerged as one of the NHLs elite power forwards with great hands and foot speed. Ryans numbers speak for themselves with four straight 30-goal seasons.

Ryan last represented USA Hockey at the 2010 Vancouver Games.

PROBABLES:

DAVID BACKES (St. Louis Blues): Like Dustin Brown and Ryan Callahan, Backes is another American captain who plays a hard-nosed game that cant always be measured in numbers.

That said, his 24 goals were tops on a St. Louis team that won the Central Division for the first time in 12 years and his 54 points were tied for the team lead with fellow American T.J. Oshie. Backes was also a finalist for the Frank J. Selke Trophy, awarded annually to the Leagues top defensive forward.

Backes has represented USA Hockey at four international events including the 2010 Vancouver Games.

RYAN KESLER (Vancouver Canucks): The only thing keeping Kesler from being a lock for the 2014 Sochi Games is his health.

After scoring a career-high 41 goals and winning the Frank J. Selke Trophy in 2010-11, the 27-year-old missed the start of last year after offseason hip surgery. The versatile two-way center is also expected to miss the start of the 2012-13 campaign as he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery.

Kesler has represented USA Hockey at five international events, including the 2010 Vancouver Games.

JASON POMINVILLE (Buffalo Sabres): The Sabres captain has registered six straight 20-goal seasons while missing only nine games over those six years. He was also Buffalos leading scorer last season with 30 goals and 73 points while taking only six minor penalties.

Pominville was named to the 2012 NHL All-Star Game and has represented USA Hockey once before at the 2008 World Championships.

PAUL STASTNY (Colorado Avalanche): Colorados No.1 center has seen his offensive numbers drop in each of the past two seasons, but at 26-years-old his best hockey may still be coming.

Despite his Slovak roots from his father Peter and despite his having been born in Quebec City, Paul has chosen to the represent the U.S. when playing internationally.

The playmaking center with a strong hockey IQ has represented USA Hockey at three international events including the 2010 Vancouver Games.

IN THE MIX:

ERIK COLE (Montreal Canadiens): Montreals leading goal-scorer in 2011-12 partnered with Max Pacioretty to become the first American teammates to record 30 goals in the same season since Jason Pominville and Chris Drury did so with the Buffalo Sabres in 2006-07.

KYLE OKPOSO (New York Islanders): Okposo finished with a career-high 24 goals last season playing primarily with John Tavares and Matt Moulson on New Yorks No.1 line. With P.A. Parenteau having signed with Colorado, Okposo could see more scoring opportunities next year as well.

Okposo has represented USA Hockey at five international events including the 2009 and 2010 World Championships.

T.J. OSHIE (St. Louis Blues): In his fourth NHL season, Oshie had career-highs last year with 19 goals and 52 points (tied for the Blues team lead).
Oshie has represented USA Hockey at three international events including the 2009 and 2010 World Championships.

JAMES VAN RIEMSDYK (Toronto Maple Leafs): A broken foot limited the 23-year-old to 43 games last season but the former Flyers winger will have ample opportunity to rebound next year in Toronto.

The Maple Leafs acquired Van Riemsdyk with plans of converting him into the teams No.1 center where he would likely be flanked by Joffrey Lupol and potential U.S. teammate Phil Kessel.

LONG SHOTS:

David Booth (Vancouver Canucks), Nick Foligno (Columbus Blue Jackets), Brian Gionta (Montreal Canadiens), Chris Kreider (New York Rangers), Ryan Malone (Tampa Bay Lightning), Craig Smith (Nashville Predators), Drew Stafford (Buffalo Sabres), Derek Stepan (New York Rangers), R.J. Umberger (Columbus Blue Jackets), Blake Wheeler (Winnipeg Jets).

Which forwards do you think will represent the United States at the 2014 Sochi Games? Share your comments below. Check back on CSNWashington.com in the days to come for Part Four of our series on USA Hockeys 2014 Mens Olympic Team.

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MacLellan: Reirden will get the first crack at replacing Trotz

MacLellan: Reirden will get the first crack at replacing Trotz

Will Todd Reirden replace Barry Trotz as head coach of the Washington Capitals?

Based on what GM Brian MacLellan said Monday, it certainly sounds like it’s Reirden’s job to lose.

“We’re going to start with Todd here,” MacLellan said. “I think we’ve been grooming him to be a head coach, whether for us or someone else.”

“We’ll see how the talk goes with him and we’ll make a decision based on that,” MacLellan added. “If it goes well, we’ll pursue Todd. And if it doesn’t, we’ll open it up a little bit.”

MacLellan said he isn’t sure exactly when the interview with Reirden will take place. The front office needs a few days to regroup. It’s also a busy stretch in hockey’s offseason. In the coming two weeks, MacLellan will direct the NHL draft in Dallas, monitor development camp in Arlington and then call the shots when free agency begins on July 1.  

“We need to take a breather here but I think Todd is a good candidate for it,” MacLellan said. “I’d like to sit down with Todd and have a normal interview, head coaching interview. I think most of our discussions are just casual. It’s about hockey in general. But I’d like to do a formal interview with him and just see if there’s differences or how we’re seeing things the same and if he’s a possibility for the head coach.”

Reirden, 46, spent the past four seasons on Trotz’s bench. He was elevated to associate coach prior to the 2016-17 season after coming up just short in his pursuit of the head coaching position in Calgary.

Reirden’s primary responsibility on Trotz’s staff was overseeing the defense and Washington’s perennially potent power play.

Prior to joining the Capitals in 2014, he was an assistant coach for four seasons with the Penguins. And before that, he spent a couple of seasons as the head coach of AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the Penguins’ top minor league affiliate.

A native of Deerfield, Ill., Reirden also had a lengthy professional career that included 183 NHL games with the Oilers, Blues, Thrashers and Coyotes.

Asked what he’s looking for in the Caps’ next head coach, MacLellan said he’s looking for a forward-thinker, a strong communicator and a players’ coach.

Reirden is all of those things.

“Someone that's up to date on the modern game,” MacLellan said. “Someone that's progressive, looking to try different things. Someone that has a good relationship with players. They communicate, can teach, make players better. It's becoming a developmental league where guys are coming in not fully developed products and we need a guy that can bring young players along because more and more we're going to use young players as the higher end guys make more money.”

One of the side benefits of elevating Reirden is the fact he already has a strong relationship with many of the current players, meaning there won’t be much upheaval as the Caps look to defend their championship.

“It could be a natural transition,” MacLellan said. “But once we sit down and talk face to face about all the little small details in the team, I'll have a better feel for it.”

MacLellan said a decision on the other assistant coaches—Lane Lambert, Blaine Forsythe, Scott Murray, Brett Leonhardt and Tim Ohashi—will be made after the next head coach is named.

MORE CAPITALS COVERAGE:

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Brian MacLellan explains the reasoning behind not extending Trotz before the 2017-18 season

Brian MacLellan explains the reasoning behind not extending Trotz before the 2017-18 season

As shocking as the news of Barry Trotz’s resignation on Monday felt, it probably shouldn’t have given that whether or not he would return to Washington after the 2017-18 season was a storyline all year long.

Trotz entered the 2017-18 season on the last year of his initial four-year deal leading to speculation over whether the team was dissatisfied with his results and ready to move on from the head coach when his contract expired. Teams typically do not allow a head coach to enter the final year of a contract so that they do not appear to the players to be a lame duck coach.

Ultimately, that turned out to not be a problem as Trotz led the organization to its first Stanley Cup in his contract year. While there was interest from both sides in an extension in the wake of winning the Cup, ultimately a new deal could not be agreed upon and now the defending champs are without a head coach.

This begs the question, could things have been different had the team worked out a new contract with Trotz before the 2017-18 season? The answer is almost certainly yes, so how did things get to the point where Trotz was allowed to go into 2017-18 without an extension?

During a press conference with the media on Monday, general manager Brian MacLellan explained the team’s reasoning in not extending Trotz in the summer of 2017.

“We were struggling at the time to get over the hump,” MacLellan said. “We couldn't get over the second round and Barry hadn't been able to coach out of the second round yet either.”

In 15 seasons with the Nashville Predators, Trotz was not able to coach his team past the second round in the playoffs. In his three seasons with Washington leading up to the 2017-18 campaign, he had led the Caps to two division titles and two Presidents’ Trophies, but again could not get past the second-round hump that had plagued both him and the team.

Based on MacLellan’s comments, another early playoff exit would have likely led to the team choosing to allow Trotz's contract to expire.

“I think from the organization's perspective, some changes would've had to be made if we lost in the second round again,” MacLellan said.

But what if instead the unthinkable happened? What if the Caps forced Trotz into a “prove it” contract year and he was able to lead the team to the Stanley Cup? Didn’t they risk losing him all along?

Yes and no.

MacLellan confirmed reports on Monday that Trotz’s contract included an automatic two-year extension “at an increased rate” if he won the Cup. So while both sides were negotiating an extension, technically Trotz was already under contract through the 2019-20 season.

In the summer of 2017, MacLellan had a choice to make. At the end of the two-year championship window, he could choose to extend a head coach who had not brought the team the type of postseason success he was hoping for, he could fire a coach who had just won two consecutive division titles, two Presidents’ Trophies and whose team was eliminated in the playoffs by the eventual Stanley Cup champions, or he could ride out the final year of Trotz’s deal and, in the off chance the team won the Stanley Cup, still rest easy in the notion that Trotz would automatically remain under contract.

MacLellan went with option C. It almost worked.

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