Friday, January 1, 2010

Team USA: Where truculence equals gold


When he put together his team for the Olympics, Herb Brooks wanted a mix of the Soviet and Canadian styles, a hardworking, strong skating team.

Brian Burke wanted a strong, hard hitting team.

The man who brought the word "truculence" into the common vernacular built the 2010 American team at least in part around that very essence. The goal seems to be to physically wear down every opponent.

Oh, there's talented players on Team USA, no doubt. Guys like Patrick Kane, Zach Parise, Paul Stastny and Phil Kessel to name a few.

And if anyone tries to mess with those guys, they have plenty of bodyguards.

Lining up alongside those guys at forward will be Ryan Callahan and Dustin Brown, who are both in the top four in the league in hits. Ryan Malone and David Backes are in the top 16.

Brooks Orpik on the blue line is fifth in hitting. Mike Komisarek would probably be in the top 25 if he hadn't missed some time with an injury. Jack Johnson will also throw a hit when given the chance.

Heck, even goalie Tim Thomas isn't someone you'll want to mess with. Ask Scott Hartnell.

Obviously, the US doesn't match up to some other countries like Canada, Russia or Finland. Not earning a medal won't really be a surprise. Bringing home the gold won't be as miraculous as that 1980 team, but maybe Thomas can pull a Jim Craig (they both have two first names and their first names rhyme, so there's some symmetry already), Zach Parise will channel his inner Mark Johnson, and maybe Dustin Brown will wear the C and come through with a Mike Eruzione-type goal.

And if not, the US will probably make sure whoever does win the gold will have some black and blue bruises to go along with it.

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