"I'm not your friend, buddy!" "I'm not your buddy, guy!"
@ Los Angeles Kings
Thursday, Dec 3, 2009, 7:30 PM PST
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Are you guys pumped for the Olympics yet? I'm pumped as hell. I love competition, and I love the United States, and I love hockey, so this is pretty much a perfect storm of awesomeness for me. SBNation has been doing a team-by-team look at their player's chances of making their country's Olympic team; I was supposed to do mine by last Sunday, but I, uh, got attacked by a bear. Yeah, that's the ticket. Hey, I'm doing two jobs (analyzing the Kings AND being a jackass), give me a break. Anyway, the Kings should be well-represented at the Olympics, with as many as 8 players potentially going to the Games in Vancouver. Here they are, ranked in order of likelihood of making their respective teams:
Pack Your Bags
Michal Handzus, C, Team Slovakia
Team Slovakia is part of the Big 7 (Canada, US, Russia, Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic, Slovakia) but I think it's fair to say that they're the weakest of the 7. They haven't finished higher than 5th place since the Olympics started allowing NHLers play and they're rapidly getting older. They do have legit NHL talent (Zdeno Chara, Marian Hossa, Lubo!) but they don't quite have the depth of the other squads. Still, they're a very good team and one of my favorites.
Michal Handzus is a fairly big lock to play for Team Slovakia because he's always played when asked and Slovakia doesn't have very much center depth. Handzus will likely play 2nd line center and be counted on to fill the same role he fills for the Kings: defensive stopper and big man in front of the net.
Dustin Brown, RW, Team USA
I think I'm most excited about Dustin Brown potentially playing in the Olympics than any other player on the Kings. Brown has always played in a scoring role for the Kings but he will likely be put in a shutdown role alongside Ryan Kesler and someone else. (David Backes?) It'll be fun to watch because Brown's natural game seems more suited for a shutdown role than a scoring one. The times where he comes down and takes a terrible shot won't really be a big deal because he's keeping the puck away from the Ovechkin's and the Nash's of the world. When Brown isn't counted on for scoring the other parts of his game come out and that's where he shines. Plus, can you imagine a game where Brown and Ovechkin are banging away at each other (not like that, sicko) with the pride of their nations at stake? I just got chills.
Brown will likely have an "A" for Team USA but there's still a chance he could wear the "C." I'd personally pick Jamie Langenbrunner to wear the "C" since he's like 30 years older than anyone else that's going to be on the team, but in the back of my mind I'm kind of hoping it'll be Brown just because it'd be a tremendous honor and I know he's the type of guy where it'd mean something to him. Basically, Dustin Brown is awesome.
Peter Harrold, C, Team Canada
At least, I hope.
Raitis Ivanans, LW, Team Latvia
I mean, why not? Their best player is Karlis Skrastins.
In a Battle
Jack Johnson, D, Team USA
Johnson was the best defenseman on Team USA during the World Junior Championships, tallying a point a game and showing a little bit of the jump that made him so hyped before he entered the NHL. Of course, that was on big ice, not the NHL-sized rinks that the Olympics will be played at. I don't think Johnson deserves to be on the team; I'd take Paul Martin, Brian Rafalski, Erik Johnson, Ryan Suter, Alex Goligoski, Zach Bogosian and someone else I'll get to in a bit. Still, I can see why you'd take Jack Johnson and it's the same reason everyone has always taken him: he's big, he's fast and he can score. The only problem with him is that he's dumb. I'd leave him off, let it burn in him for 4 years and then let him rip it up in 2014.
Rob Scuderi, D, Team USA
Call me crazy but I kind of think Team USA should take Rob Scuderi. Think about all the defensemen on Team USA and then think about which ones you'd want on your penalty kill against Joe Thornton or Sidney Crosby. Team USA is heavily weighted towards offensive defensemen and I think they could use someone like Scuderi to kind of take care of things on the back-end. I know, it probably won't happen, but I kinda think it should.
Alexander Frolov, LW, Team Russia
I'm only putting Frolov here because I have no idea what the hell Russia's going to do. They probably going to do some weird stuff where they put KHL players on the team to send a message so I'm a little concerned Fro is going to get lost in the shuffle. He probably won't, though, because he's awesome and plays exactly the way Team Russia wants to play. Fro will probably play on Datsyuk's line and shut down the other team's top line.
On the Outside Looking In
Drew Doughty, D, Team Canada
I don't think Drew Doughty should be on Team Canada. I mean, I want him to, but I don't think he's good enough yet. There's a difference between "Great at 20" and "Great" and Doughty is somewhere in the middle. Is he better than anyone else his age and is he a #1 defenseman for the Kings? Yep. Is he one of the 6 best defensemen on Canada? No, unfortunately.
I could see why Canada would take him, though. There are two reasons: one, he's young and will likely be on the team in 2014 so you might as well get him some experience; two, Doughty is a natural righty on a team filled with left-handed defensemen. If someone gets hurt and Doughty has to step up, no one has to move to an unnatural position. That's actually a good point I just came up with (seriously, go me); is Doughty a top 6 defenseman in Canada? No, unfortunately. Is he one of the top 3 right-handed defenseman in Canada? Maybe. Now if only I had the energy to look it up...
Jonathan Quick, G, Team USA
Quick had the misfortune of being American in a time when Ryan Miller, Tim Thomas and Craig Anderson are all playing so well. Tough luck kid, see you in 4 years.
Prediction: Team USA defeats Team Canada, 3-2. Goals by Brown (x2) and Johnson.