When the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team was announced after the conclusion of the Winter Classic there were few who expected many names to jump off the page as huge surprises. After first glancing at the roster and seeing that 13 of the 25 players going to Sochi participated at the 2010 Olympics, this thought largely held true as head coach Dan Bylsma mostly stuck to known commodities, albeit with one blatant exclusion.
That exclusion was Ottawa Senators winger Bobby Ryan, who was a member of the 2010 team that won a silver medal, and at 26 years old is firmly in his prime. Furthermore, he has scored 18 goals and added 18 assists in 42 games for the Senators during the 2013-14 NHL season, in turn proving to be a top player from any nation. And after scoring 30 goals in the last four seasons that the league played a full slate of games, it is clear that this statistical output is not a fluke.
But while statistical output looks good on paper, it is not all that made Ryan a great candidate for the U.S. Olympic team. What makes him truly sticks out is a dynamic skill set that includes great stick handling ability and a rifle of a shot, which both creates him space and keeps goaltenders honest. When this is combined with the great vision that the forward possesses and a bulky 6-foot-1, 207 pound frame that can take on any other player, it is clear that he has game changing ability.
Sure, skating ability may not be an especially strong point, and this could have been exploited on the larger ice surfaces the Olympic games will be played on, but it is hard to envision Ryan not creating adequate space to create scoring opportunities on a consistent basis. For a guy that is a pure bred offensive force, there is not much more one can ask for, but U.S. Olympic selection committee begs to differ.
In terms of trying to rationalize why Ryan did not make the roster, it can be assured that Bylsma and company will not give the whole truth, but that is to be expected. The thing that likely scared them away from the forward is that he has a tendency to take shifts off, and rumors have popped up in past years of him being a nuisance in the locker room. Recently these thoughts have begin to subside though, and it is very hard to envision a veteran U.S. roster allow any one player to derail the locker room in February.
Realistically, it is nearly impossible to justify keeping Ryan off of the U.S. Olympic roster, as he is one of the most talented players at the team’s disposal, and in fact one of the only true game changers. Does one really expect T.J. Oshie, Ryan Callahan or Blake Wheeler, amongst others, to have the type of effect that Ryan could have on any single game?
I for one do not expect any of these players — or really anyone else on the U.S. roster besides Patrick Kane, Zach Parise and Phil Kessel — to be a true scoring threat at the Olympics. When going up against the likes of Sweden, Canada and Russia this will prove to be very detrimental, and will likely result in the U.S. looking back at the moment when Ryan was not named to the Olympic roster as a decision why winning the Gold Medal was impossible from the get-go.