Intent on building a smart, speedy squad that can transition quickly from offense to defense and back again on wide Olympic ice, Team USA executives decided that statistics mattered less than hockey sense and that a strong body of work outweighed injuries to many bodies.
"We left off some top players for the first time," General Manager David Poile said. "Our problems are getting close to what Canada's are. We've never had this depth to deal with.
"I'm not trying to say we're at that level. But I can give you 10 or 12 players who, depending on what city you're in, you'll get arguments that they should have been on the team."
The roster, announced Wednesday after the NHL's Winter Classic at Ann Arbor, Mich., incorporates 13 players from the silver-medal-winning 2010 Vancouver team, including goaltender Jonathan Quick and forward Dustin Brown of the Kings. Cam Fowler of the Ducks is among six Olympic newcomers on defense.
"I was pretty nervous, but once my name was called it was just pure joy. I was so happy. I'm still smiling. I can't stop," Fowler said. "What a great honor and just a very proud moment for me."
Quick was the third U.S. goalie in 2010 but won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the Kings' 2012 Stanley Cup run. He has been idled by a groin injury since Nov. 12 but is scheduled to play twice this weekend for the Kings' farm team in Manchester, N.H.
"There are some great goalies that would have been great options for the team, and for them to choose me, given that you're dealing with this injury and everything, really says a lot and it means a lot," Quick said. "So you're just going to try not to let anybody down."
Brown, part of Team USA's leadership group, said before the announcement he considers it a huge honor to represent his country. "What I always say about the Olympics, it's another level," he said. "Doing it in 2010, going into it, you didn't know what to expect at the Olympics. It's an awesome tournament, just a really fun thing to be a part of."
Among the biggest surprises was the omission of former Ducks winger Bobby Ryan, whose 18 goals for Ottawa ranks third among Americans in the NHL. His lack of speed and an all-round game hurt him. Poile said forwards such as Winnipeg's Blake Wheeler, Toronto's James van Riemsdyk and Montreal's Max Pacioretty have speed and scoring potential, and Blues winger T.J. Oshie has chemistry with teammate David Backes. In addition, Poile insisted on taking five centers, which benefited the New York Rangers' Derek Stepan.
On defense, Poile said Washington's John Carlson stood out, and he said of Fowler, "I would defy anybody not to think that he deserves to be on the team," after his play improved dramatically.
There's no provision for naming alternates, but injured players can be replaced until shortly before the Feb. 13 opener against Slovakia. Poile said several players who barely missed being selected will be asked to be on standby as potential replacements.
The 21-member U.S women's team also was announced Wednesday, led by four-time Olympian Julie Chu of Fairfield, Conn. Team USA won the first women's Olympic tournament, in 1998, but Canada has won the last three titles. Forward Amanda Kessel made the roster shortly before her brother, Phil, a high-scoring winger for the Toronto Maple Leafs, was named to the men's team. Forward Anne Pankowski of Laguna Hills was one of two final cuts.
Quick isn't the only member of the men's team battling an injury. Defenseman Paul Martin of Pittsburgh has a broken leg, and Backes (upper-body injury) and Minnesota left wing Zach Parise (foot) have recently missed games.
Detroit's Jimmy Howard, the third goalie behind Quick and Buffalo's Ryan Miller, recently returned from a knee injury, but Poile said Howard's playoff success was a persuasive factor in choosing him over other candidates. Poile applied that reasoning to Quick.
"Based on his body of work, what he's done in winning a championship and being the Conn Smythe winner, we will give him all the time necessary to get ready," Poile said.
The Winter Classic, played in a steady snowfall, drew an announced crowd of 105,491 to Michigan Stadium, an NHL record. The Maple Leafs defeated the Red Wings, 3-2, in a shootout. Commissioner Gary Bettman called the game "everything we hoped for — the biggest and best New Year's Day party in our history."
2014 U.S. Olympic hockey team roster (NHL club):
Forwards: Dustin Brown (Kings), Ryan Callahan (New York Rangers), David Backes (St. Louis), Patrick Kane (Chicago), Ryan Kesler (Vancouver), Phil Kessel (Toronto), T.J. Oshie (St. Louis), Max Pacioretty (Montreal), Zach Parise (Minnesota), Joe Pavelski (San Jose), Pau Stastny (Colorado), Derek Stepan (New York Rangers), Blake Wheeler (Winnipeg).
Defensemen: Cam Fowler (Ducks), Paul Martin (Pittsburgh), John Carlson (Washington), Justin Faulk (Carolina), Ryan McDonagh (New York Rangers), Brooks Orpik (Pittsburgh), Kevin Shattenkirk (St. Louis), Ryan Suter (Minnesota).
Goalies: Jonathan Quick (Kings), Ryan Miller (Buffalo), Jimmy Howard (Detroit).
Times staff writer Lisa Dillman contributed to this report.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun