Let’s bring back the fireworks to American Hockey!

KeyBank Center, home to great American player Jack Eichel.
By Eddie Melville
   On this wonderful Independence Day, I was reflecting upon the state of USA Hockey. The FIFA World Cup is currently in action, a global competition that USA Soccer did not even qualify for. This has caused me to think back to the debacle that was USA Hockey during the last World Cup of Hockey in 2016. Coach John Tortorella tried to impose physical, caveman hockey on the world and his team failed miserably. A highly skilled player like Phil Kessel was left off the team for the likes off sandpaper guys like Brandon Dubinsky and David Backes. Instead of getting with the times, Torts stuck to his guns and USA lost all 3 games.   Fast forward to today and the future for Team USA looks much brighter, especially if the World Cup of Hockey does away with those silly age 23 and under teams and just plays country vs. country. There are several high-scoring American players with the speed and skill to skate with teams like Canada, Sweden, and Russia; however this will be a reality only if USA Hockey wises up and asks Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan to lead the team. Granted, I know in 2 years that our opinion of Sully as a hockey coach might change, but 2 Cups in 3 years and getting the Pens to play to their strengths of speed and skill has transformed a franchise that had become stale. Meanwhile, Torts hasn’t done anything in the Stanley Cup playoffs in a long time and certainly has been a flop leading the American squad. His coaching style is not what our great country needs if we’re going to ever top Canada in international play. So for fun, let’s say we were approaching a World Cup of Hockey later this summer. If Coach Sullivan was at the helm and he got to help pick the roster, who would be in his lineup? This is my best guess:
  • 1st Line: Anders Lee-Auston Matthews-Patrick Kane
  • 2nd Line: Johnny Gaudreau-Jack Eichel-Phil Kessel
  • 3rd Line: James van Riemsdyk-Vincent Trocheck-Blake Wheeler
  • 4th Line: Jake Guentzel-Dylan Larkin-Dustin Brown
  • 1st D-Pair: Ryan Suter-John Carlson
  • 2nd D Pair: Seth Jones-ZachWerenski
  • 3rd D Pair: Dustin Byfuglien-Shane Gostisbehere
  • Goalie: Connor Hellebuyck
  • Backup: Jonathan Quick
  • Healthy scratches: Brock Boeser, Jason Zucker, TJ Oshie, Matt Niskanen, Brian Dumoulin, John Gibson
   Thoughts? Am I way off or is this just about right for USA Hockey at this point? I believe this would be the right mix of speed, skill, and just enough physicality with guys like Dustin Brown, Dustin Byfuglien, and Blake Wheeler. With Coach Sully at the helm, this team would at least medal if not pull the upset against Canada and win the World Cup of Hockey. Too bad we have to wait until 2020 to find out.

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