With Canada and the United States having just released their respective invitation rosters for the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi, there is to no one surprise’s the endless arguments of who will make the respective clubs and, of course, which country will have the better team.
While the Vancouver Games do seem like yesterday, they weren’t and that’s evident by how much has changed in terms of who will be wearing the maple leaf or the stars and stripes this time around.
Being the defending gold-medallists alone should be enough to give Team Canada the definitive edge heading into Sochi. In addition, their roster of invitees – which includes Drew Doughty, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter of the Los Angeles Kings – should supply enough ammunition to invoke fear in any of the other countries. But it doesn’t.
While Team Canada will have much of its 2010 roster intact including gold medal hero Sidney Crosby, nothing should be taken away from the United States. After all, the Americans did push Canada right to the brink in Vancouver falling just short of realizing their 30-year-old gold-medal dreams.
While Quick played third-fiddle to Ryan Miller and Tim Thomas in Vancouver, the 27-year-old backstop has accomplished quite a lot since then – and that is why, simply put, he should lead the US in goal in six months time.
While Quick has since earned a Vezina nomination and, more importantly, won a Stanley Cup and a Conn Smythe, he’s showing no signs of slowing down. Not even back surgery could derail his on-ice performance.
Earlier today, Greg Wyshynski of Puck Daddy wrote whether Jonathan Quick could handle the pressure of being the number-one guy for the US in goal in February.
In the risk of sounding bias, how is that even a legitimate question?
If anything should deter Jonathan Quick from starting in Sochi next winter, it should be the Los Angeles backstop taking the same path as Patrick Roy in 2002 when he passed up an opportunity to represent Canada at the Olympics to save his energy to focus on helping his Colorado Avalanche make a Stanley Cup run that spring. Outside of that, I don’t see how Jonathan Quick can’t be the USA’s starting netminder in Sochi, especially after Ryan Miller’s game going to hell since Vancouver and Tim Thomas getting thicker from his Chick-Fil-A diet.
Of course, in all fairness to Miller, he has had to play in front of a defensive unit in Buffalo which is horrible to say the least. With my admitted favoritism towards Quick, notable mention is certainly deserved for Detroit’s Jimmy Howard and New Jersey’s Cory Schneider. As far as I’m concerned, though, they should be expected to battle for the number-three spot on the American squad if anything. But in the immortal words of Principal Seymour Skinner, “Prove me wrong, kids. Prove me wrong.”
Can Jonathan Quick handle being the starter for the US Olympic team? Of course he can. Does anyone not remember the 2011-12 season when the Los Angeles Kings just barely got into the playoffs and Quick single-handedly took the second-worst offense on his back en route to winning the Stanley Cup? Quick’s outstanding performance that spring helped the Kings become the first team to eliminate the top three seeds in a conference since – oh nevermind, they were the first team. As for Quick’s individual performance, his 1.41 goals-against average and .946 save-percentage were the best playoff numbers posted by a goaltender since some guy named Terry Sawchuk nearly 60 years earlier.
I have been watching hockey since I was a young child and I can honestly say that Jonathan Quick is the only goaltender I don’t get nervous for when the opposing team finds itself on a breakaway or, worse, a two-on-one.
In his three full seasons since the Vancouver Olympics, Jonathan Quick has averaged a league-best 2.21 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage. In his last three postseasons, Quick has posted an average of 2.14 GAA and a .931 save percentage. While I mentioned that the defense in front of him has grossly underachieved, Ryan Miller hasn’t even come close to those numbers. In fact, with all due respect, none of the other goaltending invitees for the United States have even come close to achieving what Quick has lo these last few years.
Yet, despite everything he has accomplished, Jonathan Quick still does not get the credit he deserves – especially from the pseudo experts on TSN which include former goaltender Jamie McLennan and Toronto Sun writer Steve Simmons who both spend more time grinning like idiots than they do thinking of anything half-logical to say.
After all, according to TSN, Roberto Luongo is a lock to be Team Canada’s starting goaltender when, just a few months ago, the same people claimed that Luongo’s career was over.
But I digress.
If Jonathan Quick is not in the net when the United States open their Olympic schedule next February, I won’t be so much shocked as I will be infuriated. As stated last month in New York, Kings’ GM Dean Lombardi certainly believes Quick will get the starting job and why wouldn’t he? After all, he’s had a first-hand look of how great a netminder the Milford, Connecticut native is – unlike most “experts” who claim they go to bed before the Kings play one of their home games – and that statement makes me believe one of two things of today’s sports media: One, despite using their respective Twitter accounts ad nauseum, these experts don’t know how to benefit from today’s technology or two, these experts have become so fixated on living vicariously through their children that they too think they are eight years old and share the same bedtime as a result.
As confident as Lombardi is of Quick’s abilities, he doesn’t have the final say. That task goes to general manager David Poile who will most likely select his final roster shortly before the New Year.
Whatever the case may be, there is no way today’s media can rely on such an easy copout like the East Coast bias when these same people talk about Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard until they’re blue in the face.
While both countries fought for the gold medal in 2010, the bigger ice surface may prove to be a liability for both Canada and the United States in Sochi. With that said, I don’t believe the ice surface will be too much of a liability that it will deter the medal chances of either side. Of course, countries like Sweden and host Russia certainly have a good a shot, if not better, to capture gold in February than Canada or the United States.
As of today, though, the argument is whether Jonathan Quick has what it takes to be the starter for the United States just over six months from now. With all due respect, though, for anyone to ask such a question needs to first ask themselves whether hockey really is the sport they know most about.