As summer slows the pace of hockey news to a crawl, this week gives us the opportunity to look ahead to an upcoming series of events that, while on their own, may not be riveting in the prime-time sense, will go a long ways towards determining just who we will be focusing on next February, as the NHL takes its regularly scheduled two week Olympic break. While we unfortunately will not be looking at every participating nation at this time, our focus will be with the continental units and their upcoming orientation camps. The provisional US squad meets first, congregating between August 17-19 at the Seven Bridges Ice Arena in suburban Woodbridge, Illinois. The following Monday (Aug. 24) marks the opening of the Canadian Olympic Orientation camp, held over four days in the Pengrowth Saddledome in downtown Calgary, Alberta.
1. US Olympic Orientation Camp – Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something St. Louis Blue
With 34 players invited to next month’s camp, we may be able to get a good idea of who will be part of the official 23-man roster of players chosen to represent the Stars and Stripes in Vancouver. For example, it is customary for an Olympic squad to carry 3 goaltenders, and US General Manager Brian Burke has only invited three to camp; Tim Thomas, Ryan Miller and Jonathan Quick. Barring injury considerations, these will be the goaltenders for Team USA. Tim Thomas and Ryan Miller were, without a doubt, the top two American goalies in the NHL last season, as measured by GVT. Craig Anderson and Scott Clemmensen both performed better than Quick last year, but Anderson has a poor performance track record (sample size be damned!) playing for his nation on the international stage, while Clemmensen was only used as the 3rd-stringer on this summer’s IIHF tournament behind luminaries Robert Esche and Al Montoya, effectively demonstrating the faith placed in him by Team USA brass.
One of the aforementioned injury considerations revolves around the absence of the name of Rick DiPietro from the invite list. Although he missed practically all of last season, so too did Erik Johnson, of golf cart infamy, yet Johnson will be skating in Woodbridge. Addressing this question at a news conference, Burke let on about the difference between the two, saying, “Erik Johnson is based in large part on what we know of the player and what we believe he’s going to be. And I don’t think a player should be penalized and excluded just because he’s injured. Now in Rick’s case...it is my understanding that he will not be available for this camp at any rate, based on his injury.”