With his team eliminated from medal contention in Turin in 2006, dejected U.S. Olympic hockey coach Peter Laviolette faced a packed room in his final post-game press conference. In a sportswriter's fantasy world, the coach would have prefaced his remarks with, "You know, most of you out there gave us no shot at a medal, and boy, I guess you guys were bang-on."
He didn't, of course. Real life -- even the Olympics -- doesn't work that way. Laviolette, professional as ever, merely fielded questions about the implosion of his 1-4-1 team that rarely got the big save from Rick DiPietro or the big goal from his formidable offensive threats, including the frustrated Mike Modano, whom he benched in the final game, a 4-3 quarterfinal loss to eventual silver-medalist Finland.
But the truth was this: The U.S. team in Turin was too old, essentially a second (and third and fourth) coming of the 1996 World Cup champions that was playing on memory. Not that general manager Don Waddell had all that many options, no wellspring of excellent choices that Hockey Canada faces every four years. Too many of the talented, younger American players simply weren't ready in 2006. Maybe they are now.
Four years later against stacked Russian and Canadian teams and the dangerous Swedes, USA Hockey will find out if this Lost Generation of young players can again produce a medal if not a miracle.
A year away from the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Olympics, this is what Team USA could look like.
No. 1: Tim Thomas
Although Ryan Miller is the probable No. 1, the unorthodox Thomas does nothing well except stop the puck and win. Every Thomas save is like a snowflake, different from every other, but notice how rarely the red light goes on. Vancouver could be the workingman's goalie's moment.
No. 2: Ryan Miller
Recovering from a broken thumb sustained late in 2005, Miller, a potential difference-maker in Turin, was foolishly left off the 2006 squad. (Waddell should have taken a flyer on him instead of John Grahame or Robert Esche.) Miller will be an integral part of this team, assuming he gets the starting job.
No. 3: Jonathan Quick
If the NHL ultimately does send players to Sochi 2014, the Los Angeles Kings rookie would benefit from the Olympic experience.
Brian Rafalski is a veteran of the 2006 and 2002 Games.
David E. Klutho/SI
First pair: Ryan Suter (left) and Brian Rafalski (right)
This will be a first-rate, puck-moving pair, capable of dealing with high-tempo Olympic hockey. Suter is starting to blossom while Rafalski, a power-play catalyst, is having one of his best NHL seasons with Detroit.
Second pair: Ryan Whitney (left) and Mike Komisarek (right)
Komisarek is the physical shutdown defenseman, playing the customary Derian Hatcher role for Team USA. Whitney has been slowed by his foot injury that required surgery last summer, but that will be in the rearview mirror next February.
Third pair: Paul Martin (left) and Jack Johnson (right)
There is a paucity of right-side American defenseman, but if the oft-injured Johnson is healthy and has a solid start next fall, he can play regular minutes and provide some oomph. If not, John-Michael Liles adds a puck-mover to the pair.
Taxi squad: Johnson/Liles and Matt Niskanen.
Scott Gomez had five points in six games at the 2006 Games.
David E. Klutho/SI
First line (left to right): Zach Parise, Paul Statsny, Phil Kessel
Kessel has all-world speed, but needs a center to get him the puck. Scott Gomez, the other prospective center of this line, carries it too much, which would not take the proper advantage of his two superb wingers. Parise, who has a chance for 50 goals this season, could dazzle.
Second line: Dustin Brown, Scott Gomez, Patrick Kane
Brown is the ideal banging/scoring winger for two skaters who should be able to work give-and-go's. Despite his current sub-par performance with the Rangers, few are as passionate about playing for Team USA as Gomez.
Third line: David Booth, Chris Drury, Brian Gionta
Team USA would have a third scoring line with the emerging Booth and Drury, who often plays well in pressure situations. The problematic element is the undersized Gionta, whose production has slipped every year since Turin. Jason Pominville might fit in that spot.
Fourth line: Jason Blake/Pominville, Ryan Kesler, Jamie Langenbrunner
As much as we like Paul Gaustad, Kesler figures to best fit the role of checking center. If Pominville can't play the off wing -- he's a right-handed shot -- Blake, who can play either wing and has been a bright spot in Toronto this season, will likely be willing to return to his crash-bang, fourth-line roots and do whatever he must in a last hurrah for Team USA.
Taxi squad: Blake Wheeler and Blake/Pominville.
MUIR: My 2010 Team Canada roster
MUIR: First take on Team Canada (Aug. '08)
YOUR TURN: Debate Farber's and Muir's picks