USA Hockey Takes Step Back in 2010 From WhatIfSports.com image

Team USA Powerplay

Team USA beat Canada, but could they beat Team USA?
By Ryan Fowler, WhatIfSports.com
February 24rd, 2010

Hockey is inherently American as rhubarb pie.

Yet, as I watch the 2010 Winter Olympics play out, I sense the pressure is mounting on the United States' national team to bring home the gold.

When it comes to hockey in the states, the vice of American pride has strengthened its grip since the "Miracle on Ice", but more recently when the winter games was granted its first taste of NHL talent in 1998.

It's almost as if, for two weeks, every four years, American hockey fans adopt Al Davis' mantra of, "Just win baby!"

Remember: rhubarb (not Rosebud).

The United States' strides to improve its position on the podium have come a long way since 1998 when the red, white and blue were left green, envious of missing out on the medal round completely.

Though Whatifsports.com has learned if you look at the strength of the last four Olympic rosters, the United States has slipped up on the ice.

Once again, using our Dream Teams feature, Whatifsports.com loaded up the 1998, 2002 and 2006 U.S. Olympic rosters with the NHL players. Our hockey simulation engine based its predictions off of their statistics for that season.

To gauge the growth of Team USA we paired up each previous Olympic roster against the 2010 Olympic team.

The same hockey simulation engine used to create these results is available to YOU for FREE . Just check out our NHL SimMatchup tool. It's great if you ever wanted to see if your favorite NHL team could knock off one of the elite franchises in hockey history.

2010 Olympic Team vs 1998 Olympic Team
MatchupWin%Avg Score 
2010 Olympic Hockey Team 61.03.7Boxscore
@ 1998 Olympic Hockey Team 39.03.0Simulate Game
1998TeamUSA

Naga-no medal for you Team USA.

The 1998 national hockey team left prim and proper Japan with a tarnished image as troublemakers more than elite hockey players. Reports of hotel rooms trashed forced people to forget these Olympic athletes were some of the best on skates in the world.

They may have beat hockey powerhouse Belarus, but guys like Brett Hull, Chris Chelios, and Mike Modano possessed the power to propel hockey on to the front page of newspapers. Instead, a smudged reputation followed coach Ron Wilson and his 23 players on their flight back to America with no medals dangling from their necks.

The 1998 team could not redeem themselves in the Whatifsports.com world either. Team USA 2010 beat the boys from over a decade ago 61% of the time by nearly a goal a game.

However, 1998 Team USA's goal per game average of 3.0 did eclipse their average goals per game from Nagano. In four Olympic matches that February, they averaged 2.25 goals per game.

2010 Olympic Team vs 2002 Olympic Team
MatchupWin%Avg Score 
2010 Olympic Hockey Team 33.82.4Boxscore
@ 2002 Olympic Hockey Team 66.23.2Simulate Game
2002TeamUSA

Four years after the nightmare in Nagano, Team USA graduated with a Bachelor of Awesome.

Brett Hull and the boys found the silver lining of losing the gold medal game to Canada by winning silver in Salt Lake City; a 180-degree turnaround from the meltdown in the previous winter games.

The 2002 squad was so efficient and the roster so loaded with talent, in Whatifsports.com's hockey simulation, playing Team USA 2010 1,001 times, Team USA 2002 won 2 out of every 3 games.

Thanks to the goaltending of Mike Richter, and compared to the average score versus Team USA 1998, the 2002 squad sliced the 2010 offensive output to fewer than 2.5 goals per game.

2010 Olympic Team vs 2006 Olympic Team
MatchupWin%Avg Score 
2010 Olympic Hockey Team 41.63.0Boxscore
@ 2006 Olympic Hockey Team 58.43.4Simulate Game
2006TeamUSA

One of the headlines read "Do You Believe in Mediocrity?"

Not the way Team USA wanted to follow-up its silver medal performance. Yet, this was the medicine the national team was forced to ingest following an early exit from the 2006 winter games in Turin, Italy.

This time it was Finland shoving the United States into the Mediterranean and out of the podium picture for the second time in the past three Winter Olympics.

Even with the struggles of the 2006 hockey team, the roster was loaded. The team just didn't live up to expectations or the potential the previous Olympic icers had set.

The roster bursting with talent did make up for it in these simulations. Though they took a few steps back, Team USA 2006 still beat the 2010 version over 58% of the time.

2002 Olympic Team vs 2006 Olympic Team
MatchupWin%Avg Score 
2002 Olympic Hockey Team 51.53.08Boxscore
@ 2006 Olympic Hockey Team 48.53.06Simulate Game

It's hard to shock the world ever since the 1980 team beat the mighty Russians. However, few thought the 2010 national team could upset Canada on their home soil. Goalie Ryan Miller led his team to the prelim-win as he stood before a firing squad of hard rubber discs.

But when 2010 met 2002 and 2006 Team USA, the statistical soiree favored the veteran squads. As illustrated in the table above, the strength of the 2002 and 2006 teams are pretty even. However, many of the same players particpated in those two Olympic games.

Take a look at those rosters. Some of the best hockey players of all-time represented the country those Olympics. Now, compare that to the youth movement the 2010 team is enduring and one has to admit these guys deserve a treat at the end of the day.

Some golden apple pie perhaps?

The same hockey simulation engine used to create these results is available to YOU for FREE . Just check out our NHL SimMatchup tool.

If you are looking for an uber-fantasy hockey experience, make sure to check out our SimLeague Hockey.

Ryan Fowler is the Digital Content Manager for Whatifsports.com and can be reached at rfowler@whatifsports.com.

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