Friday, 4 August 2017

Granato Claims His Post

USA Hockey announced today that their US men's Olympic hockey team will be coached by current NCAA Wisconsin Badgers coach Tony Granato. Granato is an interesting choice as he has a pile of NHL coaching experience both as a head coach and as an assistant coach, and he put together a solid 20-15-1 record with Wisconsin last season. You have to wonder, looking at the image to the left, what Granato will be able to squeeze out of a mostly-AHL roster after having the opportunity to coach players like Joe Sakic, Sidney Crosby, and Pavel Datsyuk where their natural talents carried a lot of play rather than having to teach those moments. Whatever the end results are, I do like USA Hockey's choice here for the man behind the bench in South Korea.

Granato put together a solid 102-78-17 in two opportunities with the Colorado Avalanche including going 72-33-17 from 2002-04 when the Avalanche won the division title and finished as the runner-up. He did have a pair of solid teams with Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Milan Hejduk, Alex Tanguay, and Rob Blake at his disposal, so it's not like he didn't have a pile of talent with which to work.

After winning the division title in 2002-03 by one point over the Vancouver Canucks, the Avalanche promptly went out and lost in seven games to the Minnesota Wild in the opening round. While the following year saw Vancouver win the division by a point, Granato had his team eliminate the Dallas Stars in five games before bowing out of the playoffs in six games at the hands of the San Jose Sharks.

Granato's coaching experience didn't end there. He served as an assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Penguins for five seasons in which the Penguins never finished with less than 101 points before jumping over the bench of the Detroit Red Wings for the last two seasons. He served as an assistant coach on the 2014 US Olympic team where the team finished fourth. There's no doubt that Granato is looking to claim that medal that his team missed out on in Sochi. The challenge before him, however, will be building a team strong enough to compete for a medal without the assistance of any NHL players.

"There are a lot of attractive players," Granato said at the press conference on Friday. "Unless you analyzed the pool, you wouldn't know the calibre of guys that are out there that can help us contend for a medal."

Granato's staff includes former Olympians Chris Chelios and Scott Young, former Sabres head coach Ron Rolston, and former Capitals assistant coach and current Yale Bulldogs head coach Keith Allain. There's a ton of great experience behind this bench to help Granato, and that should help the team in the long run when it comes to both selecting players and organizing them on the ice.

For the five men mentioned above, along with GM Jim Johannson and Director of Player Personnel Ben Smith, will get their only real evalution opportunity this fall when thirty American players playing professionally in Europe will get a chance to impress the brain trust at the Deutschland Cup in Germany. There will be a handful of AHL players taken into consideration as well such as Steve Moses, Chris Conner, and Troy Grosenick. In the end, twenty-five players will be selected by Usa Hockey to go, and all will have been handpicked by this seven-man team.

As stated above, I do like the selection of Tony Granato as the head coach. He has experience, he's been there before, and he has a good staff surrounding him as Hockey USA gets set for the first Olympics since 1998 where NHL players won't have an impact. The climb up the mountain to the medal podium will still be difficult for the American squad, but they have a solid group of leaders on the bench. Tony Granato just has to put it all together.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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