Daily Fantasy Sports Games at FanDuel.com

2014 MLB Team Previews

The 2014 MLB season is almost here! Wild on Sports MLB Analyst Aaron Dorman brings you an in depth look at each of the 30 teams, prospects and key questions as we head towards opening day.

NFL and NCAA Cash-In

Football season is finally here! Join us each week for our weekly NFL and NCAA cash-in -- giving you the best picks each week to help put a little extra green in that wallet.

Fanduel Plays of the Week!

A look at the best NFL Fanduel values and match-ups of the week!

WildonSports Weekly Podcast

Check out the weekly WildOnSports Podcast! Now featured on iTunes.

Like what you see?

Follow us on twitter! #GAMEON

Friday, February 14, 2014

MLB 2014 Team Preview: Baltimore Orioles

Wild on Sports
http://www.baltimoresun.com/media/photo/2012-09/72324952.jpg
MLB 2014 Team Preview: Baltimore Orioles
By Wild on Sports MLB Analyst Aaron Dorman

2013 Overview: Although they missed the playoffs by a pretty wide margin, these Orioles were actually better than the previous year. Baltimore consolidated its gains from the previous year, whose “Pythagorean” record (based on runs scored and runs allowed) was only 82-80, enjoyed breakout seasons from Chris Davis and Chris Tillman, and may have a genuine homegrown superstar in third baseman Manny Machado. Still, it wasn’t good enough. Management made minimal changes over the previous winter and were left scrambling for mid-season reinforcements.

Winter Grade:
Coming: David Lough, Ryan Webb
Going: Jim Johnson, Nate McLouth, Scott Feldman, Jason Hammel, Brian Roberts, Danny Valencia, “K-Rod” A second (really a third) straight offseason of bare bones window-dressing from a team on the cusp of contention is a major disappointment. Last year it almost made sense because it was hard to know the “true” talent level of the team, but after 2014 we know this roster is good for 81-85 wins or so. Instead, Baltimore has watched their immediate competitors make drastic changes (and improvements) while their largest winter expenditure to date was on a middle-reliever who was non-tendered. To add insult to injury, Baltimore botched two publicized free agent signings, cancelling contracts with Grant Balfour and Tyler Colvin (injury concerns) and ruffling feathers in the process.
 
***UPDATE***

 What a difference a day makes! This week the Orioles finally started spending, and the results should have Baltimore fans giddy. Suk-Min Yoon and Ubaldo Jimenez are too very risky but very high-upside pitchers, and to be able to acquire them this late in the offseason allowed them to become somewhat of a bargain; Jimenez is getting paid barely more than Ricky Nolasco, who is an inferior pitcher. Losing the draft pick compensation for Jimenez hurts, but it is worth the gamble, as he led the AL in ERA over the second half of the season after rediscovering some fastball velocity and improving his command. Yoon signed for a much lower contract but two years ago he was considered to be a comparable talent to Hyun-Jin Ryu, and while subsequent injuries raise the possibility that his effectiveness could be limited (hence the underwhelming contract), the success of recent Asian imports should give the Orioles hope. Also, Baltimore has done a very good job identifying talent in this way, acquiring Miguel Gonzalez and Wei-Yin Chen under the radar. What does this mean for their playoff chances? Quite a bit; they should be very competitive in the AL East, as they have the rotation depth (if not the upside) to match up reasonably well with Boston, New York and Tampa. Chris Tillman, Jimenez and Bud Norris should be a fine 1-3 but they now have quite a few tasty options in the back end of the rotation and have the ability to mix and match. One of Yoon, Gonzalez and Chen will be a long-man until injuries strike; but also the Orioles have more options with top prospect Kevin Gausman. They can keep him starting in AAA, waiting until he is more polished to unleash him on the league, or they can use him as a bullpen ace. Their pitching should be better than last year, and will help offset any potential decline in production from Chris Davis or Manny Machado.
New winter grade: B

Wild Card(s): Midseason acquisition Bud Norris has some breakout potential. Nick Markakis has had an up-and-down career but claims last year’s disappointing numbers were injury-related.

Key Contract Years:
JJ Hardy, possibly Nick Markakis who has a $17.5 million option for 2015.

Rookies:
Kevin Gausman, a top pick from 2012, had a misleading 5.66 ERA last year in limited time with Baltimore; he struck out plenty of batters (9.3 K/9) and showed excellent control in the minors. He’s a solid bet to improve this season and fill in a rotation spot. Two dark horses for playing time on the field are Jonathan Schoop, an infielder whose numbers don’t wow but he’s always been young for his level, and older Cuban signee Henry Urrutia, who hit .347 in the high minors but who looked unimpressive in 24 games with Baltimore at the end of the year.

Key Questions:
Do they have enough pitching to compete with the rest of the division?
Will Manny Machado’s knee injury sap his mobility all year?
Who plays second base?
Was last year the real Chris Davis or will he lose that extra power and patience again?
Can David Lough hit enough to play every day?
Who is their new closer?

Farm System Overview: YELLOW (average) 
Baltimore has some top-tier pitchers in Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy, but the latter will probably miss all of 2014 recovering from Tommy John surgery. The system is thin overall but their excess pitching depth could be used to bolster the bullpen or allow them to make some more mid-season acquisitions.

2014 Prognosis: Possible Contenders
They have the talent on hand to be competitive, but they don’t play in a vacuum, and could be buried in the strong AL East, especially if a few key injuries occur, as Baltimore doesn’t have much position player depth. This isn’t just a academic question; Manny Machado’s knees could be the difference between a wild card birth and last place.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

MLB 2014 Team Preview: New York Yankees

Wild on Sports
http://a.abcnews.com/images/Sports/GTY_derek_jeter_uniform_kab_140212_16x9_992.jpg
MLB 2014 Team Preview: New York Yankees
By Wild on Sports MLB Analyst Aaron Dorman

2013 Overview:
Finally! For only the second time this century, the Yankees miss the playoffs, and unlike 2008, which went down to the wire, last year’s version was a mostly terrible team who managed to sniff contention thanks to a great manager, great bullpen, and a great, now-departed second baseman. But make no mistake: these Yankees were old and they were bad. They had easily the oldest hitting AND pitching rosters in the league, respectively. Also, they were the first Yankee team to be outscored by their opponents since…1991. Wow.

Winter Grade:
Coming: Brian McCann, Masahiro Tanaka, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Kelly Johnson, Brian Roberts Going: Robinson Cano, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez, Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, all those replacement-level third-string bums who clogged the roster last year. How do you even judge such a bat-sh_t crazy outpouring of cash? The Yankees, and Brian Cashman, deserve credit for pulling off the unthinkable…improving the team on paper DESPITE letting their only reliable star-caliber player leave for the west coast. They did it by blowing right past the luxury tax threshold and taking advantage of the new team-favorable Japanese posting system. They also lucked out with the conclusion of the A-Rod Biogenesis debacle. And we haven’t played 2014 yet. Everyone’s a year older. We’ll know in about 9 months or so whether Cashman’s magic Yankee makeover made a difference in halting the slide into the $200 million abyss.

Wild Card(s): Ivan Nova could stabilize the rotation and feel the love if he can repeat his 3.10 ERA over a full season. He could be their best starter this year and that might actually be a compliment. Meanwhile, it’s anyone’s guess what last year’s injured geezers can bring to the table: Derek Jeter’s announcement that he plans to retire after this year does not inspire confidence.

Key Contract Years: Hiroki Kuroda is going year-to-year as the 39-year-old decides if he wants to keep on playing in the US. Meanwhile, the Yankees hold their breath and hope this year ISN’T the one where it all falls apart. Brett Gardner is already eligible to be a free agent after this year; that makes me feel old. Finally, it’s up to Jeter whether or not this is one of those “fake” retirements.

Rookies: Not really. Technically, Tanaka is a “rookie”, although he’s logged 1315 innings of pro-ball in Japan. Scouting reports are glowing and he should be less than Yu Darvish but much much more than the Yankee’s last high-profile Japanese import, Kei Igawa. Beyond him, I’m not sure if there’s anyone under 27 who will make the opening day roster;

Key Questions:
This year, there are only questions with the Yankees. Almost every player has a question mark attached to his name...Was what we saw last year from Teixeira and Jeter the new norm or a slice of injury-related ineptitude? Who is Masohiro Tanaka?
Why did they swap out Curtis Granderson with Carlos Beltran, who is older and less mobile?
Why is Ichiro Suzuki still on this team?
Was Alfonso Soriano’s big return the result of happy homecoming vibes or will he take advantage of Yankee stadium’s short fences for another year?
How do they replace Mariano Rivera?
When Cano returns to the Bronx in a Mariners jersey, will he be booed or cheered?
Do the people running the Yankees realize that if Brian Roberts isn’t healthy, they might have to play Eduardo Nunez, and that Eduardo Nunez posted the fifth lowest WAR of any player in the AL?
Which means that the Yankees could have picked any random third basemen from AAA last year, plugged him into the lineup, and expected to win 2 more games than with Nunez? With Joba, are there still “Joba rules”?

Farm System Overview: RED (poor)
The Yankees got unlucky with freak injuries and bad performances from their best position player prospects, but while Mason Williams and Tyler Austin could bounce back, at this point the incredible pile-up of young arms MIA calls into question their entire organizational coaching philosophy and practices. How does a team which has regularly featured top prospects like Phil Hughes or Manny Banuelos yield so little major league pitching talent. The only Yankee farm product who has remained healthy and reasonably productive over the past decade is Ian Kennedy…but this is already territory for another article entirely. Basically, the Yankees farm system is bad. And their hope for replenishing the minors comes from the 3 first-rounder picks they signed last year and the promise to spend $20 million in this year’s international amateur market.

2014 Prognosis: Likely Contenders.
How could they not be? They have like ten Hall of Famers on this roster. This team defies a solid prediction. They could win 100 games. They could win 70. At least this year doesn’t depend on Lyle Overbay.
 

MLB 2014 Team Preview: Tampa Bay Rays

Wild on Sports
http://www.tampabay.com/resources/images/dti/rendered/2013/06/c4s_myers061713_10959890_8col.jpg
MLB 2014 Team Preview: Tampa Bay Rays
By Wild on Sports MLB Analyst Aaron Dorman

2013 Overview:
Ho Hum. Another year shedding some marquee names for prospects. Another successful 90-odd win season. Another early exit from the playoffs. Rinse and repeat. The best management team in baseball continues to turn over the roster, which has made the playoffs in 5 of the past 6 years. Even though the Athletics are good again, Tampa Bay is the new “moneyball” model, winning despite major payroll constraints brought on by a bad ballpark, in a bad location, in a small media market. The failure in the playoffs has to be increasingly frustrating, even if only because each game has such an impact on their bottom line.

Winter Grade:   B
Coming: Ryan Hanigan, Grant Balfour, Logan Forsythe, Heath Bell.
Going: Kelly Johnson, Alex Torres, Fernando Rodney, Roberto Hernandez, Luke Scott.
Did Tampa miss an opportunity? This was supposed to be the winter they traded David Price for more young talent, and there were plenty of winter meetings rumors that Tampa was looking at guys like Jurickson Profar (Rangers) or Tijuan Walker (Mariners). But they never pulled the trigger and with Jeremey Hellickson out for a while, it is more likely than ever that Price will spend another year with Tampa, considering how likely they are to contend. Unlike recent winters, where Tampa stockpiled prospects and pitching depth in exchange for their “aging” stars, this year they made fairly quiet moves, shoring up the holes in their roster in fairly unremarkable ways. Perhaps most surprising is their decision to give out a record free agent contract to James Loney, a scrap heap pickup whose surprise success is a tribute to Tampa’s coaching staff. In the past Tampa has seemed to content to let such feel-good stories go and sift through the trash for more hidden gems (Carlos Pena, Casey Kotchman), but obviously they feel like Loney’s adequacy is sustainable.

Wild Card(s):
Desmond Jennings is 27 years old this year, and has some extra breakout potential. His first two full seasons have been solid but failed to live up to the promise of his more potent rookie season. Maybe he’ll tap into more power or get luckier with BABIP (batting average on balls in play)? He showed better contact ability in the minors than what he’s displayed so far.

Key contract years:
Nobody! Yunel Escobar and Ben Zobrist are technically free agents after this year but they have insanely team-friendly team options.

Rookies:
Jake Odorizzi is likely to make the rotation now that Jeremy Hellickson is hurt for a while. He has less pure stuff than AAA team-mate Alex Colome but more polish and command. Shortstop Hak-Ju Lee missed almost all of last season, but he hit .422 in 15 games last year in AAA and could offer speed and defense. He’ll play if/when Yunel Escobar combusts (or is traded).

Key Questions:
Can Wil Myers and Chris Archer build on strong rookie seasons?
Who is their DH? Will the David Price ‘situation’ be a distraction?
Will they finally be forced to make mid-season reinforcements?
Will any of their toolsy teenagers actually turn into prospects down on the farm (see below)?

Farm System Overview: YELLOW (average)
It took a long time, but years of actually being good (which leads to later draft picks), coupled with the new rules limiting amateur spending, have trimmed the top off their once-elite farm system. All the blue-chip prospects from years past—Jennings, Matt Moore, Wil Myers—are producing in the big leagues now. What’s left are some useable but decidedly second-tier reinforcements, and an odd collection of underperforming or injured players in the lower minors. In fact, the only player the Rays have produced since 2007 who’s passed rookie status in the majors is Marlins second basemen Derek Dietrich…part of this is because Tampa has preferred high school talent in the early rounds of the draft, but those have also yielded a high amount of busts and some bizarrely sad misfires, such as first-round OFer Josh Sale, whose prospect status has tumbled on a wave of drug and behavior-related suspensions. None of their ten first round (!!!) picks from 2011 look like regulars at this point, other than maybe Taylor Guerreri…who will miss the entire 2014 season.

2014 Prognosis: Likely Contenders.
There are no saviors coming up from below this time around, but if everyone in the rotation stays healthy and lives up to their potential, there won’t need to be.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

MLB 2014 Team Preview: Boston Red Sox

Wild on Sports
http://www.concordmonitor.com/csp/mediapool/sites/dt.common.streams.StreamServer.cls%3FSTREAMOID%3D3cg_jOZWRebMfaSmUk7ujc$daE2N3K4ZzOUsqbU5sYtW7r8ORhbK8GDbzGBJ4eU$WCsjLu883Ygn4B49Lvm9bPe2QeMKQdVeZmXF$9l$4uCZ8QDXhaHEp3rvzXRJFdy0KqPHLoMevcTLo3h8xh70Y6N_U_CryOsw6FTOdKL_jpQ-%26CONTENTTYPE%3Dimage/jpeg
MLB 2014 Team Preview: Boston Red Sox
By Wild on Sports MLB Analyst Aaron Doorman

2013 Overview: The World Series Champion Red Sox had a major surprise turnaround, thanks in part to a lucky amount of short-term payoffs from free agents, but how quickly everyone forgot that the Red Sox were already blessed with an impressive core of talent. Stars like Jon Lester and Jacoby Ellsbury enjoyed bounceback seasons. Boston’s talent on the farm began to make an impression at the big league level as well; they plugged some holes in their bullpen with home-grown arms (Junichi Tazawa, Drake Britton) and were able to turn prospects into Jake Peavy, the kind of reliable arm they sorely missed during the 2011 meltdown.

Winter Grade:  A
Coming: Edward Mujica, AJ Pierzynski
Going: Jacoby Ellsbury, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Alfredo Aceves, Stephen Drew???,
Boston didn’t do very much, other than let some free agents depart (Stephen Drew remains a candidate to return as he has yet to sign a new contract). Boston made the right choice by keeping Mike Napoli, a reliable bat during a time when the offensive talent pool at first base is remarkably thin (even with Joe Mauer and Miguel Cabrera moving there next year). Losing Ellsbury won’t hurt as much as people assume, as Boston has plenty of rookie depth to provide cost-effective production(see below). Many World Series teams suffer from overvaluing their champions, but few can match Boston’s deep talent base. But perhaps their biggest change this winter was to finally stop trading away talent (Josh Reddick, Jed Lowrie, etc) for under performing relievers (Joel Hanrahan, Andrew Bailey, Mark Melancon) and just sign a usable arm in Mujica.

Wild Card(s): Will Middlebrooks has strong power potential, but if he can’t take more pitches he’s just a poor man’s Pedro Alvarez.

Key Contract years: Jon Lester, David Ortiz, (Pierzynski)

Rookies:
Xander Bogaerts will play everyday next year for Boston, either at shortstop, or third base if they re-sign Stephen Drew. He should provide instant power and plate discipline, and his offensive profile includes everything except speed. He could be a star from day one. Temper your expectations more for Jackie Bradley Jr., Ellsbury’s replacement in center, if only because he struggled initially last year when he made the Opening Day lineup. Bradley can still be expected to set the table for Boston, and his minor league pedigree is actually more impressive than Ellsbury’s was initially. At least a half dozen pitchers, including Allen Webster, Tony Ranaudo, Matt Barnes, and maybe even Henry Owens (their best pitching prospect) could show up and eat innings in the rotation, or more likely, Boston will see if any can dominate in a relief role while their veterans earn their money.

Key Questions:
How many games will Clay Buchholz be able to start?
Is Jake Peavy still an ace, or just an unreliable no. 3?
How much longer will David Ortiz maintain elite offensive production?
How quickly will Boston’s rookies establish themselves?

Farm System Overview: BLUE (Elite)
Boston has arguably the most impressive collection of near-ready talent in baseball, and boasts great pitching depth among all levels. They’re still benefiting from the rules that allowed unlimited draft spending before 2012, as high-bonus players like Bogaerts, Ranaudo, and Mookie Betts had huge seasons last year. They also have several interesting catchers who will compete to replace Pierzynski after this year. Most prospect lists (BA, ESPN, etc) show last year’s top pick, lhp Trey Ball, barely cracking the top ten, due to their stacked system.

Prognosis: Strong Contenders Big Papi’s not done yet!

2014 MLB Team By Team Preview

Wild on Sports
http://dy.snimg.com/story-image/6/67/4464298/138811-650-366.jpg
2014 MLB Team By Team Preview

Spring is is the Air!

Opening Day is upon us! The frost is starting to melt away across the country as the teams head North to kick off the 2014 season. Wild on Sports MLB Analyst Aaron Dorman will takes you on an in-depth team-by-team look around the league. Is your team primed for a big 2014?

AL East:

AL Central:
Kansas City Royals

AL West:

NL East:

NL Central:

NL West:

2014 Olympic Hockey TV Schedule

Wild on Sports
http://wpmedia-games.canada.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/dustinbrown.jpg
2014 Olympic Hockey TV Schedule

If you are looking to get your Olympic hockey fix we've got you covered with a complete list of the coverage for fans in the United States. (All times ET).

--

Alright, so the games aren't exactly in prime time here in the States but there is plenty of great action to be had kicking off Wednesday, February 12th at 12pm with 2008 Gold Medalists Sweden (Henrik Lundquist) against the always strong Czech Republic (Jaromir Jagr, David Krejci). Team USA kicks off their 2014 Olympic slate on Thursday, February 13th at 7:30am against Zedano Chara's Team Slovakia. Canada starts their pursuit for the gold against Norway (Mats Zuccarello).


2014 Olympic Hockey TV Schedule
Date/TimeGroupGameTV
Feb. 12
Noon
CCzech Republic vs. SwedenUSA
Feb. 12
Noon
CLatvia vs. SwitzerlandMSNBC
Feb. 13
3 a.m.
BFinland vs. AustriaNBCSN
Feb. 13
7:30 a.m.
ARussia vs. SloveniaMSNBC
Feb. 13
7:30 a.m.
AUSA vs. SlovakiaNBCSN
Feb. 13
Noon
BCanada vs. NorwayUSA
Feb. 14
3 a.m.
CCzech Republic vs. LatviaMSNBC
Feb. 14
7:30 a.m.
CSweden vs. SwitzerlandNBCSN
Feb. 14
Noon
BCanada vs. AustriaUSA
Feb. 14
Noon
BNorway vs. FinlandMSNBC
Feb. 15
3 a.m.
ASlovakia vs. SloveniaMSNBC
Feb. 15
7:30 a.m.
AUSA vs. RussiaNBCSN
Feb. 15
Noon
CSwitzerland vs. Czech RepublicNBCSN
Feb. 15
Noon
CSweden vs. LatviaUSA
Feb. 16
3 a.m.
BAustria vs. NorwayUSA
Feb. 16
7:30 a.m.
ARussia vs. SlovakiaUSA
Feb. 16
7:30 a.m.
AUSA vs. SloveniaNBCSN
Feb. 16
Noon
BFinland vs. CanadaUSA
Feb. 18
3 a.m.
Qualification RoundNBCSN
Feb. 18
7:30 a.m.
Qualification RoundUSA
Feb. 18
Noon
Qualification RoundNBCSN
Feb. 18
Noon
Qualification RoundMSNBC
Feb. 19
3 a.m.
QuarterfinalNBCSN
Feb. 19
7:30 a.m.
QuarterfinalNBCSN
Feb. 19
Noon
QuarterfinalUSA
Feb. 19
Noon
QuarterfinalMSNBC
Feb. 21
7 a.m.
SemifinalNBCSN
Feb. 21
Noon
SemifinalNBCSN
Feb. 22
10 a.m.
Bronze Medal GameNBCSN
Feb. 23
7 a.m.
Gold Medal GameNBC

NFL Draft Prospectus: DE Michael Sam

Wild on Sports
http://www.backstageol.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Michael-Sam-620x400.jpg
NFL Draft Prospectus: DE Michael Sam
By Wild on Sports Analyst Jennifer Jefrey

Michael Sam has become a household name within the past few days and it’s not because of his football talent. It is because he has decided to tell the world that he is a proud gay man.

He has my respect and my support. If anyone has an issue with this….grow up and get over it, there’s no crying in football. Now, let’s focus on why he may be a potential draft pick.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Upbringing...
Michael Alan Sam, Jr. was born on January 7, 1990. He has 7 siblings. When Sam was a child he had to watch one of his older brothers’ pass away due to a gunshot wound. Another one of his oldest brothers has been missing since 1998 and two more of his brothers are in prison. He also had a sister die in infancy (this was before he was born). It seems Michael has not had an easy childhood and has experienced sadness no child should ever know. But, maybe this has made him stronger,

While attending high school at Hitchcock High School in Texas, Sam traveled with the school’s football team as a water boy. When he joined the team, he was a two-way player, playing defensive end and offensive tackle.

The Player...
Sam earned first-team All-District honors as a defensive lineman in all four years of high school and also as an offensive lineman is his junior and senior year.

From 2009 to 2013, Michael attended the University of Missouri and played college football for the Missouri Tigers (was the first of his family to attend college). He was redshirted in his first year. Redshirt is a delay or suspension of an athlete’s parcipitation in order to lengthen their period of eligibility, for whatever reason. So a student may attend college classes, practice with an athletic team and dress for play, but may not compete in the games.

As a senior, Sam recorded 11 ½ quarterback sacks and 19 tackles for a loss. He led the Southeastern Conference in both categories and also tied Missouri’s single season record for sacks. He was named a semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award and the Lombardi Award.

During his college career, Sam had 123 tackles, 21 sacks, 6 forced fumbles and 2 intercepted passes.

Draft Prospectus...
Before Michael came out, he was already labeled a “tweener”, too short for defensive end and too inexperienced for outside linebacker. A few weeks ago, he did not stand out among the dozens of other major college prospects entering the NFL draft. He is a quick defensive end who moved inside on passing downs and he can beat an offensive tackle to the outside. He seems to find holes and slips through on the offensive line and battles hard until the whistle.

But, at 6 foot 1 and 260 pounds, he is apparently too short for a defensive end…hmmm, ok.

He could move to the outside linebacker but never dropped into coverage when he played for the Tigers, he could be trampled in the NFL doing that.

Sports analyst Russ Lande said:

“Overall, I think he lacks the top end-pass-rush skills to warrant being a high selection by a team that runs a 4-3 defense. Additionally, his stiffness and lack of front-line-pass-rush skills would cause me to not draft him high if I was going to ask him to play outside linebacker in a 3-4.”

Sam projects to be a fourth to seventh round pick.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

No one knows which team will draft him or even if he is talented enough to make the NFL. All we know is its going to be a tough journey trying to get on a NFL roster.

Whether he moves on in football or not, we shall all see. I do wish him good luck.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

For USA It's Miller's Job to Lose

Wild on Sports
http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/01583/ryan-miller-reu_1583070c.jpg
For USA It's Miller's Job to Lose
By Wild on Sports Analyst Jason Gillson

All the talk leading up to Thursday's opening game for the United States Men's Hockey team has been the status of who will start in goal against Slovakia. Arguably the most important position in the ice in the big game atmosphere is still up in the air according to USA Coach Dan Bylsma who, at least publicly, has yet to name his starter. It is an important decision, critical to the success of team USA and their chances to medal for a second straight Olympics.

By all accounts, Ryan Miller was the reason Team USA won the silver medal in Vancouver in 2010. He stole a game from the Canadians in the qualifying round on their home ice and carried the team on his back in the heart breaking loss to those same Canadians in the gold medal game. Without him there is no silver medal. In all likelihood no medal at all.

The Americans don't have the scoring depth of Canada, they don't have the flash of Russia and are probably neck and neck with Sweeden and Finland when it comes to all around talent.

When you are bit behind the eight-ball from the get go in terms of personal, the one great equalizer can be the goaltender and that is what Ryan Miller was in 2010 and could be again in 2014 if given the opportunity.

His biggest competition comes from Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick. Quick has a Stanley Cup to his name and was widely regarded over the summer at development camp and the country's top goaltender and likely starter for Sochi. 

After getting off to a shaky start to the season, Quick missed over a month of the season due to injury before returning to the ice mid-December. Since his return from injury his play has look more like that of the Stanley Cup winner goaltender than what we saw early in the season, but that is what you get with Quick. 

At his best the ceiling is probably the highest of any goaltender in the red-white and blue. The consistency is the wild card. Quick plays a very aggressive style that serves him well behind a group of excellent more stay-at-home defensemen in a system that prides itself on limiting quality scoring opportunities to opponents. How that translated to the larger Olympic ice surface behind more offensive minded defensemen remains to be seen.

For Team USA this is really a good problem to have. You have two goalies who they feel very confident in that potentially could backstop them to the Medal Round. But who is going to win it? Who is it going to be?

Coach Bylsma may have tipped his hand a bit on Tuesday. “We know who we’re going with, but we haven’t told the guys (Miller or Quick) just yet. We’ll make that announcement before our first game," said Bylsma, whose primary job is the Pittsburgh Penguins’coach.  

"In our situation, we've had a goalie play real well all year long, and we've had two goalies that have had injuries that have come back in the last month or so,” he said. “You might have some ideas in the summertime. This year, we let it play out. We've seen all our goalies play really well, and we've seen Ryan play the whole year and do very, very well on a team that's struggling. And Jonathan’s got a track record, and he’s come back in the last month and he played well as well.”

The "all year long" and "summertime" comments really stick out and may hint that Miller has the slight edge. He has been very strong all year for the Buffalo Sabers who have probably the worst team in the NHL playing in front of him. Despite his team's deficiencies, Miller boasts a .923 save percentage and 2.74 goals against. Quick's save percentage (the primary stat used when comparing goaltenders) stands at .911 in limited action this season.

The numbers trend to and the coach hints to it once again being "MillerTime" at the Olympics. For Coach Bylsma it's the right decision to make.

Great Deals from our Sponsors

Google+