NEW YORK – Confirming speculation that circled earlier in the week, USA Hockey introduced Stanley Cup winning Dan Bylsma as head coach of Team USA for the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
David Poile, General Manager of the Nashville Predators, was named to the same position for Team USA as well.
The announcement took place at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York City’s Times Square on Saturday morning.
David Poile said of appointing Bylsma: “We wanted a winner, a guy who could handle coaching a group of stars and someone passionate about USA Hockey.”
“We found our man,” he said emphatically.
Beyond the announcements, the session focused on the construction of the 2014 team and how Team USA will build a roster for international ice.
“The nucleus of the 2010 team will be back, but we will make adjustments based on the ice size and previous failures overseas,” he added.
Both Poile and Bylsma expressed a premium on skating and puck moving, but that the core of the 2010 silver medal team will be there.
The core consisted of players such as Dustin Brown, Phil Kessel, Patrick Kane and Ryan Suter.
Poile even went as far to say that you will likely see the past two Conn Smythe winners, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Quick in Sochi as expected, but nothing further was said regarding specific roster assignments.
Bylsma, who is known for his fast-paced, attack-style of hockey as the coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins says he is diligently studying the best methods to compete for gold on the bigger sheet of ice and knows his roster must possess talent fit for that style of play.
Credence was also paid to some of the young Americans who succeeded at the World Juniors and World Championships as deserving a look for 2014.
Bylsma inherits a great deal of pressure after the team captured silver at the 2010 Vancouver Games under then Maple Leafs boss Ron Wilson.
To that end, Ron DeGregorio, USA Hockey President said: “We want to work on our silver medal performances. Now in the U.S. winning gold is not a miracle, it’s an expectation.”
This is the first USA head coaching experience for Bylsma who has been behind the Penguins bench for five seasons, amassing a 201-92-25 record and the Jack Adams Trophy (league’s best coach) in 2011.
That same year, Bylsma was voted the coach that NHL players would most like to play for in a CBC poll.
Since the 2010 Olympics, the Grand Haven, Michigan product has consistently shown interest in leading the U.S. team in Sochi – thus Saturday’s announcement is a fulfillment of that pursuit.
“My previous involvement with Team USA was limited by my playing ability,” Bylsma laughed.
“There will be great hockey teams and players in Sochi and it will be a challenge on foreign soil. But we have great players and we’re up for the challenge of bring gold back to the United States,” added Bylsma.
Another of the more prominent questions asked of Bylsma at the event and on Twitter was how he plans on stopping his club players, Sidney Crosby (Canada) and Yevgeni Malkin (Russia).
“I’m acutely aware of their strengths, but they also know my strengths as a coach and I’m worried they’ll use that against me,” Bylsma joked.
He also noted watching Crosby’s golden goal with Canada at a restaurant after his son’s hockey game in 2010 with a group of other onlooking USA fans.
“When I saw Sidney spin off the corner boards, I stood up, because I knew that with that angle on Miller he was going to put that home,” said Bylsma.
Poile is the architect of the Nashville Predators, a small-market NHL team with eight playoff appearances in the past ten years. Poile’s 31 consecutive years as an NHL general manager is the second longest active streak.
“We all have one goal and that is gold in Sochi,” Poile affirmed.
This is Poile’s second Olympic experience after serving as Brian Burke’s associate general manager in Vancouver, affording him critical international experience and success.
Ray Shero, who is Bylsma’s general manager in Pittsburgh, flanks Poile as an associate general manager for the U.S. team. The two worked together for eight years together in Nashville before Shero moved into the Penguins organization.
Shero was named the top GM in the NHL this season – an award voted on by his peers.
Brian Burke has also been tapped as director of player personnel for the 2014 Sochi team.
Burke earned a lion’s share of the credit for Team USA’s silver medal performance in Vancouver, after carefully assembling a youthful squad laden with both talent and tenacity.
Assistant coaches were not named although both Poile and Bylsma insisted they would complete the process in “short order.”
Team USA also announced its pre-Olympic camp for August 25-29 at the Kettler Ice Complex outside Washington D.C. where the Capitals practice and train.