PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – The men in charge of selecting the U.S. Olympic team are going to need more time to make their final decisions.
Brian Burke had hoped his management group might come to a consensus this week in California, but acknowledged after a four-hour meeting on Monday that it wasn’t likely to happen. Instead, Burke and his lieutenants isolated a small group of players they need to see more before unveiling their roster at the Winter Classic on Jan. 1.
“We just did a scouting schedule to watch some guys,” Burke said Monday night. “We won’t have this done until maybe two nights before we announce the team. We just identified guys we have to go see again.”
The scouting will start on Thursday night when Anaheim visits San Jose. Burke and his management group – David Poile, Paul Holmgren, Ray Shero, Don Waddell and Dean Lombardi – will attend the NHL’s board of governors meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday.
They’re essentially down to a group of six players that are vying for three spots on the 23-man roster. There’s plenty of debate.
“Guys are passionate about guys they like,” said Burke. “We’ve been doing this for 16 months now and guys are passionate about guys they’ve seen. It’s funny, you can watch a guy five times and he doesn’t have a good game for you and then another GM swings in and watches him three times and he’s first star three times.
“There’s some heated debate.”
Burke acknowledged that a couple players who didn’t attend the summer orientation camp in suburban Chicago remained in contention. One of those guys is likely Colorado Avalanche goaltender Craig Anderson while another is believed to be Buffalo Sabres forward Paul Gaustad.
The U.S. Olympic executives will grind over every decision.
“We don’t think we have much margin for error,” said Burke. “If Canada’s wrong about two or three guys, it’s not going to change their team. We think we have to be right on virtually everybody.”
Team Canada will face the Americans in its third round robin game on Feb. 21. Burke knows that he won’t be a popular man in Toronto during the Games.
“I have no illusions or delusions about where Maple Leaf fans are on this,” said Burke. “It will be a period of two weeks where I will keep a very low profile. It was very cute, a guy came up to me on the subway last week – I take the subway to work one day a week – and he said, ‘Mr. Burke, I want to wish you all the luck in the world. I can’t wait until they hand you that silver medal.”‘