Penguins GM turns attention toward U.S. Olympic roster

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Ray Shero spent the past few days immersed in the past, remembering his father, Fred, as he was inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

He not only read and heard countless tributes to his dad, a former Philadelphia and New York Rangers coach who died in 1990, but also delivered his induction speech Monday evening.

Shero, the Penguins general manager, plunges back into the present today and won’t even have to leave Toronto to do it.

He and the other NHL GMs are scheduled to meet, and when that session is complete, Shero will get together with other members of Team USA’s executive staff to discuss the makeup of their 25-man roster for the upcoming Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

The roster must be submitted in late December.

Shero offered a self-described “guesstimate” that “eight to 10” places spots remain unclaimed, and suggested Team USA GM David Poile and his staff are able to do practically frame-by-frame assessments of players’ work in the NHL to assure they reach the best-informed conclusions possible.

“We all know there are some locks, but the guys in consideration, we have their shifts [on tape] the next day,” Shero said. “We can look at their entire game from the night before, to get up to speed. We have guys who are out scouting, too.”

He and the other members of the staff do plenty of firsthand scouting, as well, in the course of handling their day jobs.

Last Wednesday, for example, Shero got to observe Ryan Callahan, Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh during the New York Rangers’ 5-1 spanking of the Penguins at Madison Square Garden.

Some players’ resumes, international or otherwise, might be enough to earn them serious consideration, if not a guaranteed spot, in Sochi. Shero, though, stressed that getting selected will not be a lifetime achievement award, but largely a recognition of performances in 2013-14.

“It’s a pretty short tournament, so we need players who are on top of their game,” he said. “We need chemistry. That’s important. All those things, we discuss. It’s an ongoing process, but it’s really been a good process.”

While he didn’t delve deeply into specifics, Shero acknowledged that several young players have performed well enough to force their way into consideration for places on the team. He cited Nashville rookie defenseman Seth Jones and Montreal center Alex Galyenchuk as primary examples.

“Take the age out of it, and they’re real good players,” he said.

Shero also made it clear that if any young players end up on the squad, it won’t be simply to expose them to the Olympics, with the goal of benefiting them in future tournaments.

There are times, he said, when getting young players experience in international competition makes sense. The world championships, which take place annually during the Stanley Cup playoffs, is one such event. The Olympics, regarded by most NHL people as the pinnacle of such events, is not.

“The mandate is to bring the best team, the best players,” Shero said. “In terms of the Olympics at Sochi, it’s not the place to introduce players to international ice hockey. You’ll bring the best 25 guys you can get to form a team. They’ll have to play multiple roles to help out in a short tournament.”

Poile is an inclusive sort who values input from colleagues he trusts. And while he ultimately has the final say on personnel matters, the preferences of the coaching staff for players to fill specific niches — say, for a penalty-killing forward or depth defenseman — likely will have a major impact.

“He needs all the information, the good and the bad,” Shero said. “At the end of the day, it’s David’s decision, as the general manager of the team.”

Until that time comes, however, Poile and his staff will continue to pore over game reports, to conduct conference calls, to call upon their own experiences and insights and instincts.

The stakes? Put together the right team, and the United States might return home with a medal. And if things break the right way, it might even be a little shinier than the silver Team USA earned in Vancouver in 2010.

It all starts with assembling the correct personnel mix, and the meeting today will be another important step in that process.

“By the end of December, we’re going to have to have our roster,” Shero said. “But there is still some hockey to be played and some decisions to be made.”

Dave Molinari: and Twitter @MolinariPG.

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