Hello, and welcome to a new (as of two weeks ago) feature on CarolinaHurricanes.com where I take your Twitter questions and answer them in mailbag form. You may recall that I used to answer questions on Twitter each Friday. Same idea here, but with two differences: it’s on Wednesdays, and I get more than 140 characters to work with, which will hopefully provide you with more insight.
Let’s get to it.
What is the reason we haven’t seen Justin Faulk play? – Vince G. (@GranieriV)
I’ve gotten this question quite a bit since the beginning of Olympic play last week, and I don’t particularly have an answer since I’m not in Sochi, and I have no insight into Dan Bylsma (by the way, here is a great feature on Team USA’s head coach from Michael Farber of Sports Illustrated: http://olympics.si.com/olympic-ice-hockey/2014/02/18/usa-ice-hockey-dan-bylsma) and his coaching staff’s decisions.
It just so happens that Faulk, the youngest Olympian on the roster, has been the odd defensemen out since game No. 1 – for whatever reason. Since then, Team USA’s defense, which surrendered just four goals in three games in front of both Jonathan Quick (who will be starting in the quarterfinals) and Ryan Miller, hasn’t given the coaching staff a real reason to make any changes, likely a big reason why Faulk has remained on the sideline as an extra. Ultimately, it looks like Faulk is simply a victim of the colloquial “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” maxim.
It’s certainly disappointing from a Hurricanes perspective, especially seeing what a vital role he’s become in the team’s defense since breaking into the league in the 2011-12 season. It’s also a bit surprising considering what came out of the Team USA selection process via Scott Burnside’s excellent reporting (http://espn.go.com/olympics/hockey/story/_/id/10195703/how-us-hockey-team-bound-sochi-olympics-was-named), in which it seemed Faulk was virtually a roster lock in the early going. He also possesses a wealth of international experience, as documented in our Olympic profile of the defenseman (http://hurricanes.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=704404), and is quite familiar with the big ice.
The United States’ final preliminary round game versus Slovenia was probably Faulk’s best shot at cracking the lineup, and the roster remained stagnant. So, unless there is an injury moving forward in the elimination rounds, I’m not certain Faulk will see the ice in an Olympic game.
On one hand, it’s a shame that it appears he won’t get to at least tick the Olympic games played column as just a 21-year-old. On the other hand, simply traveling to Sochi and practicing with the team is an unrivaled experience in his young career. And, most importantly for the Hurricanes, he will be healthy and fresh for the playoff push ahead in the final 25 games of the season.
I’m sure it’s been asked a million times, but if the USA medals and Faulk never plays, does he still get a medal? – Jamie K. (@jbk_ltd)
This has indeed been a hot topic of discussion, especially on Twitter as of late. And on Tuesday, we got an answer from Dave Fischer, the senior director of communications for USA Hockey.
The United States will face the Czech Republic at noon on Wednesday, Feb. 19. Should they win, they will advance to take on the winner of Canada vs. Latvia in the semifinals on Friday, Feb. 21. The result of that game would then determine their placement in a medal game, and Faulk will hopefully (and proudly) bring one (the gold, preferably) home, even if he doesn’t see one second of ice time.
Will our Olympians meet the team in Buffalo or Dallas, or get some time at home before the road trip? – Carolyn G. (@goCanes_score)
Tuomo Ruutu (Finland) and Faulk (USA) are still involved in tournament play, so they’ll hang around in Sochi a little longer. The bronze medal game is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 22 at 10 a.m., while the gold medal game will be played on Sunday, Feb. 23 at 7 a.m. Should one of the players be involved in the gold medal game, he will then meet the team in Buffalo, assuming everything travel-wise is copacetic. I would say the same could be said for a player involved in the bronze medal game.
As for Andrej Sekera and Alexander Semin, whose national teams were eliminated in Tuesday’s qualification round and Wednesday’s quarterfinals, respectively, they will be traveling back stateside in the coming days. Sekera averaged just over 24 minutes of ice time/game in four tournament games on the bigger international ice, so he will likely sit out of team practices – which begin Thursday at 11 a.m. at Raleigh Center Ice – for a few days, at least. Semin didn’t log as much ice time, but I would expect he would get some additional rest, as well.
Two-part question: What aspect of America is your favorite, and why did you pick freedom? – Nick H. (@GorgonReviews)
That’s easy. Freedom.
Is there really anything else I could have said?
Well, maybe T.J. Oshie. I mean, did you see his incredible shootout performance against Russia on Saturday? (http://www.nbcolympics.com/video/tj-oshie-plays-hero-shootout-us) Like I tweeted over the weekend, T.J. Oshie and freedom are very different, of course. One is a beacon of hope and a foundation for America, and the other is freedom.
Join me next week for more questions and more answers!
If you have a question you’d like answered, you can reach out to me on Twitter at @MSmithCanes.
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