“We picked Chris Drury because he’s Chris Drury,” Team USA General Manager Brian Burke said. “We know
what he can do. We think he provides essential leadership. We think
he’s as good as another coach in the dressing room. He’s one of the
first players we reached out to when we put this team together. He’s
been involved from the get-go. I don’t have to say anything else about
Chris Drury except he’s Chris Drury. He represents a lot of things we
need to be successful there.”
That's how Team USA justified selecting the veteran center to reporters on New Year's Day.
But apparently, that leadership doesn't come with a title.
Today, Burke and the USA Hockey program announced their captains and alternate captains for the upcoming 2010 Olympics.
Captaining the squad will be New Jersey Devils forward Jamie Langenbrunner. His alternate captains will be fellow New Jersey forward Zach Parise, Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Suter, Los Angeles Kings forward Dustin Brown, and Detroit Red Wings defenseman Brian Rafalski.
Drury, Langenbrunner, and Rafalski are the only players on the USA squad with previous Olympic experience.
With these selections, Team USA's intentions are clear: foster youth leadership. Both Parise and Brown are 25 years old while Suter is 24. Thinking long term, should the NHL continue to participate in the Olympics, Team USA will have young experienced leadership to carry their program.
With the likes of prominent USA-veterans Mike Modano, Mike Richter, Brian Leetch, Bill Guerin, Brett Hull, and Jeremy Roenick gone, the US National Program has had to deal with the transition toward youth.
However, to sing the leadership praises of Drury and then snub him in favor of 25 year-olds, could send mixed messages to the US squad.
Can Drury effectively lead when, technically, Parise and co. are above him? In hockey, unlike many sports, the captaincy and alternate captaincy means less in the locker room. Granted, the players with those letters sewn to their sweaters are respected, but it doesn't mean that a veteran without a letter are not.
Players respect Drury, regardless of the letter on his chest, but he has earned the right to wear one.