I will not say for sure who is going to win the gold medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, but at first glance of the invitees to the respective orientation camps, I will go out on a limb and tell you right now one team that will not – Team USA.
The adage is true that teams are built up the middle, and centre is one position where the stars and stripes are very deficient. Looking at the US centres, you have Ryan Kesler, Paul Stastny, Derek Stepan, David Backes and Joe Pavelski the most likely to compromise the top 4 in some combination or other. Those are very good NHL players, but hardly earth-shattering.
Line that group of Americans up against some of the other top countries who can throw two or three (or more) legitimate superstars up the middle: Canada (Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Patrice Bergeron, Ryan Getzlaf, Steven Stamkos), Sweden (Nicklas Backstrom, Henrik Zetterberg, Henrik Sedin) and Russia (Evgeni Malkin, Pavel Datsyuk).
The Americans have strength on the wings and depth in goal, but down the middle they are second-rate and they could be very young and inexperienced on the blue line. The potential for a dominant defense corps in a few years, but their top end skill is too young and their veterans are older and for the most part slower.
Their edge in goal is not so substantial that they can overcome their lack of depth up the middle of the forward ranks. The Americans will not be taking the gold medal in February.