Top Line: Inside Team USA's selections; Winter Classic magic; more links
An annotated guide to this morning's must-read hockey stories:
• Here are two of the best pieces you'll read this year: USA Today's Kevin Allen and ESPN's Scott Burnside were embedded with the Team USA staff during the Olympic selection meetings, giving them unprecedented insight into the hotly debated process, including why some noteworthy players didn't make the final cut.
• Steve Simmons says the experience of yesterday's Winter Classic will be hard to top.
• The passion of the fans was the real story in Ann Arbor, according to Chris Johnston.
• Bruce Arthur believes the beautiful, messy imperfections of the Winter Classic are what make it great.
• David Staples says that scoring at even strength will be key for Team Canada in Sochi, and adds that few players are better in that situation than the Oilers' Taylor Hall. His five-on-five numbers make for a pretty interesting case, as does his hot streak heading to the selection deadline. But will it be enough? I think defensive concerns could sink his chances.
• Should Canada hire a full-time national junior team coach? Considering how important the World Junior Championship is to the country, and the potential impact that a decision this bold could have on the program, this idea is well worth considering.
• You may not want to watch the highlights of Team USA's 5-3 loss to Russia this morning at the WJC in Malmo, Sweden, but somebody went to the trouble of working them up in gif form so it would be rude not to, right?
• The kid they call Shrek has been a monster for Team Canada.
• They dress eight rookies, but the Lightning aren't just young … they're young and really good. • Did you hear that the Panthers are having attendance problems? It's not just a bad team … it's a bad fan experience.