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Jim Cerny's Rink Rap


January 12, 2010 7:20 PM

Langenbrunner Named Captain for Team USA

langenbrunnercov.jpgThis isn't going to get much play in the press, certainly not when considering the fact that Mark McGwire just announced that---shocker!---he did take steroids during his Major League Baseball career, but USA Hockey announced today that Devils' captain Jamie Langenbrunner will serve as captain of the 2010 US Olympic Hockey Team in Vancouver.

Really this had not been a well-kept secret. Langenbrunner has been spilling the beans to the Devils beat writers himself.

But secret or not, this is a solid choice by the powers-to-be at USA Hockey, including team GM Brian Burke and head coach Ron Wilson.

Langenbrunner is one of the most underrated players---and captains---in the sport, though not to those who follow the game closely, and certainly not to anyone within the Devils organization. Hard-working, intense, respected, no-nonsense, honest, big-game player. Those are just a few of the adjectives that can be used about Langenbrunner.

He is also a two-time Stanley Cup winner---once in Dallas, and once in New Jersey. He is now a two-time Olympian. He is a four-time 20+ goal scorer, coming off a career-best 29 at the age of 34 a year ago. He led the all scorers with 11 goals and 18 points during the 2003 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Langenbrunner's resume is so impressive. Yet so few really appreciate his value.

Now he will have the opportunity to help shape the future of the US Olympic program by leading an extremely young squad in Vancouver that will be the core of future Team USAs---if the NHL continues to take part in the Winter Olympics. And I think he is the right man to captain this band of (mostly) youngsters.

Many believed when Chris Drury was selected to play for Teams USA in '10 that he would be the captain. And though I believe Langenbrunner is the correct choice as captain, what is Drury's true value to this team if he is not the captain? Drury's on-ice play has diminshed so that you can most definitely make the argument that others---even vets like Mike Modano or Bill Guerin---make more sense on this roster.

Drury's value to this team---as a three-time Olympian, captain of two NHL teams, and with one Stanley Cup ring---seems to be as a leader, the captain. But he is not even an alternate. Brian Rafalski, Ryan Suter, Dustin Brown, and Zach Parise landed those slots.

Burke said today on a conference call, "We know what Chris Drury can bring. He doesn't need a letter."

That is true, and Drury will still be a valuable member of the leadership core of Team USA in February. But in hockey, there is something special about wearing a letter. And if this is really Drury's value to the US Olympic Team, then him not wearing a letter stands out more than if he was not selected to play on the team.

After Rangers' practice this morning, Drury replied with a quick "No" when asked if it mattered to him if he would wear a letter with Team USA. But that's all he had to say about it. Hmmmm.

Nonetheless, none of that should take away from the announcement about Jamie Langenbrunner, a well-deserved honor for an understated, but perfect, choice as captain os the 2010 US Olympic Team.

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