Brooks Orpik Doesn’t Belong on Team USA Olympic Roster

Brooks Orpik doesn't belong on Team USA Olympic roster. (Kris Krug)

Brooks Orpik doesn’t belong on Team USA Olympic roster. (Kris Krug)

Brooks Orpik doesn’t belong on the Team USA Olympic roster. As THW’s Mike Colligan pointed out, Orpik’s game has declined. He’s slow of foot, and he’s unable to keep up with any speedy forward. We’ll let Mr. Colligan explain exactly where Orpik’s game has faltered. This article is about why Orpik doesn’t fit the mold of Team USA’s defensive corps.

There was never a better time for any defenseman to know Dan Bylsma and Ray Shero. They both play major roles in Team USA’s Olympic operations with Bylsma being the head coach and Shero an assistant general manager. The duo probably had Orpik on the USA roster since the three of them have Pittsburgh Penguins’ ties. This move was more than likely predetermined before any of the Team USA scouts started compiling a list of defensemen qualified for consideration.

If we break down the makeup of the team, Orpik versus the rest of the defenseman who made the team,  Orpik doesn’t make sense. He’s known as a steady stay-at-home blue-liner. His physicality is his best attribute, especially on a Penguins’ team that isn’t known for their bruising style.

Brooks Orpik Pittsburgh Penguins

While the other defensemen chosen for Team USA have some offensive skills, Brooks Orpik does not. (Jeanine Leech/Icon SMI)

Team USA sought out all puck-moving defensemen for the Olympics. None of the players chosen are known as physical forces such as Orpik. Defensemen were chosen to compensate for the Olympic-sized ice rink. There was a need for defensemen who could skate and make quick breakout passes. To sum this up, Team USA chose offensive-minded defensemen, or ones who had some dangle to their game.

Puck-moving defensemen tend to record their fair share of assists. Every defenseman on the U.S. roster has more helpers than Orpik. He is the only defenseman on the U.S roster who doesn’t have a power play point recorded this season. Orpik has the lowest point total ranking 28th amongst U.S. born defenseman. He gets many point shots blocked, and struggles to make tape-to-tape breakout passes. He has three goals in his last 167 games. No defensemen on the roster compares with Orpik’s meager offensive statistics.

Click the link below to compare the statistics of the defensemen chosen versus Orpik’s statistics.

Team USA Defensemen NHL Statistics (extraskater.com)

If team USA was looking to fill roster spots with physical defensemen, Orpik would be the man. He’s fifth among U.S. blue-liners in hits with 135. But this is 60 more than any other defenseman representing Team USA in Sochi. Justin Faulk has the second highest hit total (75) among defenseman on the U.S. roster. That’s not even half as many hits recorded by Orpik.

Brooks Orpik will have his hands full on the larger Olympic ice surface against the world's best players.(Icon SMI)

Brooks Orpik will have his hands full on the larger Olympic ice surface against the world’s best players.(Icon SMI)

Even if you believe Team USA needs a stay-at-home blue-liner who is physical, would you have chosen Orpik as your top choice? Is Orpik’s defensive prowess that respected throughout the rest of the league outside of the Penguins’ organization?

As someone who’s seen nearly every game Orpik has played this season, I will tell you that he wouldn’t get my consideration for the 8th and final defensive roster spot on Team USA. If there was one roster spot left and I composed a list of five defensemen who I would consider for the final pick, Orpik would not be among those five players.

Orpik doesn’t fit in with the type of defensemen who were chosen to represent USA at the Olympics. He’s not known for his skating, he isn’t a puck-moving defenseman. The other defensemen do hold these attributes. Bylsma and Shero put Orpik on the roster since he plays for their NHL team. If we’re being honest, Orpik doesn’t belong on the Team USA Olympic roster.


Justin Glock
Justin Glock has covered the Pittsburgh Penguins for The Hockey Writers since 2011. As a lead writer, his Penguins knowledge traces back over two decades. For any requests, please feel free to contact Justin via email: JGlock10@gmail.com.
Justin Glock
@RobElbaz every game since he left PGH. There's the pre-Crosby Pens fan..& the Post Crosby fan. We should feel privileged. - 2 days ago
Justin Glock

16 Comments

  1. Dead on with your view and only justified by his play especially in the Canada game. He was the reason for the goal. He was covering Benn and couldn’t body him or lift his stick. Then interviewed between periods about how he’s playing against Crosby. His reply was shocking, not hard hitting as he would someone else in regular play (paraphrasing). Disgusting! You’re there to play for the honor of your country, not protect your star player on the other team, so he is OK for Cup playoffs, when you get back to the NHL. Is this how the Coach saw it too and the Assistant GM?

  2. I’m not worried about Orpik. We lose the Gold because we have Ryan Miller in as Goalie.

  3. I certainly respect your opinion and your argument on the matter, but i feel that Orpik does belong on the roster. As a lifelong penguins fan my bias may cause me to feel strongly about this topic, however i believe he does pose as a valuable asset to the American squad. He is that rough, bruising defenseman that teams need to have. He may not fight or be “as” physical as he used to be but hes still not afraid to dish out a big hit. Like you said more ice, just means more room for Orpik to operate. Im not that worried about his speed and keeping wingers in front of him because he’s good at forcing them outside and cutting out the middle lane drives, and he can block shots. The goal scoring argument is irrelevant because look at how many shots he takes…not many. He is that primary blue line passer and he brings that leadership to a talented defensive group. Lets also point out that Paul Martin’s numbers are similar to Orpik’s but you didnt make any mention or comparison to the two.

    Again well written article, and good points. I don’t feel the same, but thats what is great about us as Americans. We are all welcome to our own opinions.

    • Clint,

      I have the utmost respect for what you said. Just bc we have a difference of opinion doesn’t mean we have to go around bashing one another. Your points are well taken. I did not include Martin bc he missed nearly 30 games this season. He’s played in way fewer games than Orpik. I know Orpik isn’t a scorer but everyone else on the roster seems to have the opposite mentality. Again thanks for your respectful opinion and for reading.

  4. Because I am a Pen’s fan and like Orpik, I was coming over to just comment and tell Justin how wrong he is. However, after reading Justin you make good points and I have to agree for the most part. The only thing I didn’t like was;

    “As someone who’s seen nearly every game Orpik has played this season, I will tell you that he wouldn’t get my consideration for the 8th and final defensive roster spot on Team USA. If there was one roster spot left and I composed a list of five defensemen who I would consider for the final pick, Orpik would not be among those five players. If I were searching for a physical defenseman who can move the puck and contribute offensively, I would’ve taken a serious look at James Wisniewski.”

    That was a little harsh. With that said, it was a good article.
    Ed V.

    • Ed,

      Thanks I’m glad you agree. I don’t have anything against Orpik. He’s still efficient and a quality Dman.And I’ll agree with your stance on the referenced comment. He may do great, I hope he does for the sake of USA and the Pens. But I’m just saying that he doesn’t mix in with everyone on USA comparing skill sets. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  5. Orpik is a veteran leader, he’s won a stanley cup and a silver medal in 2010. Do you think experience means nothing? Hockey is not all about flash and glam. What about blocking shots? Penalty kill? Clearing the zone? Not ever player has to be the same(puck moving offensive dman like you say about 40 times) You talk about his offensive production. Orpik has only shot 34 times, it’s not his game. Just about everyone else on your little list has 100-160 shots. He’s obviously the top physical dman the USA has and that’s why he made it, pair him with a top puck moving dman and you’ve got your self a shut down combo.

    • I don’t disagree but do you think he’s the best shutdown guy to play on this team? And I know all the other facets of the game but they could find a Dman who could do both. Bc they were obviously looking for skilled guys. But thanks for laying out some good points and reading.

  6. Just because Orpik does not fit in with the other defensemen does not mean he does not deserve to be on Team USA. We need defensive D-men to help Ryan Miller. He’s one of the best in the NHL but you put Buffalo’s defense in front of him and look what happens. Hockey isn’t just about scoring goals, it’s also about stopping them.

    • You’re getting technical but the title says doesn’t belong. I think we know there’s more to just scoring, but if you listen to the Pens and Bylsma, all they talk about is offense. Bylsma wanted Dmen who were gifted offensively. I have Orpiks off. Stats bc they don’t really compare to anyone else’s. Hence he stands alone. Even if they need a shutdown Dman, do you think Orpik is the best option?

  7. Lay off Orpik. And stop pretending to know who deserves to be on the Olympic roster because you don’t. If your opinion mattered then you’d have had a say in filling the roster.

    • Tim,

      I’m not trying to tear up Orpik. He’s a decent Dman. I’m saying he doesn’t fit well when comparing him to everyone else on the roster. It’s an opinion, just how you just gave yours. Thanks for reading.

  8. As well written as Colligan’s piece was this is basically the opposite. Team USA needs balance on their defensive corps, they need toughness as well as puck movement.

    Given that, Orpik is slowing down for sure. Mostly though he has been making a ton of bad decisions this season, in particular since the assault he suffered in Boston. He has not passed the eye test since he came back from the concussion. My thoughts:

    1) He’s a pylon around his net, is constantly getting caught watching the play, not taking the right guy, and seems to have lost the ability to protect his net from screening forwards. Although he remains supremely talented at laying out guys just after they scored, often right into his goaltender.

    2) His gap control has deteriorated, often letting fast forwards blow by him. It’s so obvious he’s about to get his doors blown off sometimes you wonder how he can react so slow to an obviously developing situation.

    3) Hesitation with the puck is another big issue, allowing forwards to pressure him when he had all day to make a play, then either turning it over, or setting up his forwards receiving his passes to get blown up – he really leads a lot of his teammates into dangerous situations with his passing.

    4) Never been good at the point, #44 has now gotten noticeably worse, and is often the biggest reason the Pens can’t sustain offensive zone time when he is on the ice. Pens need their D to hold pucks in, make decent passes, or hit the net with shots. Orpik’s game has deteriorated at all of that in the last couple years.

    5) His physicality has diminished. He still hits people, but not nearly as hard, forwards no longer have to fear him stepping up and crushing them.

    On the other hand Brooks Orpik did have a decent start to the year, and does have a history of stepping up in the biggest games, as he did in the last playoffs, when he significantly improved his game and was totally solid through 3 series. I imagine this is why team USA has him on the roster, the belief that he can elevate his game, and the fact he played great in the last Olympics. That or Pens management, and USA’s as well must be blind.

    Hopefully he does come around, and the Olympics are a springboard to a great finish to the year. Personally though, I am in the wait and see crowd, and am very nervous if he doesn’t come around Bylsma will keep playing him, costing the USA precious games.

    There you go, that was a little better don’t you think?

    • Thanks for reading, but no not better. All you do is repeat Colligan’s article. This wasn’t written to bash Orpik, and that’s why I put what I thought he lacked in his game in one paragraph. Everyone on Team USA’s D is a puck-mover Orpik is not.

      You bash him, but then think he should be on the team? This is different than Vancouver, and four years older for Orpik. And Team USA has him on the roster b/c Bylsma is the head coach and Shero is a GM. I hope he does well, but he doesn’t fit, and I don’t think he will prevail.

  9. Andy Greene would have been a better choice for the big ice.

    • Looking at the rest of the roster, there are def better choices, I agree. If they wanted a physical defenseman, they should’ve have split 4 physical D and 4 puck-mover/skilled D. Have an even split of the two types of defensemen. I think Greene would be worth consideration.

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