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Bylsma: ‘Blue-collar mentality’ is Americans’ strength

Feb 11, 2014, 3:45 PM EDT

Dan Bylsma Getty Images

On a team loaded with talent, Dan Bylsma is focusing on the team’s ability to put in work.

“We have a blue-collar mentality,” the U.S. Olympic head coach said on Tuesday. “That is where our strength is at.”

It’s not surprising that Bylsma, a bottom-six grinder during his nine-year playing career, is embracing his team’s workmanlike characteristics. The style served the U.S. well in Vancouver four years ago, allowing six goals in five games en route to the gold medal game, three coming in a win over Canada in the preliminary stage.

While Ryan Miller took home most of the accolades for that defensive effort, others contributed with a decidedly lunch-bucket approach. Veteran forward Chris Drury killed penalties and blocked shots with aplomb. Captain Jamie Langenbrunner also turned in a gritty performance, as did the likes of Ryan Kesler and David Backes.

Four years later, the American team displays similar characteristics.

Rangers captain Ryan Callahan seems primed to fill the Drury mold, even though he plays wing instead of center. A heart-and-soul guy, Callahan was a bit player in Vancouver but should have a more significant role this time around, thanks to his ability to block shots (he led all NHL forwards with 66 during the lockout-shortened ’13 campaign) and play the body. Callahan acknowledged he’ll probably be asked to kill penalties in Sochi, one of his prime responsibilities with the Blueshirts.

“I’m guessing I’ll be doing that, yeah,” Callahan said, per the New York Daily News. “It’s always a big part  of my game.”

Dustin Brown, a holdover from the ’10 team, is another that embodies the blue-collar approach with 187 hits this year, third-most in the NHL. Same goes for T.J. Oshie, tops among Blues forwards in blocked shots.

All these players seem to share similar traits — speed, tenacity and the ability to get nasty if need be. Bylsma said this was all part of the selection process.

“We looked at the strength of each player and we thought we would be a good skating team, a smart and intelligent team,” he said. Our group is toughest to play against.

“Look right down the line from the top to the last defenseman. We are tough.”

  1. jpdoc26 - Feb 11, 2014 at 3:55 PM

    I love Dan Bylsma

  2. Shanahammer - Feb 11, 2014 at 3:56 PM

    This reminds me of those high school team right ups when the coach of the worst team in the league says “mental toughness” is their strength

    I would prefer “Talent” to be the Americans strength. Rather then taking everything Pittsburgh, with exception of their best players, who are obviously not American. Because Blue Color mentality is really that teams strength.

    • jpdoc26 - Feb 11, 2014 at 4:06 PM

      Yeah, all those “right” ups.

    • xdj511 - Feb 11, 2014 at 4:13 PM

      If you could verify for me that english isn’t your primary language, I would sleep better tonight.

      • hammerhead5573 - Feb 11, 2014 at 6:26 PM

        xdj511 – please go have a beer on me. There is not going to be a better comment on PHT today. In fact have a 12 pack on me.

      • xdj511 - Feb 12, 2014 at 10:46 AM

        Thanks but I’d probably end up sounding just like our pal Shanahammer there, lol

    • gino97 - Feb 11, 2014 at 4:47 PM

      Eye menemba all those hi skool rite ups 2

  3. penguins87and71 - Feb 11, 2014 at 6:38 PM

    I’m interested to see how Dan Byslma will fare without having the two best players in hockey in Crosby and Malkin. I’m curious to see if Dan Byslma changes his coaching style just because he doesn’t have Crosby and Malkin on his team.

    • chanceoffleury - Feb 11, 2014 at 7:03 PM

      He’ll probably do just fine. Crosby and Malkin were both out in 2011 and he and the Pens still tied Philly for the highest score in the Atlantic. and Backes, Kane, Parise, Suter, etc. are far better than what he was working with then. I’m not saying Team USA isn’t gonna have their work cut out for them, but I don’t think anybody, even Canada, is gonna blow them out of the water when they meet up.

  4. nicknyhc - Feb 11, 2014 at 10:32 PM

    My big concern with Bylsma is his style of play with the Penguins.

    I really hope he doesn’t try the run and gun Pittsburgh style of play with Team USA against teams like Canada/Sweden/Russia. I think if Team USA is going to be successful they need to play a more dump and chase style game and lay the body on. Let the guys like Callahan, Backes, Oshie, Brown etc do the board work and grind.

    The Swedes are well rounded, Canada is near perfect, the Russians have a loaded top 6 but questionable defense. The European countries, especially Russia, can’t match the US in terms of grit. Don’t open it up and run and gun.

  5. 19inarow - Feb 11, 2014 at 10:50 PM

    They’re still missing the second leading American born NHLer, who also happens to be mad tough, and played his college games on the larger ice. But I’m sure they’ll win the gold, anyway. 😛

  6. csilojohnson - Feb 11, 2014 at 11:16 PM

    Bylsma does not coach a run and gun system in Pittsburgh. They have a tendency to get lulled into that game. Not the norm. Never the game plan.

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