U.S. Olympic Team: Panthers need not apply

Ok. So Florida's Keith Ballard didn't make the cut.

We can live with it. We've survived - more or less in contention - without Michigan native and potential Olympian David Booth for the past two-plus months, so we can swallow the reality of a Team USA featuring zero Panthers.

Other than tragedies caught on video and emotional outbursts which quickly become the toast of YouTube, we Cats fans are acclimated to our heroes getting less-than-zippo screen time, even in our own back yard. Short of this, it'll remain that way until the Panthers grab a playoff spot.

But was the "slighting" of Ballard or even Jordan Leopold the correct path for USA GM Brian Burke to travel?

Florida backup goaltender Scott Clemmensen, an Iowa native, effectively played his way out of consideration long ago, for better or worse. Hey, even the vaunted Craig Anderson missed, so pipe down.

Word on the street - ok, Facebook - has many folks believing America's representation in the Vancouver Olympic Games will be of the softer, less competitive variety.

As always, Russia, Sweden, and of course Canada are the favorites going into the what may be the NHL's final appearance in the once-every-four-years NBC broadcast orgy (which only focuses on ice hockey during the last medal game anyway).

Was the omission of Baudette, Minnesota's Keith Ballard from Team USA a mistake? "Grand" is probably overstating things, and Burkie undoubedly knows how to construct a winning team, but will it hurt?

Jack Johnson, Erik Johnson, Mike Komisarek are Ryan Suter are that much better, that much more reliable? Bryan Rafalski gets a pass here, and Paul Martin is an old hand at the international game as well. Brooks Orpik just won a Cup, so there's his backstage entry. But aren't the others - whom we'll all raucously cheer for in mere weeks - at least ballpark to what Ballard or Golden Valley, Minnesota's Leopold might bring to the games, this season's stats aside?

Perhaps, but youth is the order of the day. Got to applaud Burke for building the American program with an eye toward the future, but jeez: Bally's 27, plays with insane heart, and does so on a - gulp - mediocre team.

Your take?