Wild Insider: With Guerin managing Team USA, do chances increase for Faber and Boldy?

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Wild Insider: With Guerin managing Team USA, do chances increase for Faber and Boldy?

Bill Guerin knows he’ll have some “very tough decisions” as general manager of Team USA for the 4 Nations Face-Off in 2025 and the 2026 Olympic team.

Guerin’s closest calls could be potentially awkward, too, as the Minnesota Wild president and GM will have to evaluate whether defenseman Brock Faber and/or Matt Boldy make the cut. Just ask Steve Yzerman about the tension it caused when he initially snubbed then-Lightning captain Martin St. Louis from the 2014 Canadian Olympic team.

“They have to earn it just like everybody else,” Guerin told The Athletic. “There are a lot of good players, and if somebody doesn’t make the team, it’s not to say that they’re a bad player.

“This is all going to be merit-based.”

Guerin acknowledged the depth of high-end talent for the Americans will likely be greater than they’ve seen before, and the three-time Olympian realizes it’ll be a juggling act of mixing skills while filling different roles.

Faber, 21 and a Calder Trophy candidate, played in the Olympics in 2022 in Beijing while he was still with the University of Minnesota. Boldy, like Faber, came from the U.S. National Team Development Program and won a world junior gold medal.

They both acknowledge they have a chance to make their case up close to their general manager.

“It’s nice to have a guy who’s responsible for it in your backyard and talking to you about it and stuff like that,” Boldy said. “I kind of had that expectation that he was going to get that position, so it wasn’t going to change too much.”

Faber smiled.

“Maybe we’ll get some cookies there in the choosing of the team,” he said.

The roster for the 4 Nations Face-Off, which will be held from Feb. 12 to 20, 2025, will only feature 20 skaters, so it’ll likely be 13 forwards and seven defensemen. The American blue line is likely to feature Charlie McAvoy, Quinn Hughes and Norris Trophy winner Adam Fox, with Faber battling for one of the last spots.

“Obviously, if there was ever a chance where I’d put the USA jersey on for the Olympics or 4 Nations again, it’d be another dream come true,” Faber said.

Guerin noted these tournaments aren’t like All-Star Games, and in building a well-rounded roster, some players are going to have to “assume roles they’re not used to.” “There’s only so much ice time, only one puck,” Guerin said. “It doesn’t matter who gets what. The only thing that matters is a win. That’s it.”

Boldy knows there are players who have to step up and play a little bit differently, which is what he might have to do. “It’s not changing,” he said. “It’s more adding different layers to your game than anything.”

To illustrate how much of a challenge it’ll be for Faber and Boldy to make these teams, we both projected our roster for the 4 Nations.

Russo: I’ve got Faber making the team and Boldy having a hard time cracking the lineup barring injuries or poor performance by others next season.

With only 20 skaters, three goalies and no taxi squad (meaning one extra forward and one extra defenseman total), it’s just going to be awfully hard for Boldy to crack the team unless Guerin and his staff feel he can play a penalty-kill or bottom-six role.

As skilled as Boldy is, Guerin has been dismayed with two postseasons in which Boldy spent too much time trying to outskill his opponent on the perimeter rather than getting into the meat of the offensive zone’s dirty areas.

This isn’t an All-Star team. If it were, Boldy would have a much greater shot because his skills are on par with many of the Americans’ most skilled. But Guerin plans to build a “team,” which means more talented players may be cut in order to insert players more suited for specific roles.

With only one extra forward likely to be on the roster, it’s going to be hard for Boldy to knock off guys like the Tkachuk Brothers, Kyle Connor, Jake Guentzel, Jason Robertson and the many talented centers that may move to wing.

Just look at how difficult the calls are. I didn’t choose Alex DeBrincat, Cole Caufield, the legendary Joe Pavelski, Alex Tuch, Brock Boeser, Patrick Kane or Charlie Coyle, who could be quite handy with the number of roles he could handle.

So it will be hard for Boldy.

Hard, but not impossible. There’s a lot of time between now and the final roster decisions. If Boldy continues to play the way he has under John Hynes and the Wild make the playoffs and he puts forth some sort of serious mea culpa once there, well, he has a shot.

But even Faber isn’t a guarantee. To get him on the team, I’m keeping guys like Zach Werenski, Seth Jones, Brett Pesce, Ryan McDonagh and Luke Hughes off.

I went with the hard-nosed Ryan Lindgren, which is a bit outside the box and probably a longshot. But Guerin will want to have players in different roles, and Lindgren and Fox are one of the NHL’s best shutdown D pairs.

Quinn Hughes and McAvoy are locks.

But what sets Faber apart is he can play so many different roles, from logging big minutes in any situation to running the power play and being first over the boards on the PK.

The reality is it’ll be easier for both players to make the Olympic team, where roster sizes are a minimum of 25 players, and it’ll give them another year to further develop their games.

But if I had to pick now, Faber makes it and Boldy doesn’t.

Smith: I’ve also got Faber making the team and Boldy as one of the last forwards cut.

Like Russo said, it’ll be easier for both to make the Olympic team with a 25-man roster, plus Faber will have another couple of years to cement his status in the NHL. The blue line is pretty stacked, and I made what might seem like a surprising choice in Ryan McDonagh, though I believe his experience (’14 Olympian, two-time Cup champ) and shutdown capabilities will be very important for this younger group. I picked Werenski over the likes of Jones, Jacob Trouba (a tough cut) and Luke Hughes, who could get his shot with the Olympic team.

You can see how much Guerin and the Wild already trust Faber, and he’s shown he’s more than capable of playing meaningful, heavy minutes on the biggest stage (and already has Olympic experience).

Boldy has taken pride in becoming a two-way player, and Hynes even made the comparison earlier in the year that he has a little bit of Joel Eriksson Ek in him (a very high compliment). But there are so many other skilled wingers available that Boldy is going to have to beat out a group of forwards that includes Tage Thompson, Connor, Pavelski, etc. There’s certainly a chance Boldy makes it — no one will have a better view of his game than Guerin — but his spot doesn’t appear set in stone.

Sullivan will likely coach USA teams

The first order of business for Guerin will be to name his staff.

New York Rangers GM Chris Drury will likely be assistant GM with New Jersey Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald and Florida Panthers GM Bill Zito also candidates for the managerial staff along with Wild director of player personnel Chris Kelleher.

Pittsburgh’s Mike Sullivan as coach also seems like a no-brainer. Sullivan and Guerin have a long history together with the Penguins, and Guerin was supposed to be GM of the 2022 Olympic team and Sullivan coach had the NHL not pulled out due to the pandemic.

Guerin has indicated his hope is the staff he chooses for the 2025 4 Nations Face-Off will be the same staff for the 2026 Olympics just for continuity’s sake.

“Obviously, we were well down the road with the Olympic team at the time when the rug got pulled out from under us there, so to speak,” Sullivan told The Athletic. “And so we had gone through a process as a group there. I don’t think that there’s any better guy that’s suited to lead that group with all of the experience that he’s had and international play in the NHL and his experience as a manager than Billy.

“He’s a lot of fun to work with. Obviously, we have a long history working in Pittsburgh also, so I think it’s a certainly well-deserved opportunity for him. I’m excited for him.”

Beckman blown away by Shaw

Adam Beckman, recalled Sunday for injured Marcus Foligno, raved about Mason Shaw’s return to Iowa’s lineup after a fourth career ACL surgery.

Shaw has scored four goals and three assists in nine games.

“It’s unbelievable,” Beckman said. “I think that just you learn so much from the way he approached it, so positive and just eager to get back. Obviously when you come back from that, you’re kind of trying to find your time and stuff like that, but as of late, he’s been taking it in full stride and he looks really good. It’s remarkable.”

The Wild have noticed the vast improvement in Shaw’s skating since his first couple of games where it looked like he lost several steps. If he continues to play well, there’s a chance the Wild sign him to an NHL contract and bring him back to Minnesota. If not, they’d consider signing him in the offseason.

Beckman said Iowa recently had a 45-minute closed-door players’ meeting after an 8-1 loss to Henderson where Shaw had a lot of things to say. The next night, Iowa beat Henderson 3-2 with Shaw scoring a game-winning breakaway goal while short-handed.

“We’ve got a lot of voices, but when Mason talks, everybody listens because I think just seeing him persevere through it is even more remarkable, and I continue to gain more and more respect for him,” Beckman said. “I made mention of it during the meeting. We were down quite a bit on the Friday night, and he fought at center ice in the third period there, and just a guy’s coming back from a fourth ACL surgery, and then he’s fighting in center ice in a game you’re getting killed in.

“We had a conversation with the team, and he talks, and I finally said, ‘This guy’s showing it, right? He’s not just talking.’ And he comes back the next night and scores a huge goal. I think anybody that knows him, it doesn’t surprise them.”

As for Beckman, it’s disappointing he didn’t get a shot to play during this recent call-up. But with the Wild carrying eight defensemen, Connor Dewar closing in from a return and the fourth line leading the way in a win at Chicago, the Wild weren’t changing the lineup against the Penguins and don’t have the roster room to keep Beckman as an extra forward.

If Dewar plays against Vegas, Foligno will likely be placed on injured reserve in order to activate Dewar and keep Beckman.

But Guerin still envisions Beckman getting games down the stretch.

Foligno Bros. offend Swifties, win points at home

Marcus Foligno and brother Nick Foligno are both colorful characters, so the two of them together in a dual interview had the makings of must-see TV. And TNT got what it hoped for during Wednesday’s broadcast of the Wild-Chicago Blackhawks game: The Foligno brothers did a pregame interview with the studio panel. Paul Bissonnette asked them if they drew any inspiration from the Kelce brothers — Jason and Travis — and whether they’ve thought about hosting their own podcast.

“I don’t think we’re as interesting,” Nick Foligno quipped. “None of us are dating Taylor Swift. … Our wives are hotter.”

The whole panel cracked up. The Folignos smiled. So too, we’re sure, did their wives watching back at home.

“Definitely not in the doghouse after that,” Marcus joked.

In the game, Marcus followed his brother’s tying goal by scoring the winner in the third period. It’s the first time they’ve ever scored in the same game.

During the game, Marcus fought Nick’s much bigger teammate, Jarred Tinordi, during a heavyweight fracas. TNT panned to Chicago’s bench and Nick had a hilariously intense look as he watched his two worlds collide.

Asked what it’s like to fight one of his brother’s teammates, Marcus said, “It’s weird. Nick says they’re all good guys. I’ve seen Nick do it against us in my Buffalo days. He fought a couple teammates of ours in his Ottawa and Columbus days. Guys just know what to expect when you’re playing the Foligno brothers, I guess.

“I just feel like in the second period it was more in the battle with Tinordi. It really wasn’t like a pick-up-our-team type thing. It was more just we had a couple run-ins in the past. It was good to get him to blow up a little bit.”

Asked if he’d ever fight his older brother, Marcus said, “Not going to happen. My dad (former NHLer Mike Foligno) said ‘absolutely not.’ I think our wives would kill us. It always gets to a shoving match and that’s it.”

(Photo of Matt Boldy and Brock Faber: Charles LeClaire / USA Today)