Wide Gap Between Canada And The Rest Of The World Part 2

It starts with CHL and younger leagues. That is the meaning of the results of the recently revived World Cup Of Hockey. That is the reason for the huge gap in quality of play, now not only between Canada and the dozen “B level” countries which been around for too many decades to count, but now between Canada and the other “traditional 6″ hockey powers, Russia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, USA, Sweden and Finland. The World Cup was a total mismatch, with no real competition except two all star hybrids Europe and North America. All hockey fans are glad to have the World Cup back after 12 years hiatus but the tournament was an embarrassment.

There is only one good hockey country in the world now, Canada. They have stated in no uncertain terms that hockey is a Canadian game. If Canada wanted to get revenge for the humiliation of having no Canadian teams participate in last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs, they got it in spades. It is a good thing that the NHL is not organized on nationality lines with only Canadians playing for Canadian teams and Americans and the rest of the world playing on American teams. No American city would come within sniffing distance of the Stanley Cup – for decades.

All the World Cup did as a follow-up to the last two Olympics in Vancouver and Sochi was confirm how dominant Canada is in hockey, now pulling away from everybody else with no real competition in sight. And they did it without two of their very best players, Duncan Keith and Connor McDavid. They have now won 16 consecutive meaningful international games and that is no fluke. It is time for the rest of the world to wake up and address the gap in quality of play between Canada and everybody else or this gap will continue to the end of time. They have to do what Canada did in 1972 after the famous Canada-USSR match.

Back then there was almost total ignorance in Canada about the state of international hockey outside of its borders. The only warnings came from certain individuals who had been following international hockey for the previous decade and knew that amateur and minor league teams like the Trail Smokeaters who last won the World Championship for Canada in the early 1960s could not compete against the best of the world anymore and that only the very best players of Canada, playing in the NHL had a chance of winning. So ignorant was Canada about the USSR that it was even speculated that a team of NHL “goons” would be enough for an eight game sweep.

CanadaUSSR

Despite narrowly winning the series 4-3-1, Canada ate humble pie – a lot of humble pie. The revelation of near defeat led to a revolution in Canadian thinking about many aspects of hockey. It was now recognized that some European countries and the United States were catching up in quality of play to Canada. They took the result seriously. There was no blindness to what was going on in the sport of hockey as there is today in international baseball with the United States scornful and degrading reactions to the repeated results of the World Baseball Classic (see my article about the state of international hockey versus international baseball on this blog about this matter). Canada was prepared to adjust to the new reality of international hockey conditions.

Before the series, it was possible for NHL players to spend the summer laying about and guzzling beer before training camp. It was recognized that the USSR nearly defeated Canada because of its superior conditioning. After the match with the USSR, woe to the NHL player who reported to his autumn training camp out of shape. It would now cost him his job. Better conditioning in hockey was a direct result of this first international match. This lesson and much more was absorbed by Canada.

The results of two Olympics and now the World Cup, 16 straight defeats shows that it is time for the rest of the world to eat the same humble pie Canada did. And the lesson of the World Cup is that no country can compete with Canada now and in the future until they revise their junior and younger programs in their own countries. The CHL is the most obvious example of Canadian domination. It has been and continues to be the best program for training young players at the junior level in the world. No one else is close.

Many of  the top European and most of the best American players in the NHL got their training and development playing for the Canadian and handful of American franchises in the CHL. So great is the desire to get in, that the CHL has had to put restrictions on the number of Europeans a team is allowed to employ. And why do so many junior Americans and Europeans want to play in Canada? Because the training and experience they get is the best in the world and if they distinguish themselves against the top Canadian juniors, a ticket into the NHL and guaranteed fame and riches will follow. If I am a boy with hockey skills who lives in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Visby, Sweden and Kazan, Russia, I want the chance to prove myself against the best Canadian boys because if I succeed, I’ll have picked up the skills and training needed to become a high NHL draft choice.

Now look at the ridiculousness of the current international hockey situation. When asked about how the composition of the American team which could not beat anybody was chosen, the answer from management was that they were chosen “to beat Canada”. But where do American and European boys have to go to get their best training and development? You got it, Canada, and what does that say about the quality of training that they get in their own countries? It is just not good enough and the result is two Olympic gold medals, a World Cup triumph, and 16 straight victories for Canada. If you say that your goal is to “beat Canada” but you have to send your best young players to your mortal enemy to be trained effectively, it is the height of absurdity.

It is now time for the rest of the hockey world to eat humble pie and study the lessons of these defeats. And the main lesson is to revise the junior and younger hockey programs and systems in your own land so that your country produces and develops hockey players of the quantity and quality that Canada produces. That is meaning of this World Cup. No country that seriously wants to compete effectively with Canada can avoid doing this. Producing a winner for the World Cup and the Olympics starts at the junior and younger levels of hockey. Countries that want to win will have to conform with the Canadian junior model or devise something better. Right now, everybody else is playing for second place.

chl

There are approximately 60 CHL junior teams in Canada and the Northern United States, but you could double that number to 120 and stuff all the new teams exclusively with Americans and Europeans so long as they got the same training and development that Canadians do. Maybe then there would be some parity restored and a real expansion in international quality from the “big 7″ to the “big 16″. Let Canada train your children in hockey. They are the experts.

But the real solution is to set up junior systems in other countries that matches or exceeds the CHL. Until this is done, no country can be taken seriously as an international hockey power. Right now hockey is a Canadian game. There is nobody else.

Wide Gap Between Canada And The Rest Of The World Part 1

Mismatch, pure and simple. That is the message Canada delivered to the rest of the world after going undefeated in the revived World Cup Of Hockey in 2016. Team Europe gave it a gallant try, considering that they were supposed to be the joke of the tournament. The two defeats in the Final to Canada, 3-1 and 2-1 were not a disgrace. They showed they belonged on the same ice.

But they still lost and going back to the Vancouver Olympics of 2010 and including  the Sochi Olympics of 2014 and the World Cup of 2016, Canada has now won 16 straight games. The Canada of the Sidney Crosby era is more dominant now than when Bobby Orr and Bobby Hull were its star players in the 1970s, and later when Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux led them in the 1980s and 1990s. That’s not a fluke.

The Canadian junior machine and younger leagues, symbolized by the CHL, keeps turning out top players en masse on schedule with no end in sight. When the Sidney Crosby era ends, the Connor McDavid era will begin. In 2018 in the Winter Olympics in South Korea and 2020 when the next World Cup will be played expect more of the same. Everybody else is playing for second place. There are no real challengers in sight. What is very revealing is that Team Canada played without two of its best players and still won easily. Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks arguably Canada’s first, second, or third best defenseman was injured, and Canada was not allowed to have its best young player, Connor McDavid who had to play for Team North America. One shudders to think how good Canada would have been if they had played for its team.

The meaning of this tournament is plain to see. Canada is pulling away from everybody else. What was particularly distressing was that the second and third best teams were the two hybrids, Team Europe, and Team North America, who were not supposed to win at all. They were created merely because NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman recognized the truth, that little has been done in 44 years since the Canada-USSR match of 1972 to improve the quality of hockey outside of the traditional “big 7″ hockey countries – Canada, USA, Russia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Finland, and Sweden – and did not want any Canada 10 Norway 1, Russia 8 Latvia 2 laughers.

The two hybrids were supposed to be Canada’s worst competition. Instead what was revealed was that the five other national teams have tumbled badly when compared to Canada. In a recent article on the blog (Canada And The Hybrids Deserve Each Other) I listed the many sins of the other five countries that were so plain to see in the World Cup. They are no competition for Canada any more. Commissioner Bettman will accept congratulations for the Europe and North America idea but inside he can hardly be happy and could not imagine before the tournament that the other five national teams would play so pitifully. They were supposed to be Canada’s toughest competition. Instead they were the worst.

Before this tournament, international hockey was ranked this way:

“Big 7″
“B level teams”
Everybody else

That has changed to the following:

Canada
Remaining traditional 6
“B level teams”
Everybody else

Surely the worst problem in international hockey today that I have written about in several articles on this blog and elsewhere on other blogs is quality of play. I have repeatedly written about the need to get the quality of play of the “B level” countries – there are about a dozen countries in all stuck at this level since 1972 and earlier – up to the level of the traditional “big 7″. I have also written about the much worse state of international women’s hockey where only a “big 2″, Canada and the United States exist and there have been threats to expel the sport from the Olympics because of lack of competition.

Only now things are worse, there are two gaps. There is the gap that has been around for half a century and more between the “B level” teams and the traditional 7, and now there is the gap between Canada and the remaining 6.

The World Cup of Hockey and the Olympics cannot be developed until these gaps are breached and closed. If the goal is to develop the World Cup of Hockey so that it has the stature and importance of its counterpart in soccer, there has to be real competition and drama to capture the imagination of the fans. That does not exist anymore. Canada has no competition. The only possible meaningful competition that can occur now are matches between Canada and an all star team made up from the best of the other seven teams in the tournament.

The solution to this problem should not be to penalize Canada and diminish the excellence of its program and play. Rather it should be to raise up the quality of play of ALL the teams, both the remaining 6 and the “B levels” to the level of Canada. If Commissioner Bettman and NHLPA Director Donald Fehr want their World Cup to be a truly meaningful event, they have to start facing up to the quality problem and do something about it. All that has been done in the past 44 years is to host a few random hockey clinics and send a few coaches from the “big 7″ to other countries. It has not worked and the product is the result of the recent World Cup. The quality problem is staring them directly in the face and will not go away. It is time to roll up the sleeves and get to work.

Ghosts Of Montreal Canadiens Past: Price Versus Halak

There are only two things wrong with today’s Team Europe-Team Canada match. First, Canada should have lost to Team USA making this a must-win game for Canada and that the game should be held in Montreal, not Toronto.

On paper at least, this was supposed to be the worst mismatched, laughable game of the whole round-robin of the World Cup. Instead it has the potential to be one of the most dramatic and it is all because of the potential two goaltenders involved, ex-teammates/rivals, current and former Montreal Canadiens goaltenders Carey Price of Canada, and Jaroslav Halak of Team Europe.

Flashback to the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs when Price and Halak were teammates on the Montreal Canadiens. Neither had established himself as the number one Montreal goaltender and there was little to choose between them. But when the Stanley Cup playoffs started, eighth place Montreal handed the starting position to Halak who was probably the main reason Montreal fashioned major upsets over first place Washington led by Alexander Ovechkin, and then an even bigger upset over defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh led by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Philadelphia finally ended Montreal’s hopes in the Eastern Conference Final.

But the then Montreal management (since replaced) decided that Montreal was not big enough for both Price and Halak and that one of them had to go. They decided to keep the younger Price and traded Halak to St. Louis leaving Montreal fans wondering ever since if they kept the right goaltender or if both should have been retained.

Price of course has since become a Vezina Trophy winner, Montreal’s main hope for success and Halak has done well with St. Louis and now with the New York Islanders. Does Montreal miss Halak? Not the way Price has developed but they sure could have used him last year when Price got hurt. Halak would have probably put Montreal into the playoffs and might have taken them deep into the later rounds.

The Montreal goaltender controversy was supposed to be over, a minor blip in hockey history that would soon be forgotten. But now the mischievous hockey gods have decided that Halak who is a ghost in Price’s closet from long ago to appear again in the flesh to oppose him at the highest level in the World Cup.

Unfortunately Canada beat the United States making today’s game with Europe meaningless except for who will play who in the semi-finals. But can you imagine if Canada had lost and had to win today and had to face Halak who would be given the chance to put Canada and Price out of the tournament?

Instead today’s game is anti-climatic except that Team Europe is not supposed to be this good and now has a chance to test themselves against the tournament favorite. But do the coaches even start Halak and Price or keep them on the bench for a potential future rematch in the World Cup Final?

As mentioned earlier, Canada should have lost, and this game played in Montreal. The hockey gods in their own perverted way have set up this potential match-up. Maybe it will not occur today, but it might occur later with even more perverted, dramatic intensity in the World Cup Final.

Pressure On Canada To Win The World Cup

Canada is always the country which has the most pressure on it to win international hockey tournaments, be they professional, junior, or women. As the main originator of the game we all love and the original source of development for the NHL, Canadian hockey fans regard it almost as a divine duty to be just a little bit better than the other six great powers of the “big 7″, Sweden, Finland, USA, Russia, Czech Republic, and Slovakia.

But for this World Cup there is added pressure. For a start, this is the first World Cup since 2004. Canada won that tournament after a tough 3-2 victory over Finland in the Final. In the long 12 years since the last tournament no one knows except for the Olympic competition whether Canada’s best players are still tops in the world.

But what really puts added pressure on Canada this year is the result of the 2015-16 NHL season where not one Canadian franchise made the playoffs, a humiliating fate that had not occurred since 1970. Sure it can be blamed on the odds – American franchises outnumber Canadian ones 23-7 – the NHL draft, the Canadian dollar, etc., but coupled with the fact that a Canadian NHL franchise has not won the Stanley Cup since 1993, these top international competitions like the World Cup and the Olympics are the only way Canadians can reassure themselves that they are still the best hockey playing country in the world.

The World Cup and the Olympics are the only times when the absolute best of all Canada’s hockey talents come together to prove they are the best in the world. Sidney Crosby may play for the Pittsburgh Penguins and Jonathan Toews may play for the Chicago Blackhawks, American franchises in the NHL, but now they are on one team playing for Canada. And the ghosts from the past will be on them. Bobby Orr at the first Canada Cup in 1976, and then later Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux. All this will be felt by every player on Canada. They carry a burden no other team in these events has.

A bad result for Canada in this tournament, especially on home ice in Toronto, and there may be talk at official levels, in the press, and privately among the Canadian public about the decline of Canadian hockey. Canada has a type of collective “inferiority complex”; they do not like boasting and bragging, especially among themselves, though they do love praise from others, particularly from American television commentators – except in hockey. There they are the experts, the know-it-alls. Canada knows everything there is to know about hockey. They regard it as “our game” (though surprisingly curling is supposed to be officially Canada’s national sport). A torrent of excuses and self analysis will follow if there is anything less than victory or (horrors!) an early exit from the tournament.

So there is a lot at stake for Canada in this tournament, more than any other team. The rest of the teams can go home if they lose this tournament, suck it up and try to be better for 2020. But for Canada, if they lose this tournament, there will be a neurotic trauma that will haunt them for the next four years.

NHL Revival Of the World Cup Is An Admission Of Failure

After a dozen years in the wilderness, the NHL is bringing back the World/Canada Cup last played in 2004 with the hope it will now be played on a regular basis, once every four years. It should be an event to celebrate for every hockey fan in the world who wants to see international hockey develop. But without detracting from its revival, the format announced betrays the failure of international hockey since the famous Canada-USSR series of 1972.

For a start there will only be 8 teams, Canada, USA, Russia, Czech Republic, Sweden, and Finland – and two put-together teams, Europe, which is supposed to made up of players from all other European countries, and North America which is being made up of Canadian and American players under the age of 23. It is the creation of these last two teams that shows the betrayal and failure of international hockey.

Immediately after the amazing series of 1972, there was recognition in Canada and the United States that European hockey players, particularly Russian ones were just as good as their North American counterparts and there was an immense demand to see more international competition between them and the best of the NHL. There quickly evolved the big 6 of hockey powers; Canada, USA, Russia, Sweden, Finland, and Czechoslovakia, which eventually split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

There were also frequent boasts that hockey would soon become the number 2 sport in the world behind only soccer. Hockey fans could dream of a truly world hockey tournament like soccer’s World Cup which currently starts with 32 teams.

But for all their talk about the promise of the future, hockey failed to expand and develop beyond the original 7 countries. In the 44 years since 1972, only in Switzerland and lately Denmark can it be said that the quality of hockey has significantly improved. When international hockey tournaments were held whether at the junior or professional level that had 12 or more teams, the big 7 would wipe out the other participants easily in the round robin first round. Most of these games against the lesser opposition would be boring routs in which the established hockey power might even reach double digits in scoring. Hence NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s attempt to avoid these embarrassments by creating Team Europe and Team North America.

But despite Bettman’s best attempts to make the revived World Cup more competitive, it does not disguise the overall failure of international hockey to develop and expand from the root seven countries. Slovakia is not even being allowed to ice a team, and Switzerland, the best of rest is not here either. These are dismal results for the past four decades.

Even more horrific is the state of international women’s hockey where only Canada and the United States ice competitive teams and there have been threats to expel it from the Olympics because of the lack of competitiveness.

It may surprise most knowledgeable hockey fans that hockey may well be the number 2 sport in the world. The loser of the A tournament gets demoted to the B level and the champion of the B level gets promoted up to next year’s A group. At the junior level there are at least 50 countries ranked so there are C, D, E, F, etc. tournaments too that are held each year. So there is no shortage of hockey players or hockey playing countries around the world.

The problem is that the quality of hockey drops off sharply after the big 7. As noted above, only in Switzerland and recently Denmark has there been any noticeable improvement. That is not much to show after 40 years. The “big 7″ countries simply have not done enough or cannot be bothered to spread and develop the game of hockey around the world to make it truly the world’s number 2 sport.

Even more embarrassing for hockey is the development of international curling during this time. It is now possible for even non-traditional curling countries like Korea and Japan in both men’s and women’s international competition to ice competitive teams that have a real chance to win the world championship and the Olympics. It may be an unfair comparison but curling has succeeded where hockey has failed.

If the big 7 countries would take the trouble to properly develop several of the countries stuck at the B level – Switzerland, Denmark, Austria, Germany, Norway, Latvia, Kazakhstan, Italy, France, Belarus, Slovenia, and Poland – never mind the rest, it would be possible to have a World Cup of 12 or even 16 teams, where each team has a real chance for victory and there would be a danger that one of the “big 7″ might get demoted. But for 40 years they have done virtually nothing and as result there is now Team Europe and Team North America.

It is often said that when the NHL expands, the product gets “watered down”. There would be no problem of that happening if the big 7 developed even a fraction of the B level countries to a competitive level. There would be enough quality hockey players to not only stock Las Vegas and Quebec but the next 8 NHL expansion teams up to 40. There is no problem with the number of potential hockey players or hockey playing countries. The problem is that there is no leadership from above that wants to develop them.

The Curious Case of Claude Giroux

With the Sochi Olympics now underway and a brief freeze in the NHL season, the most talked about topic in hockey right now is regarding Flyers captain Claude Giroux on why he did not make Team Canada. When the Canadian Men’s Olympic team was named in early January, it seemed as a surprise too many that Martin St. Louis was left off of the team. But as of last week St. Louis replaced injured Lightning teammate Steven Stamkos for a spot on Team Canada. Many people believed that Steve Yzerman the GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning and the GM of Team Canada only picked St. Louis because he plays for him in the NHL, and he did not want to tell St. Louis for a third time that he was not good enough for Team Canada, in order sustain a healthy relationship. One of those many people who believed that St. Louis was only picked because of his relationship with Yzerman was feisty Flyer’s chairman Ed Snider. Here’s a clip on what he thought of Team Canada’s decision to take St. Louis rather than someone else like his player Claude Giroux.

I personally disagree with the remarks made by Mr.Snider indicating that Giroux deserved the spot over St. Louis. However I do agree that Claude Giroux should have originally made team Canada to begin with.
First off let’s begin with why Giroux is not a better option than St. Louis; for one St. Louis won the Art Ross Trophy last season as the highest scoring player in the league, St. Louis has averaged about 1.1 points per game played in the last 5 seasons, while Claude Giroux has averaged about 0.92 points per game. So if Mr. Snider wants to say Giroux is more consistent than St. Louis offensively he would be incorrect. Now you’re probably thinking I know nothing about hockey and there’s more to a player than offense; sure I agree with the second part, remember St. Louis is replacing Stamkos, so Canada is trying to inject more offense and what better way to do that than add last year’s league leading scorer into your lineup.
Now let’s move on to the topic of why I think Claude Giroux should have made Team Canada to begin with in January. I think Giroux is an ideal fit for Team Canada because he’s the type of player that can play solid defense in his zone, but can still put up impressive offensive numbers. In addition to that his size and speed make him the ideal player on the large Olympic ice as he has more room to skate and has a better ability to skate than some players on the team like Jeff Carter. Carter was bought onto the team to put up goals; he is a big bodied guy but does not through his weight around as much as he should at 6’4, 212 pounds. Ironically though for a goal scorer, Carter has been on a recent slump putting up 0 goals and 3 assists in his last 8 games. Jeff Carter is the type of player that can only play in your top two lines, and your top two lines are expected to score, so if Carter goes into the tournament colder than the weather in Canada, it will be hard to find a fit for him in the lineup especially in a short tournament where everyone needs to be on their game. But a player like Giroux has the versatility to play in any situation and in any forward line. In addition to that, Canada already has enough big bodied players on forward with the likes of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Rick Nash, so it would not be fair in my opinion to take Carter over Giroux based on the element of size.
F.Y.I, I do not know why St. Louis was left off of the team to begin with, but that has already been discussed a billion times.
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Team Sweden – Review

As always, Team Canada will get the most hype this year, but a team that seems to be the next favorite to win gold in Sochi is Sweden. At first look the team may seem like some washed up former all-stars, but when the team is dismantled and analyzed for what it truly is, you find yourself a star-studded lineup. Let’s take a look at all the positions.
The Centers:
Henrik Sedin: One of the best dishmasters in the NHL; he will be the lead maestro in creating plays for this team. An advantage he has is that he will be playing with his twin.
Nicklas Backstrom: Perhaps one of the more underrated centers in the league; at the halfway point of the season he is on pace for 92 points. His assist numbers are triple his scoring numbers making him a fantastic playmaker.
Alex Steen (Can play LW): Took the league by storm this year, showing his phenomenal scoring ability. On pace for 48 goals in the season; he is one of the many snipers on this team.
Patrik Berglund (Can play LW): He will probably center Alex Steen, given their chemistry. Great at taking faceoffs and moving the puck. Ideal depth player for an Olympic team.
Marcus Kruger: At the age of 23, this young gun already has 2 Stanley Cups under his belt, and is still continuing to improve. His growth speed is undoubtedly faster than usual because he is playing for the powerhouse Blackhawks. Probably won’t get too much playing time if any during the Olympics, but the experience will surely contribute in his growth.

The Left Wings:
Daniel Sedin: Scores the goals off his brother’s assists. He is yet another of the top marksmen on this team.
Loui Eriksson: Might not perform like usual due to the recent concussion that he suffered, but will be dressed for the Olympics. His goal scoring is a great addition.
Henrik Zetterberg: The Powerhorse was named Captain of this team. Given his well-rounded play style (ability to both score and produce) and experience, he is probably the most deserving of the C. He can potentially lead this team to the finals.
Gabriel Landeskog: The 2012 Rookie of the Year, and the youngest NHL team captain in history, will be an interesting addition to this more experienced team. Can he use this as a learning experience?
Carl Hagelin: One of the better defensive forwards in the league. He’s also ideal at finding the back of the net. Might not get too much playing time.

The Right Wings:
Johan Franzen: Injuries may appear to keep him behind, but his chemistry with captain Henrik Zetterberg, Daniel Alfredsson, Niklas Kronwall, and Jonathan Eriksson will make up for it.
Jakob Silfverberg: This guy is highly regarded as one of the top scorers in the future of the NHL. Not only does he have spot-on accuracy, but he is incredibly fast and can play like a power forward. Interesting to see how he performs in a team full of veterans.
Daniel Alfredsson: In his final Olympic games, can he push himself to win gold? He’s putting on a spectacular season so far in the NHL, on pace for 60 points, which is great given his age and playing time.
Jimmie Ericsson: The only non-NHL player on this team. Don’t be mistaken; this does not mean he isn’t a good player. He is actually a very versatile two-way forward and has the advantage of playing alongside his brother Jonathan Ericsson. However, he will most likely get minimal minutes.

The Defencemen:
Erik Karlsson: This Norris Trophy winner is inarguably the star of the blue-line on this team. The reason why he will have an impact is self-explanatory.
Niklas Kronwall: Yet another Red Wings player on this team, and he is notorious for his seismic hits that flat out make players leave on stretchers. Great at shutting down the opposition.
Jonathan Ericsson: Double the advantage for him because he has double the chemistry due to the fact that he is playing with a bunch of his teammates from Detroit and his brother Jimmie. Very agile and moves the puck quick.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson: Regarded to be a future Norris Trophy winner, this young defender is perhaps one of the best stick handling blue liners in the NHL today.
Niklas Hjalmarsson: With 2 rings, he is ready to add a gold medal to his collection of championships. I think he will fit right in with the star studded atmosphere, just like he does in Chicago. Great depth on the blue line.
Alexander Edler: One of the top shut down defenders in the NHL. He can also put the puck in the back of the net.
Johnny Oduya: Back when he was just starting out his tenure with the NHL, he wasn’t expected to be the tough defensive defenceman that he is today. Recently won the Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks.
Henrik Tallinder: Although he will not get too much ice time, his veteran presence will make this team’s experience rating beyond 100%.
The Goaltenders:
Henrik Lundqvist: Will start most if not all the games. He is one of the most solid goalies in the hockey world and will stand tall in all the games that he will play in the Olympics.
Jonas Gustavsson: Has proven to be a more than decent back-up and sometimes starter within the last couple of years. Some may call him streaky, because he goes on good run of shutouts and high save percentages and suddenly drops into a bad stretch of games, but more often than not, he isn’t anything but solid.
Jhonas Enroth: The shortest goalie in the NHL will probably not get any starts or even ice time unless they are ahead by 5 and it is the last minute, they might throw him in for the experience it gives him. He’s still developing as a back-up and is projected to be Buffalo’s future starting goalie do to his athletic style of play.

Personal Opinion: I believe this team has a star studded lineup and will probably be the oldest and most experienced team in the Olympics. The Olympics are much like the Playoffs, where the veterans strive for greatness. I predict this team to make a run for Gold but come up short to Team Canada, and win Silver.

Writer’s Note: If you have time check out my raps off my mixtape #beentrill which drops February 2nd. If you like it please spread the word! http://www.soundcloud.com/itsmobtime