The hockey news isn’t exactly pouring in at a fast and furious rate at this point in the summer, though Friday’s NHL news mega-day provided us with some quality happenings and relief. The schedule, the Olympic news and schedule, and the NHL’s new division names (Glen Metropolit jokes!) – why it just doesn’t get any better than that!
On the schedule: the so called “balanced schedule” should be seen as a a huge boon for paying customers and hockey fans. I’m curious to see if the schedule’s “home and home against every other team in the league” wrinkle results in a bit of additional familiarity, about a wider number of teams, for your average fan. That would be a welcome evolution because your average Eastern hockey fan should be more admiring of the slick stylings of one Oliver Ekman-Larrson…
On the Olympics: Canada’s “Group” is complete cake, but I really enjoyed watching American hockey fans on twitter pretend that Slovenia is somehow a tougher opponent than Norway or Austria. “B…B…But they have Anze Kopitar!” OK.
Slovenia aside, that division featuring the United States, Slovakia and Russia is clearly “group death.”
I’m a Canadian (in case that wasn’t clear), and the cupcake group B actually makes me rather nervous. In my life-time the Canadian men’s national hockey team has won two Olympic gold medals (2002, 2010) and in each tournament the national team suffered a staggering loss during the round robin round – to the Swedes in 2002, and to the Americans in 2010. All I’m saying is that I’m not convinced that a soft division is a good thing for the Canadians…
The one tough team in Canada’s “Group” is Finland, and I’ll be curious to see just how old the Finnish roster is. Assuming that Selanne and Saku Koivu are on the team, that could be one of the oldest contending teams at the tournament. They’ll have Timmonen and Salo logging big minutes on the back-end too. I’ll be curious to see if Barkov makes the Finnish team just because no national team needs an injection of youth quite as badly as the Finns do.
The Fins will also clearly be the team with the most depth in goal. Imagine that one of Tuuka Rask, Kari Lehtonen, Antii Niemi or Pekka Rinne will get left at home – that’s just preposterous.
Here’s my team Canada Roster by the way:
Line 1: LW: John Tavares, C: Sidney Crosby, RW: Steven Stamkos.
The Canadian national team is already preparing to use Stamkos on the wing at Sochi. Stammer played on Giroux’s right-side throughout the world championship tournament this past spring, for example.
It’s the right call of course because Canada’s depth at centre is completely ridiculous, and a wide swath of pivots should be on the team playing out of position. In my case: the entire first line.
I’m willing to hear arguments for why Eric Staal or Taylor Hall should lineup in this slot ahead of Tavares by the way.
Line 2: LW: Taylor Hall, C: Claude Giroux, RW: Martin St. Louis.
Team Canada always takes a token old guy to every Olympic tournament, and hopefully that old guy is Martin St. Louis this time around. St. Louis somehow has still got it, he has some “setting up Stamkos’ one-timer on the power-play” chemistry with Canada’s leading goal scorer over the past three seasons, and his skillset translates well on the international ice-surface.
Claude Giroux is hilarious good, and deserves a shot in the top-six I figure. I’m again willing to hear arguments for why Eric Staal should lineup in this slot ahead of Giroux, but for now I see Staal as the teams insurance top-six forward.
Finally Taylor Hall was sixth among all Canadian forwards in points last season, and is a possession beast to boot. I’ve spoken with some people recently who legitimately don’t think Taylor Hall is good, but they’re totally wrong. Hall is driving the bus in Edmonton already, and while the results aren’t there, he’s the sort of electric young talent that Yzerman would be wise to bring to Sochi…