I am a huge fan of the blog hockeykidmn, written by Mikey, a gay (but closeted) teenage high school hockey player in Minnesota. His stuff keeps getting better and better, and his eulogy to the late Brendan Burke was very touching.
Mikey obviously knows his hockey and I asked him to write a men's Olympics preview for us. I wanted it done in the texting style of his blog, though I did capitalize the first word of every sentence (I have my standards!).
Jim asked me to write a preview for the mens Olympic hockey tournament, so here are my thoughts on the teams and a stab at who’s gonna medal.
I never win betting so don’t count on this working out. Also there are proly some changes to the lineups after I wrote this due to injuries n things, but it’s proly mostly accurate.
The teams play round robin in their groups and then the top teams advance out to play each other in the medal round. The whole process is fairly confusing but u can look it up if u need to. The number next to the team is its international ranking by the ice hockey federation n mostly based on world championship play. This is how they seed the teams.
Canada (No. 1), USA (6), Switzerland (7), Norway (12).
Russia (2), Czech Republic (5), Slovakia (8), Latvia (11).
Sweden (3), Finland (4), Belarus (9), Germany (10)
Canada has enough good guys not on their team to make another team that could proly take a medal. They didnt chose Ryan Smyth, Shane Doan, Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier and Dion Phaneuf; man, I wish they were all Americans.
Canada is strong everywhere with two great goalies Roberto Luongo (Canucks) and Martin Brodeur (Devils). Their D is toly solid wit big guys like Chris Pronger (Flyers) and Scott Niedermayer (Ducks) and younger guys like Drew Doughty (Kings) and Duncan Keith (Black Hawks). All the d-men are two-way players but all are toly solid on their side of the ice. Up front they have Sidney Crosby (Penguins), Dany Heatley and Joe Thornton (both Sharks), Ryan Getzlaf (Ducks), Mike Richards (Flyers) and Eric Staal (Hurricanes). They are prety much solid all around but Canada had a strong team in 2006 and finished 7th. No home team has won the gold cept for the U.S. in 1980, but the Canadians r pissed about losing the jr. gold to the U.S., so they will be on fire this time.
Russia finished 4th in 2006 and has finished at least 4th every year since 1994. They also beat Canada in Canada for the 2008 world championship. As usual, they have a ton of scorers but are somewhat weaker in net and at d. If they get help on the backend they will do well this year. The whole team is either NHL or KHL players, the 2 best leagues.
They finally have a hot goalie wit Evgeni Nabokov (Sharks) with decent backups. At d they are still a little weak after you get past Sergie Gronchar (Penquins) and Andrei Markov (Canadiens). The best thing about both of these two is that there solid in back but also both can score. In front they have a ton of playmakers and goal scorers led by Alexander Ovechkin (Capitals) who I think is the best NHL player. They also have Evgeni Malkin (Penquins), Pavel Datsyuk (Red Wings) and Ilya Kovalchuk (Thrashers) all who are top 10 scorers in the NHL. Add in a veteran like Sergei Fedorov and some KHL players n they should be able to score a lot of goals. I think their weakness on d will hurt them n will keep them outta the medals.
Sweden usually has a really good team and won the gold in 2006. This year they look like they should also be good wit a ton of NHL players. they could medal again this year if their goalies r sharp and they get key goals.
They proly have the 2nd hottest goalie rite now wit Henrik Lundquist (Rangers). He led them to a gold in 2006 and if he gets hot he will be hard to beat. At d they have Nicklas Lidstrom (Red Wings), one of the best dmen in the world, and Mattias Ohlund (Canucks) who is not far behind him. Other than one guy, the rest of their dmen are younger NHL players mostly in their 20's. Up front they are missing Mats Sundin, but have a bunch of strong veterans back again with Daniel Alfredsson (Senators), Tomas Holmstron (Red Wings) and Peter Forsberg (playin in Europe now). They also have a bunch of young stars led by Henrik Zetterberg (Red Wings), Nicklas Backstrom (Capitals) and the Sedin twins, Daniel and Henrik, (Canucks). Having groups of players who are used to playin together should help them gel in the short schedule and they should medal again this year.
Finland has a lot of NHL players and most of them are on this team. They won the silver last Olympics and should be tough this year too.
They have very solid goaltending with Niklas Backstrom (Wild) and Miikka Kiprusoff (Flames). On the blue line they have a lot of skill but not as much hitting power as some teams with guys like Sami Salo (Canucks), Kimmo Timonen (Flyers) and Joni Pitkanen (Hurricanes). Up front they should be able to score a lot wit Teemu Selanne (Ducks), Miko Koivu (Wild) his brother Saku Koivu (Ducks), Tuomo Ruutu (Hurricanes), Jere Lehtinen (Stars), Olli Jokinen (Flames), Antti Miettnen (Wild) andJarkko Ruutu (Senators). If they get the goals they should, i think they will medal.
The Czechs won the bronze in 2006 and have done well in recent world championships. They are another team that should be able to score a lot. If they do and can get some amazing goalie play, they will be tough to beat.
They should have decent goaltending with Tomas Vokoun (Panthers) and Ondrej Pavalec (Thrashers), both good but not great goalies. Seven of their 8 dmen play in the NHL including Tomas Kaberle (Maple Leafs), Jan Hejda (Blue Jackets), Filip Kuba (Senators), Pavel Kubina (Thrashers) and Marek Zdlicky (Wild). Up front they have Jaromir Jagr (Russian league), a former superstar who’s still strong, Tomas Plekanec (Canadiens), Martin Havlat (Wild) and Milan Michalek (Senators). I think this is not a medal year for the Czechs unless they have breakthrough games by most of their team.
This year, the American team has gone much younger than in 2006 with hardly ne guys over 30. I think this is a good approach. The U.S. usually has problems with playing together as a team; hopefully this will not be a problem this year.
This year, we have a really good goalie in Ryan Miller (Sabres) who’s like #2 in the league in wins and goals against and is currently on fire. I think that Eric Johnson (Blues and a Minnesota kid) is gonna have a great run cause this year is looking like his breakout year. He’s a solid dman who can score as can Brian Rafalski (Red Wings), who also can score but is not having as great of a year this year. Up front we have a bunch of young guys who can all score and make plays. Zach Parise (Devils and a Minnesota kid), Patrick Kane (Black Hawks), Phil Kessel (Leafs), Ryan Kesler (Canucks), Dustin Brown (Kings) and Ryan Callahan (Rangers). We also have some more experienced guys like Chris Drury (Rangers) and Jamie Langenbrunner (Devils and a Minnesota guy) thrown in. I think the U.S. will be competitive, but I don't think that we will medal.
The Swiss haven’t won a medal in a long time, but came in sixth in 2006 and beat Canada and the Czech Republic. This year their team is mostly young guys with a few NHL players thrown in. They have decent goalies in Martin Gerber (Leafs) and Jonas Hiller (Ducks). Their forwards are all young guys with no NHL players out there. It’s gonna be tough for all these young guys playing against teams with lots more experience.
The Slovaks have a bunch of NHL guys, about 13 in total. Last Olympics they finished 5th ahead of Canada and the U.S., but recently they have been sorta spotty. In goal they have Jaroslav Haak (Canadiens) and Peter Budaj (Avalanche). They have decent strength at d led by Zdeno Chara (Bruins). At forward they have a ton of goal scorers Marian Gaborik (Rangers), Pavol Demetra (Canucks), Marian Hossa (Black Hawks) and Miroslav Satan (Bruins); I luv that name even if it’s not pronounced like its spelled. They also have a bunch of former NHL players who are playing in the Russian league. They are my wild card team and I think they could come close to medaling this year
Belarus has never won a medal but came in 4th in 2002. Their best player would be Mikhail Grabovski (Maple Leafs). He may be the rookie of the year this year, but he’s hurt n proly won’t play. Their next best player is proly the solid dman Ruslan Salei (Avalanche). They had also counted on two forwards who are future start -- Andrei and Sergei Kostistsyn (Canadiens) but Andrei is proly not gonna play cause of injuries. I think that its unlikely that Belarus is going very far this year.
Germany has never done much in the Olympics and proly wont this year either. There are about 10 German players in the NHL and Germany has seven of them playing. They have a good young goalie in Thomas Greiss (Sharks) but he’s not very tested at this level. At d they have Christian Ehroff (Canucks), Dennis Seidenberg (Panthers) and Alexander Sulzer (Predators). Their forwards are Marcel Goc (Predators) and Marco Stum (Bruins). The rest of the team is mostly filled with younger guys without a lot of high level experience and this usually hurts teams in the Olympics. I do not expect Germany to do well.
Latvia came in last in 2006 and will have a tough time doing better this year unless they get really hot goaltending and big goals. Their team is sorta weird cause 16 guys play for the Dinamo Riga team. This could help them since unlike the rest of the teams playing they have played together a lot. They have 2 NHL guys on their team including dmen Oskars Bartulis (Flyers) and Karlis Skrastins (Stars). They will struggle to compete this year.
Norway is a long shot to medal, but they have beat some good teams in recent world championships. Their only NHL player is Ole Kristian Tollefsen (Flyers). They have some young guys who are proly gonna be NHL players at some point but there not there yet. This is proly not the year for Norway to break out.
I think the bronze goes to Sweden, the silver goes to Finland and the gold goes to …. the true north strong and free -- Canada. I think this is their year to show everyone where hockey was born. I think the U.S., Russia, and Slovakia will be right behind the top three.