Canada Wins Gold

Well Olympic hockey has come to an end and Canada has won gold.  It was a great game and I can’t believe they shut out the Swedes, but all in all it was an awesome game.

As for my predictions before the games started, I was pretty close.  This is how I thought it would work out:

Gold – Canada

Silver – Russia

Bronze – Sweden

4th – USA

So my 1st and 4th predictions did in fact come true and Sweden moved up a spot.  Glad to see 3 of my 4 predictions where pretty close.  I am shocked that Russia failed so hard.  They are usually a lot better in the Olympics.

Hope everyone enjoyed Olympic hockey.  Let’s hope we get to see it again in Korea in 4 years.

Is This The End of The NHL Olympic Hockey?

As it stood, Vancouver 2010 was the last time the NHL was “supposed” to be sending NHL players to the Olympics.  Sure, they are going to attend Sochi for this years Olympics, but only because top stars like Alexander Ovechkin and Evengi Malkin called out the NHL and said regardless of their decision, they would be attending the games in their homeland of Russia.  With enough Russian players playing in the NHL, they had no choice but to head to Sochi for 2014 or face a mass exodus of Russian born hockey players for 2 weeks.

However, the 2018 Winter Games are being slated for South Korea and there is no deal in place at the moment to send NHL players to compete for Olympic gold in men’s hockey.  And I for one, don’t think there will be.

South Korea is not known for it’s hockey players.  I can’t think of a single player in the NHL whose heritage is Korean.  So the NHL will not be bullied into going to the 2018 games since only the fans will put pressure on the league.  NHL commissioner Gary Bettman barely bows down to his players and even less to it’s fans, so I doubt that would have any effect.  After all, the NHL HATES the Olympics.

But why does the NHL hate Olympic hockey?

Number 1 money.  As far as the NHL is concerned, it’s lost revenue.  Their players are playing for someone else and not making the NHL any money.  As well the league has to virtually shut down during the Olympics and cannot gain any revenue for over two weeks.

Another factor is injuries and insurance.  Even though the game isn’t as physical in the international realm or with the more open ice, injuries still happen.  Especially small injuries like groin pulls.  It happens every Olympics.  Some of the best players get injured and miss the last 20 games of the season or even worse the playoffs.  The leagues best players are represented in the Olympics and the best players are also at risk of injury.

Even though there is a risk and a loss of revenue, the NHL should think twice about not attending future Winter Olympics.  Right now Hockey is considered to be North America’s 4th largest sport.  The NHL is constantly trying to grow the game and revenues.  This can be witnessed by them starting the season with some teams playing in Europe or any of the outdoor style games.  You’d think that the Olympics would only raise interest in the game of hockey on an international level.

But it seems that Gary Bettman just doesn’t get it.  After all he is the man that’s been at the helm of the NHL for far too long and just doesn’t seem to understand what fans want.  Whether it’s trying to break into an American market that just doesn’t want a team or ignoring Canadian markets that do, Bettman only works for the team owners.  And the team owners do not want to see their players risk anything outside of their teams clubhouse.

Olympic hockey, I’ll enjoy you this year, because it might just be your last.

 

Countdown To Sochi Hockey

Sochi 2014

The countdown is on.  As the NHL winds down for a mid season break, everyone is starting to put focus on Olympic hockey.  Soon NHLers will be reuniting with their countrymen and hitting the ice in the quest for gold.

As it plays out right now, Canada is always a contender for the gold medal in Hockey, but with the Olympics being in Russia this year, you know guys like Pavel Datsyuck, Evgeni Malkin and Alexander Ovechkin are just chomping at the bit to bring the gold to home ice.  After all, if they don’t, I’m sure Putin will put the whole team into a Gulag somewhere in the outskirts of Siberia.

Gold is never guaranteed in the Olympics for any country (even Canada).  You never know which european country can make for an upset or if the Americans have another Miracle on Ice up their sleeves!  So who’s going to stand out at this years Olympics?  Let’s try and break it down.

In my opinion all great championship teams are built from the goaltender out.  Without a great goaltender, you automatically become a mediocre hockey team, no matter how much offence you produce.   So which Men’s Hockey team is comprised of the greatest goalies?  As much as I hate to admit it, I think team USA is bringing the best Goalie squad.  Here are my top 3 teams based on goaltenders.

1. Team USA – Jonathan Quick, Ryan Miller, Jimmy Howard – For so long Canadians (mostly Quebecers) have been the premiere goaltenders.  Not any more!

2. Team Finland – Tuukka Rask, Kari Lehtonen, Antti Niemi – Finland has always had slightly better than average goaltenders, but the addition of Tuukka Rask to the team kicks them up several notches.

3. Team Canada – Roberto Luongo, Carey Price, Mike Smith – Canada used to have the elite goaltenders, but they have all become older and the younger ones just don’t have what guys like Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur had.  As well, Luongo is always iffy when it comes to high level hockey and can easily blow a game.

Defenceman

Your goaltender always needs a little help.  Guys to slow down the forwards and keep shots to the outside.  Without good defence, your goalie doesn’t stand a chanche.  So which teams have the better team in terms of defence?

1.  Team Canada – Jay Bouwmeester, Drew Doughty, Dan Hamhuis, Duncan Keith, Alex Pietrangelo, P.K. Subban, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Shea Weber – Big guys, punishing hits and explosive shots.  Team Canada stands out head and shoulders above the rest with this crew of defencemen.

2.  Team Sweden – Alexander Edler, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Jonathan Ericsson, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Erik Karlsson, Niklas Kronwall, Johnny Oduya, Henrik Tallinder – Guys like Karlsson, Kronwall and Oduya will set up a solid wall against anyone trying to score.

3.  Team USA – John Carlson, Justin Faulk, Cam Fowler, Paul Martin, Ryan McDonagh, Brooks Orpik, Kevin Shattenkirk, Ryan Suter – USA has a strong mix of defencemen.  Guys of all ages and each one brings a different element to the game.

Forwards

They say a good defence is a good offence.  You can’t win games without scoring goals and on the over sized Olympic hockey pad, their is more room for speed, creativity and getting yourself into open ice.  So which teams will take full advantage of this?

1.  Team Canada – Jamie Benn, Patrice Bergeron, Jeff Carter, Sidney Crosby, Matt Duchene, Ryan Getzlaf, Chris Kunitz, Patrick Marleau, Rick Nash, Corey Perry, Patrick Sharp, Steven Stamkos, John Tavares, Jonathan Toews – There is so much scoring ability on this team, it’s absurd.  So many gifted goal scorers where left off the roster, Team Canada could have easily sent over a second squad of players that could compete with this group.  The talent runs that deep!  Even though it’s unlikely Steven Stamkos will play, a replacement won’t be hard to find.

2.  Team Sweden – Daniel Alfredsson, Nicklas Backstrom, Patrik Berglund, Jimmie Ericsson, Loui Eriksson, Johan Franzen, Carl Hagelin, Marcus Kruger, Gabriel Landeskog, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Jakob Silfverberg, Alexander Steen, Henrik Zetterberg – The Sedin’s have grace, Alferdsson is a leader, Steen a gifted scorer and Zetterberg is one of the best players to shovel home garbage goals.

3.  Team Russia – Artem Anisimov, Pavel Datsyuk, Denis Kokarev, Ilya Kovalchuk, Nikolai Kulemin, Evgeni Malkin, Valeri Nichushkin, Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Popov, Alexander Radulov, Sergei Soin, Vladimir Tarasenko, Alexei Tereshenko, Viktor Tikhonov.  Guys like Datsyuk, Malkin, Kovalchuk and Ovechkin will give nightmares to goalies throughout the Olympics.  The squad is not as deep as others, but features some of the best forwards in the game today.

Thats my roundup.  When all is said and done, I think the Olympic podium for men’s hockey will consist of:

GOLD – Canada

Silver – Russia (Only because home ice is going to be a huge factor for these guys)

Bronze – Sweden

Loser of the Bronze medal game – Team USA

Those are my picks.  Love them or hate them, let’s see what happens in the next few weeks.