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Monday, August 26, 2013

Sochi 2014 Preview: Canada's Gold Medal Team

When I was asked by Habs Addict to choose which country I thought would bring home the Gold medal in the upcoming Olympics, Canada jumped to mind without hesitation.

While I am Canadian, this is in no way a prediction based solely on where my heart lies. The reason why Canada is known for hockey, and why not winning gold in any tournament we play in is unacceptable is simply because it is in our blood.

Hockey is Canadian culture. It's no surprise that our country boasts the most talent when it comes to the game we hold so dear. That is not meant to disrespect any other country. This gold medal is in no way a guarantee. With the skill of Pavel Datsyuk, Evgeni Malkin and Alexander Ovechkin to name a few in Russia, the men between the pipes for Finland in Tuuka Rask, Pekka Rinne and Niklas Backstrom and the NHL stacked team the Americans will bring to Sochi, this will be no cake walk.

What Canada has that fuels my confidence however, is depth. With that said, here is the roster that wold be headed to Sochi, Russia in 2014 to compete for the gold medal if I were in charge of Team Canada.

Goaltending

Carey Price- Corey Crawford- Cam Ward

Price may not have backstopped his way into the "elite goaltender" category yet, but his outstanding play on a team that's been less than mediocre for the majority of his career makes you wonder what he's capable of on a star studded roster.

Ward has also done well on a basement team, and in 2006 he proved he can go all the way when his Conn Smyth winning performance lead his Carolina Hurricanes to a Stanley Cup championship.

Crawford is less experienced than Price and Ward and already has shown his ability to win by backstopping the Chicago Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup.

Defense

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Shea Weber - P.K. Subban
Drew Doughty - Kris Letang
Alex Pietrangelo

Keith and Seabrook have two Stanley Cups together and an Olympic gold medal so they're an ideal pairing. The absence of a player like Chris Pronger will definately be felt. Doughty and Weber can both play physical. Subban will chip in as well. With players like Letang, Keith, Subban and Doughty patrolling the blue line, it's hard to imagine any other team coming close to providing as much scoring from the point as Canada will.

Forwards

Rick Nash- Sidney Crosby- Patrice Bergeron
Claude Giroux- Steven Stamkos- Martin St. Louis
John Tavares- Jonathan Toews- Patrick Sharp
Mike Richards- Ryan Getzlaf- Corey Perry
Jordan Eberle

Having Crosby, the world's best player, on your roster is not a bad way to start. These lines would provide each trio with elite snipers who can put the puck in the net at any given moment. Bergeron and Toews are two of the best two way players in the game. Mike Richards plays a hard nosed style that will make the line of him sniper/pest Corey Perry and big bodied Getzlaf tough to play against.

No other country can match the depth Canada has in every position. The goaltending, while young, is stacked with three net minders who play focused hockey and have come up big in their careers for either their country or their NHL club.

Canada's back end will be mostly made up up of offensive minded rearguards but the amount of talented two way forwards will make up for their lack of shut down defensemen.

Up front is any and every opposing goalitender's nightmare. Having to face a team that will have multiple scoring threats on the ice shift after shift.

Canada has something to prove at Sochi. This country is proud to be heralded as the best in the world at hockey. That reputation is not something we take lightly and not something these players want to risk by coming home with anything other than gold.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Sochi 2014: Russia's Hope For Gold On Home Soil

Let me first stand up, and in a strong and proud voice exclaim, “I am Canadian”. I have the maple leaf (that’s singular and lower case) firmly tattooed on my heart.

But with that said, despite my love of my country and trust that Team Canada will always strive, well I am sorry folks but the Gold Medal in Mens Hockey in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi is destined to go to Team Russia.

Before I get into the 23 players who will help win this medal, let’s talk about the extraneous variables that will come into play.

First, the living conditions. Russia is not exactly known for it’s top notch accommodations when it comes to sports. Yes the KHL throws out a huge amount of money to lure top end talent but the housing, the travel, the food is less than desirable. Team Russia will certainly have a competitive advantage in this domain whereas other nations will have to learn to cope and adjust to having a less than usual experience in preparing for the tournament.

Second the climate. It is one thing to hoist a gold medal in Vancouver or Salt Lake City while taking in the weather and the city. Players were able to unwind, take in a good restaurant, enjoying the athletes village and bask in the beauty of some major metropolis areas. Now they turn to a small Russian city with a population slightly larger than the Bell Centre with a climate which, although not harsh, is still colder than of more recent Olympics.

Third and perhaps the most important, home field advantage. I am sure we all remember the images of the tens of thousands of fans both outside and within the arena screaming “Go Canada Go”. Well that support that Canada once shared will now be solely on the backs of the knowledgeable Russian hockey fans. Sure you’ll see the 50-100 Canadians in the audience but there spectators will be Russian.

With that said, here is the line-up that will be bringing home the GOLD medal.

Forwards:

Alexander Ovechkin-Evgeny Malkin-Alexander Semin
Alexander Radulov-Pavel Datysuk-Ilya Kovalchuk
Nail Yakupov-Artem Anisimov-Alexei Morozov
Sergei Mozyakin-Andrei Loktionov-Nikolai Zherdev

Nikolai Kulemin, Evgeny Kuznetsov

If there is a team that can put together a better group of top end talent on the top two lines then I would like to see it. This group consists of Hart, Rocket Richard, Art Ross, Selke, Con Smythe trophy winners who excel at both the offensive and defensive side of the puck.

Combine that with the speed, youth and familiarity of the country, they are without a doubt the best collection of forwards that any team will put together.

The list of players who make the team will include 4 players who are currently playing in the KHL. Including the top point getter in Sergei Mozyakin who some may remember from the 2010 Olympics, young Evgeny Kuznetsov as well as former NHL players Alexei Morozov and Nikolai Zherdev and

Watch for KHL standouts like Igor Mirnov or Andrei Subbotin to at least have a chance at making the club should injuries be a factor.

Player to watch out for,Alexander Radulov. He’s a big game player who loves to keep his best for international play. Watch for “Radu” to be named on of the tournament All-Stars

Defense:

Sergei Gonchar-Fedor Tyutin
Andrei Markov- Alexei Emelin
Renat Mamashev-Slava Voynov

Illya Nikulin-Evgeny Medvedev

If there is a weakness for the favorites then it has to be on defense. Sure there are some young, up and coming players who look to make an impact but on a whole the Russian blue line is again, battered and bruised.

None the less, as a collective, this 6 man unit will help in keeping the puck out of the net and ensuring that the high flying Russian transition game be a factor against whomever they are playing.

Assuming that injuries are not a factor, this group will consist of 5 NHL players and 3 players currently in the KHL.

Player to watch out for, Renat Mamashev. You likely do not know much about the guy but the 30 year old Defenseman from the Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk is an offensive superstar. He’s a point per game producing river gambler who takes chances and jumps in the rush at the expense of his own zone. Watch for him to make an impact.


Goaltending

Sergei Bobrovsky-Evgheni Nabokov- Stanislav Galimov

Goaltending has long been a question mark for the Russian team however the emergence of Sergei Bobrovsky as one of the best goaltenders in the NHL has solidified a position of weakness.

“Bob the goalie”, who I will argue should have not only won the Vezina this year but also had my vote as the Hart Winner, will be backed up by the KHL stand out goaltender Stanislav Galimov.

If “Bob” should struggle then Galimov has proven more than capable of leading a team. Galimov is the catalyst of a strong CSKA Moskow team who completed the 2012-13 season with a 1.76 GAA and .932 save %. Together they will form one of the best 1-2 punches in this tournament and will be supported by the veteran leadership of the aging but still effective Evgheny Nabakov.


Conclusion

When you combine arguably the top 2 lines of this tournament with the superb goaltending and the stand out play of an offensive minded D-core with the extraneous off ice variables, you have the makings of what looks like a Russian gold medal victory.

I am still hoping and preying that our Canadian boys prevail victoriously, but they will be in tough for what I predict will be a Russian Gold Medal victory.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Sochi 2014 Preview: Team Finland

First and foremost, I am proudly Canadian and I fully expect the gold medal to be coming home to Canada.   The reason I chose to write up about Team Finland is simple:  Former Habs captain Saku Koivu has long been my favorite NHL player. 

Finland has been a force in the past two Olympics, ending up with a silver medal in 2006 and a bronze in 2010. The strength of the Finnish program is goaltending. While Canada is trying to figure out who will be more consistent between Carey Price and Corey Crawford, Finland is trying to figure out which all-star to leave OFF the roster. Good goaltending can help a bad team win games.  This is good because Finland has an aging roster that is short on top-level talent, especially on defense.


Goaltending
Pekka Rinne (starter)
Tuukka Rask
Anti Niemi (3rd)

With incumbent starter Mikka Kiprusoff retiring, the reins have been passed to All-Star and two-time (arguably should have been three-time) Vezina trophy candidate Pekka Rinne. Tuukka Rask is coming off a defining playoff run and Antti Niemi has won a Stanley Cup in Chicago and was a Vezina nominee for his play this year in San Jose.  Kari Lehtonen is a former 2nd overall draft pick and star for the Dallas Stars, but does not boast the talent and resume to make this squad.  Barring injury to one of the top three, Lehtonen is watching from home, along with Minnesota Wild standout Niklas Backstrom.

Grade: A+


Defense

Kimmo Timonen  --  Sami Salo
Joni Pitkanen  --   Toni Lydman
Sami Lepisto  --  Sami Vatanen
Ossi  Väänänen (scratch)

This group is old.  Timonen and Salo are both 38 years old, but both still posess puck-moving skills to lead the power-play (Timonen) and a cannon point shot accessorize it (Salo).  Lydman is an elite shutdown defender, but is also 35 years old.  Sami Lepisto makes the team based on his past experience, but is currently playing in the KHL.  Sami Vatanen (Anaheim Ducks prospect) is an up-and-coming NHL player who should break camp with the Ducks this upcoming season and will be a part of Finlands future. Olli Maata (Pittsburgh Penguins prospect) has a bright future, but at 19 will not be a part of this team.  Ossi Väänänen is a well-regarded veteran and will be on the squad to provide depth.

Grade: C


Forwards 

Valterri Filppula  --  Mikko Koivu  --  Mikael Granlund
Tuomo Ruutu  --  Saku Koivu  --  Teemu Selanne
Lori Korpikoski  --  Olli Jokinen  --  Ville Leino
Antti Miettinen  --  Sean Bergenheim  --  Jussi Jokinen
Teemu Hartikainen, Jori Lehtera (scratches)

Up-front, this squad is led by the brothers Koivu (Mikko is my choice for captain, Saku an assistant), the ageless Teemu Selanne and Detroit Red Wings stalwart Valterri Filppula.  After that, the talent level thins out considerably.   This is a veteran group through and through, as Saku is 38 years old, Selanne is 42 and Olli Jokinen is 34. Most of the core players are at or around 30 years of age.  Granlund and Hartikainen (20 and 22 respectively) will provide the youth.

The top line of Filppula/Koivu/Granlund boasts two potential line-mates from Minnesota playing together. If they develop a chemistry together during the regular season, that should theoretically carry over to the Olympics.  Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne have played together in Olympics past and currently play together with the Anaheim Ducks. Tuomo Ruutu provides a physical presence on that line.  The third line consists of veteran sniper Olli Jokinen, with two-way Phoenix Coyote Lori Korpikoski and the gritty Ville Leino.  The checking line should be able to shut down teams on the penalty kill, with proven grinders Miettinen and Jussi Jokinen paired up with Florida Panther Sean Bergenheim.  This line can also put the puck in the net.  Teemu Hartikainen is a top-prospect with the Edmonton Oilers and pairs up with top KHL player Jori Lehtera (52 games, 17 goals, 48 pts) to provide depth.  While Aleksander Barkov was drafted 2nd overall in the 2013 NHL draft by Florida and is an extremely talented player, I do not see him making the team this year barring a Sidney Crosby-esque start to his NHL career. Sochi is about taking one last veteran run at winning Olympic gold.

Grade: C


Prediction

Finland has the goaltending depth to steal another medal.  While they lack the firepower to compete with power-houses Canada, Russia and the United States, this has always been the case for them.  Finland has enough two-way forwards to make up for the lack of depth on defence.  Age will be a factor, as will health.  Sami Salo, Joni Pitkanen, Saku and Mikko Koivu and Tuomo Ruutu have been injury prone in the past and losing any of these players to injury around Olympic time will be a hard blow to overcome.

Group B consists of Finland, Canada, Austria and Norway.  Canada and Finland advance.
Finland rides hot goaltending to make another appearance in the medal round but lacks the offensive firepower to upset the United States.  Canada and Russia meet for the gold.

The Finnish Finish:  4th 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Sochi 2014 Previews - Team U.S.A.: Young & Hungry


Sochi-USA
BY: Tony Healey (@T_Loc11)

After walking away with the Silver medal in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Team USA and its fans were left feeling hopeful about the future and yet unsatisfied.  Brian Burke shocked the world and American hockey fans by putting together a young team full of as many role players as All-Stars. That team went to the Gold medal game and lost in OT coming away with the Silver Medal. Now Team USA will be heading into Sochi with high exceptions because of those kids. With a team average age of 26 these kids are now the experienced core, with 14 returning players that should make the team, and will embrace the blue collar team philosophy.

General Manager
David Poile will be the next GM of Team USA and can really leave his mark on USA hockey and this team. He is one of the longest tenured GM’s in the league, serving as GM for 30 consecutive years (15 Washington and 15 Nashville). He was the US National Teams GM for the ‘98 and ‘99 IIHF World Championship and was named to USA Hockey’s National Team Advisory Group in February 2007. In 2010 he was the Special Assistant GM to Brian Burke. Poile’s first major task was to choose a coach and Dan Bylsma is a great choice.

Head Coach
Dan Bylsma may not have any international coaching experience like Tortorella or Laviolette, but he is the Head Coach of Team USA. What Bylsma lacks in international experience he makes up for in managing the big personalities of an All-Star team on a regular basis. He also should be the most qualified coach in the NHL to game plan against the 2 best players in the NHL, Sidney Crosby and EvgeniMalkin.

Goalies
USA has 5 candidates: Craig Anderson (Ott), Ryan Miller (Buf), Jimmy Howard (Det), Jonathan Quick (LA), and Cory Schneider (Van). This is the best crop of goaltenders from any country.
If the #1 goalie isn’t Jonathan Quick in Sochi it would be a huge shock. He has won a Stanley Cup and is one of, if not the best goaltender in the NHL right now. USA’s #2 goalie Jimmy Howard is a strong contender for back up duties mainly because he has posted career numbers the last 2 seasons. In the #3 slot I see Ryan Miller mainly for a veteran presence and leadership role. He did lead the team to the Silver medal in 2010, so that might give him the edge above Anderson and Schneider.  No matter whom the #2 or #3 goalie is in Sochi they have little chance of beating out Quick for the #1 spot. What will really help out Quick is how deep the pool of defenseman is for team USA.

Defenseman
Team Stars and Stripes has 14 defenseman that should be considered: Ryan Suter (MIN), Brooks Orpik (PIT), Keith Yandle (PHX), Kevin Shattenkirk (STL), Ryan McDonagh (NYR), Zach Bogosian (WPG), Dustin Byfuglien (WPG), Paul Martin (PIT), Alex Goligoski (DAL), James Wisniewski (CLB), Jack Johnson (CLB), Erik Johnson (COL), John Carlson (WSH), Justin FaulK (CAR)

Pair #1 - LD Ryan Suter (6’ 1” 198lbs Shoots Left - MIN) RD Keith Yandle (6’ 1” 190lbs Shoots Left - PHX)

Ryan Suter is probably the most obvious choice as Team USA’s top defenseman. Suter will do whatever the team needs from playing the shutdown roll to quarterbacking the power play. Yandle has a booming one timer and is a great skater that has good instincts with the puck.

Pair #2 – LD Brooks Orpik (6’ 2” 219lbs Shoots Left - PIT) RD Kevin Shattenkirk (5’ 11” 207lbs Shoots Right - STL

Brooks Orpik is a big physical defenseman that is one of the most underrated shutdown players in the NHL. He is the top shot blocker and penalty killer that Team USA has on defense. Kevin Shattenkirk is on the smaller side but is very quick and plays one of the best transition games in the NHL.

Pair #3 – LD Ryan McDonagh (6’ 1” 213lbs Shoots Left - NYR) RD Zach Bogosian (6’ 3” 215lbs Shoots Right - WIN)

Ryan McDonagh can play physical, block shots, give timely offense, and play big minutes in every situation especially the penalty kill. Zach Bogosian is a big physical defenseman who plays an aggressive style and really likes to rush the puck.

7th Defenseman – Dustin Byfuglien (6’ 5” 265lbs Shoots Right - WIN)

Dustin may draw into the line-up as a defenseman or power forward. He is a very strong, versatile player 
that has a nasty side with the size to back it up. Having “Big Buff” on the team will give the coaching staff options and many different potential line-up combinations.

Forwards
With the GM, Coaches, and Defense out of the way it’s on to the toughest part to predict, the offense. Team USA has good depth, not great like team Canada but good depth upfront.
The 21 possibilities are:  Derek Stepan (NYR), Joe Pavelski (SJ), David Backes (STL), Alex Galchenyuk (MTL), Paul Stastny (COL), Brandon Dubinsky (CLB), Ryan Kesler (VAN), Max Pacioretty (MTL), Zach Parise (MIN), James Van Riesmsdyk (TOR), Brandon Saad (CHI), Patrick Kane (CHI), Phil Kessel (TOR), Blake Wheeler (WPG), Ryan Callahan (NYR), Bobby Ryan (ANA), Dustin Brown (LAK), Jason Pominville (MIN), Kyle Okposo (NYI), T.J. Oshie (STL), Drew Stafford (BUF)

Line #1 LW Bobby Ryan (6’ 0” 205lbs, Shoots Right - ANA) C Ryan Kesler (6’ 2” 202lbs Shoots Right - VAN) RW Patrick Kane (5’ 11" 181lbs, Shoots Left - CHI)

Ryan Kesler is one of the best two way centers in the NHL and is a former Selke Trophy winner that is a do everything type of player.  Bobby Ryan can play a gritty game and knows how to use his combination of size and speed to really give the opposition fits in all 3 zones. Patrick Kane is the most creative player with the puck and is one of only two natural scorers on Team USA.  These 3 players lost the gold in Vancouver 2010 and are looking for redemption.

Line #2 LW Zach Parise (5’ 11” 190lbs Shoots Left - MIN) C David Backes (6’ 3” 221lbs Shoots Right - STL) RW Phil Kessel (6’ 0” 202lbs Shoots Right - TOR)

Zach Parise is the 2nd most offensively talented forward on this team and his play in the other 2 zones is very sound. David Backes is big and plays a punishing brand of hockey. He is almost an unmovable force in front of the net and strong defensively. Phil Kessel is one of the fastest skaters in the NHL and one of its most dangerous snipers. This line has the ability to dominate all over the ice and is almost as talented as the 1st line.

Line #3 LW Max Pacioretty (6’ 2” 219lbs Shoots Left - MTL) C Joe Pavelski (5’ 11” 190lbs Shoots Right - SJ) RW Dustin Brown (6’ 0” 212lbs Shoots Right - LA)

Max is a power forward in every sense of the word; he has above average speed, good hands, a quick shot and a great work ethic. Joe Pavelski brings a solid 2 way game and is the best faceoff man the United States has. Dustin Brown can provide timely scoring, blocks shots, and hits like a Mac truck. This line should be able to score and really grind teams into a pulp.

Line #4 LW James Van Reimsdyk (6’ 3” 200lbs Shoots Left - TOR) C Paul Stastny (6’ 0” 205lbs Shoots Left - COL) RW Ryan Callahan (5’ 11” 190lbs Shoots Right - NYR)

James Van Reimsdyk (JVR) skates like the wind and does have size. Paul Stastny is known for playing a solid 2 way game and plays bigger than his stature would suggest.  Ryan Callahan plays within his means and does all the little things really well and is one of the NHL’s best penalty killers.
Extra Forward Derek Stepan (6’ 0” 196lbs Shoots Right - NYR)
Derek Stepan will give the US team even more versatility because he can play all 3 offensive positions and play any roll needed.

This team is young but experienced with 14 players returning from the silver medal team in Vancouver 2010. That means while that average age is 26 years old they still have a ton of experience. Adding to the motivation to win is the revenge factor, with the stinging loss at the hands of team Canada in the gold medal game still fresh. It will be exciting to see how this group of tough rugged players come together to fulfill the exceptions of a gold medal.

Montreal Canadiens Off-Season Player Profile: George Parros


By: Sean Lloyd (@SeanLLoyd93)

George Parros
6’5” 228 lbs
2013 Stats
39GP- 1G- 1A- 2Pts- 57 PIM

The Cost
Montreal Canadiens general manager, Marc Bergevin, knew that the Canadiens needed to add size and toughness to his roster in order to get his team further in the playoffs. That being said, Bergevin signed enforcer George Parros to a two year deal worth $1.875 million.
Parros will earn $925,000 in his introductory year with the Habs and $950,000 in 2014-15. The contract came with a $100,000 signing bonus and has an annual cap hit of $937,500 per season.

Performance
It’s quite obvious that Parros is being brought in for his performance without his gloves. His 18 goals scored during his nine year career aren’t enough to entice anybody looking for offence.
In 2013, Parros took part in nine fights with a record of 3-1-5 according to www.hockeyfights.com . A record with more wins would be more welcome, but for a team that depends on Brandon Prust and Travis Moen to keep opposing goons in line.
Parros may not have won all his battles but a guy who is willing to drop the gloves against Buffalo Sabres 6’8” 270 pound behemoth, John Scott once- let alone twice- is more than welcome on my team.

The Fit
You won’t be seeing Parros on the power play anytime soon and his teammates will be killing a lot more of his penalties than the other way around.
Parros is coming to the Habs to protect them. The opposition will know that if they want to take a run at Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher and company then Parros will come at them with two fists and a mustache’a’blazing.
Parros’s presence will also take a lot of pressure off of Prust and Moen. Prust can still throw his weight around but can also concentrate on other aspects of his game such as killing penalties and chipping in with more offence. Moen can concentrate more on...whatever it is he does.


Do you think Parros will have a positive effect on his teammates? Or did Bergevin give in to fans demands by giving a roster spot to a tough guy with a great ‘stache?

Sean is a freelance writer currently writing for www.HabsAddict.com and ww.TheHockeyWriters.com
He can also be heard on occasion as a guest on www.MontrealHockeyTalk.com. You can follow Sean on Twitter @SeanLloyd93

(Photo courtesy: nesn.com)

Monday, August 12, 2013

Sochi 2014 Preview: Team Sweden

Sochi-Sweden
BY: Fred Poulin (@FredPoulin98)

We are now less than one year away from the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Now that the NHL has finally allowed its players to compete in the Men's hockey tournament, it's time to have a in-depth look at the potential candidates to make Team Sweden's roster.

The core of this team is getting older every year and 2014 might be the last chance at a Gold Medal for this unheralded country. With key veterans such as Nicklas Lidstrom and Mats Sundin who retired in recent years, Team Sweden will have to rely on younger players such as Gabriel Landeskog and Oliver Ekman-Larsson to take over.

Expect the Sedins, Henrik and Daniel, to lead the way once again on offense along with clutch performer Henrik Zetterberg and puck distributor Nicklas Backstrom. Veteran Daniel Alfredsson will be back for his last Olympics should he decide to play one more season at the ripe age of 41 with the improving Ottawa Senators. 

On defense, the Nordic country can count on a solid brigade lead by former Norris Trophy winner, Erik Karlsson. The offensive-minded rearguard will be supported by a strong cast of players such as Viktor Hedman, Niklas Kronwall and Alexander Edler.

In goal, the choice is not difficult as King Henrik Lundqvist is the obvious choice to get the bulk of the workload with towering netminder Anders Lindback and late-bloomer Viktor Fasth backing him up.

Seeding for the 2014 Sochi Olympics:
Group A: Russia (1), Slovakia (6), USA (7), Slovenia (18)
Group B: Finland (2), Canada (5), Norway (8), Austria (15)
Group C: Czech Republic (3), Sweden (4), Switzerland (9), Latvia (11)


The format will be the same as in Vancouver 2010 as the four teams with the best record (the group winners and the second-place team with the best record) advance to the quarter-finals. Sweden will be in a tough group with Czech Republic and the ever-improving Switzerland that can shuffle the cards and surprise.

Depth Chart
Left WingCentreRight Wing
Daniel SedinHenrik SedinDaniel Alfredsson
Henrik ZetterbergNicklas BackstromJohan Franzen
Gabriel LandeskogAlex SteenLoui Eriksson
Carl HagelinPatrik BerglundPatric Hornqvist

Defence
DefenceGoaltenders
Alexander EdlerErik KarlssonHenrik Lundqvist
Niklas KronwallTobias EnstromVictor Fasth
Victor HedmanOliver Ekman-Larsson 

Spares
Carl Gunnarsson (D), Jonathan Ericsson (D), Viktor Stalberg (LW), Marcus Kruger (C), Anders Lindback (G)

Just Missed
Douglas Murray (D), Johnny Oduya (D), Adam Larsson (D), Niklas Hjalmarsson (D), Kristian Huselius (RW), Mikael Backlund (C), Jacob Silfverbeg (C), Mika Zibanejad (C), M. Johansson (C), Johan Hedberg (G), Jonas Gustavsson (G), Jhonas Enroth (G), Jacob Markstrom (G)

As you can see, Team Sweden boasts the best defensive corps of the tournament with three solid pairings who can contribute offensively as well as shut down the opposition every game. They are big and fast with Kronwall, Hedman, Edler and Ekman-Larsson all recording more than 20 points in the 48-game shortened NHL season while Karlsson (14 points in 17 games) and Enstrom (15 points in 22 games) missed 31 and 26 games respectively.

On attack, the country can count on a plethora of offensive options with a good mix of snipers and passers. Gabriel Landeskog and Johan Franzen can lay out big hits and drive the net, while Henrik Sedin, Nicklas Backstrom and Daniel Alfresson can distribute the puck. Snipers Daniel Sedin and Loui Eriksson can be dominant on the power play and two-way specialists such as Alex Steen and Henrik Zetterberg can handle penalty killing duties.

Should injuries happen during the season prior to the Olympic break, Sweden will be able to count on a solid pool of talented players, so depth won't be a problem for this Scandinavian land.
Please note that teams will be allowed to carry 25 players to the tournament (but only 22 can dress for a game) compared to 20 players for a regular NHL game.

The 2006 gold medalists in Turin did not have the same success in Vancouver in 2010, losing to Slovakia in a tightly-contested quarterfinal game.  Sweden will head to Sochi looking to come back on the highest step of the podium and they certainly have a deep roster capable of competing for gold.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Sochi 2014 Preview: Team Switzerland

Sochi-Swiss
BY: Steven Hindle (@StevenHindle)

Neutral No More

Fresh off of a Silver Medal finish at the recently completed IIHF World Championship, Head Coach of Team Switzerland, Sean Simpson, has high hopes for the upcoming 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

Having long been considered a competitive club, Team Switzerland has yet to make a dent among the top nations in International play. Finishing 8th at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, the Swiss are sure to challenge for a better finish this time around.

Despite only 0.35% of the population of Switzerland play hockey, the talent pool has grown exponentially, as witnessed in recent years as Swiss prospects have produced some 1st round prospects in the NHL.
Building off the development of recent prospects, the Swiss look to ice a club that will not only cause fits for top Nations such as Sweden, Canada, Russia and the U.S., but they will look to cement their place as a legit contender in International competition.

Sure, they’ve pulled off some upsets and caused a few scares in the past, but the outlook is different this time around. Most imagine that Sean Simpson was ecstatic over the Silver Medal earned in Sweden at the World Championships, yet that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Though proud of the accomplishment, internally the Swiss are focused on nothing but winning. Anything less isn’t good enough.
And it is this change of attitude and thinking, internally, which has the elite hockey Nations thinking twice about how to handle Simpson’s Swiss club.

While the projections will remain conservative for the Swiss heading into Round Robin play, the 9th ranked Nation will be motivated through rivalry as they will share Group C with Team Sweden, Gold Medal winners over the Swiss at the 2013 IIHF World Championships. Included in the group with the Swiss and Swedes are the Czech Republic and Latvia.

Though the odds have Switzerland ranked behind the 3rd and 4th ranked Nations (Czechs and Swedes), the Swiss are getting younger and faster and will look to have their most talented and competitive roster on the ice this upcoming February.

Included in the mix for the final cut on Team Switzerland are a few NHL players and prospects, and a dearth of talented players skating across Europe.

Here is a look the players vying for spots on Team Switzerland:

Goaltenders:

Jonas Hiller, Reto Berra, Martin Gerber, Benjamin Conz, Tobias Stephan

Defense:

Mark Streit, Raphael Diaz, Roman Josi, Julien Vauclair, Severin Blindenbacher, Goran Bezina, Robin Grossman, Mathias Seger, Luca Sbisa, Felicien DuBois, Yannick Weber (maybe Mirco Muller)

Forwards:

Bruno Hollenstein, Kevin Romy, Damian Brunner, Sven Bärtschi, Martin Pluss, Nino Neiderreiter, Roman Wick, Andrey Bykov, Luca Cunti, Ryan Gardner, Reto Suri, Simon Moser, Morris Trachsler, Andres Ambühl, Julian Walker (maybe Sven Andrighetto)

With a potent mix of veteran leaders and young, up-and-coming prospects, Sean Simpson will have his work cut when it comes to making the final cut for the opening night roster against Team Latvia.

Beyond Group C, the Olympic Hockey tournament promises to be one of the greatest hockey competitions of all-time. With hosts Russia leading Slovakia, the U.S. and Slovenia in Group A, Group B will offer up Finland, Canada, Norway and Austria. Needless to say, the Swiss couldn’t have picked a better time to begin their rise in Hockey.

Making it to the medal round at the Olympics is quite a different story as compared to the World Championships, but with a roster that exuded great chemistry at the WC and an ability to add to that, Team Switzerland is no longer a team without expectations. Rather they have now entered the realm of great expectations; territory the Swiss hope propels them to a seat among the elite of hockey Nations.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Sochi 2014 Preview: Team Slovakia

BY: Patrick Scebba (@MTLDriveFor25)

As we draw closer to the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, most of us are all really looking forward to see who will be winning the gold medal. Like some people, I’ve always been a fan of watching the world’s top players face off in one of the biggest stages you’ll ever see. It’s a lot of fun to see all these all-star players play together. At HabsAddict.com's request, I’m going to be reviewing Team Slovakia.

Team Slovakia is looking good. Coming off a fourth place finish in Vancouver 2010, The Slovaks have opened some eyes recently, winning silver medal in last year’s IIHF World Hockey Championships. Team Slovakia looks to rebound with another strong showing in Sochi.
Here is my prediction of the final roster:
Forwards:
  • Marian Hossa - Tomas Kopecky - Marian Gaborik
  • Mario Bliznak - Michal Handzus - Miroslav Satan
  • Martin Cibak - Tomas Tatar - Richard Panik
  • Stefan Ruzicka - Jozef Stumpel - Branko Radivojevic
  • Marcel Hossa
Defense:
  • Zdeno Chara - Lubomir Visnovsky
  • Andrej Sekera - Andrej Meszaros
  • Milan Jurcina - Ivan Baranka
Goaltenders:
  • Jaroslav Halak
  • Peter Budaj
  • Jaroslav Janus

If Slovakia wants to continue its success this season, they will have to rely on their strong core of defenseman and very skillful offense. The team will look to captain Zdeno Chara as the key guy running the Slovak blue line. 
Chara, coming off a Stanley Cup loss, is arguably one of the world’s best defenseman. At a frightening six foot, nine inches, 255 pounds there is no getting by this guy. His ability to see the puck and shut down the opposition's top forward line is incredible. 
Up front it will be up to 2-time Stanley Cup champion Marian Hossa and Blue Jackets forward, Marian Gaborik. Hossa notching 31 points in 40 games with the Blackhawks this year, and is the Slovaks most dangerous offensive weapon. Gaborik scoring 27 points in 47 games (NYR + CBJ), and looking to make a statement for the Slovaks.
This tournament will be tough for Slovakia, but if they can play to their full potential, they have a shot at advancing to the medal round.
Here is a look at the Groups:
Group A – Russia, Slovakia, United States, Slovenia
Group B – Finland, Canada, Norway, Austria
Group C – Czech Republic, Sweden, Switzerland, Latvia
How it works:
The format will be the same as in Vancouver 2010. The four teams with the best records (the group winners and the second-place team with the best record) advance to the quarterfinals; the remaining eight teams will play a qualification game.
It looks pretty tough for Slovakia to get into the quarterfinals. I think if they play their best hockey, it’s definitely possible.

My prediction: Slovakia finishes 6th overall. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Sochi 2014 Previews: Team Czech Republic

Sochi-Czech
BY: ROB ELBAZ

The Czechs currently hold third place in the IIHF world rankings but they’ll be hard pressed to medal in Sochi. They are a far cry from the team that took the Gold back from Nagano in ’98 or even the Bronze from Turin in 2006, and they’ll be facing stiff competition from host nation Russia, along with Canada, the US, Sweden and Slovakia.

While not a powerhouse, the team does have some offensive talent and should still put on a show for the fans. They’ll also boast some quality goaltending from a trio of capable backstops, any one of which can lead this team deep into the tourney. The Czechs also managed a favorable draw, avoiding many of the elite teams in this tournament for the preliminary round.

Team Czech will bring some big offensive names to Sochi, but unfortunately, their most talented players may have their best days behind them. Jaromir Jagr will be turning 42 during the Olympics, he and Patrik Elias, 37, will likely be playing in their last Olympic tournaments.

Look for Jagr to be reunited on a line with Montreal’s Tomas Plekanec, the two played their lockout hockey together in Kladno for the team that Jagr owns. Despite the chemistry that Jagr and Plekanec always seem to find, David Krejci might be the Czech Republic’s biggest offensive threat, he led the NHL in playoff scoring in 2013 with 26 points in 22 games. The Czechs will also have Jakub Voracek of Philadelphia, Ottawa’s Milan Michalek, and Washington’s Tomas Fleischmann to help provide a scoring touch.

Offensively speaking, Team Czech should be able to hold their own. While they should be able to light the lamp consistently, but even so, they will have difficulty keeping pace with the forwards that Canada, Russia and the USA will be bringing to Sochi. If they are lucky, the Czechs will be on par with the offense that Sweden and Slovakia will have at the Olympics. At worst the Czechs’ forward lineup will still match up with Finland.

At the other end of the ice, it will be interesting to see who earns the starting goalie spot for Team Czech. Thomas Vokoun backstopped the team to Bronze in ’06 and held onto starting duties in 2010, but Winnipeg’s Ondrej Pavelec could be set to replace the veteran netminder. Michal Neuvirth will also enter the goaltending conversation, giving the Czech Republic three viable options in goal, although none will offer the type of dominance Dominik Hasek gave the Czechs in ’98.

Having three capable goalies could be a big boost to the Czech team. If any of the trio gets hot during the tourney the Czechs will be a legitimate medal contender, but with just three round-robin games before the single elimination round, finding the best man for the job could be a tough task.

Defense is where the Czechs will have the most trouble keeping up with the rest of the competition. The good news is that they will have plenty of quality choices for dependable blueliners with the likes of Stanley Cup winner Michal Rozsival, Florida’s Filip Kuba, Detroit’s Jakub Kindl, Jersey’s Marek Zidlicky, Ladislav Smid from the Oilers, Zbynek Michalek and Rostislav Klesla from the Coyotes, and former Habs Tomas Kaberle and Roman Hamrlik to choose from. The bad news is that the team won’t have the type of standout defenseman that some of other teams will be bringing. There is no Zdeno Chara, Drew Doughty, Erik Karlsson, Shea Weber, Ryan Suter or P.K. Subban that can eat up minutes and dominate play in all three zones. Instead the team will need to rely on veteran leadership and balanced defending to lead the team deeper in the tourney.

Behind the bench, Alois Hadamczik will be back to coach the national team. While Hadamczik has never coached in the NHL, he led the Czech’s to a bronze medal in the 2006 games and should have no trouble getting the most out of his squad.

The Czechs earned a good draw in Sochi. They are lucky enough to have Switzerland and Latvia in their group, which should allow them to easily advance past the round-robin. They also share the group with Sweden, a talented team but one that they may be able to defeat and potentially earn a bye in the first round of the playoffs.

With Team USA, Team Russia and Team Slovakia sharing a group, it’s clear the Czechs have already cleared a major hurdle in their path to the medals. If they can manage to go undefeated in the preliminary round they could keep rolling right through to a semi-final appearance and a chance at a medal. Still, lots of things will need to go right for the Czechs if a Gold or even Silver is in their future.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Montreal Canadiens Off Season Player Profile: Daniel Briere

With a little under two months remaining before the NHL pre-season gets going, it seems like the perfect time to start taking a look at the Canadiens roster as the off season winds down. In the weeks leading up to the regular season I will be doing individual profiles of every member of the Canadiens roster to help give an idea of where each player stands.

Seeing as how Daniel (formerly known as "Danny") Briere has been the most talked about Hab since signing as a free agent, it seems fitting to begin with him.

Daniel Briere
5'10" 179 lbs
2013 Stats 34GP- 6G- 10A- 16Pts

The Cost

The addition of Briere will cost the Canadiens $8 million over two years with a cap hit of $4 million per year. Although it can be argued that along with the $8 million, signing Briere also cost the Canadiens Jaromir Jagr. While there is no guarantee Jagr would've signed with the Canadiens, once Briere inked his contract there just wasn't enough money to add a seemingly interested Jagr to the roster as well. Jagr ended up signing a contract with the New Jersey Devils that will pay him $2 million base salary with the chance to earn two more in players bonuses.

Performance

Briere's performance in the shortened 2013 season was less than impressive. For a player who has never had trouble producing, it wasn't a shock when the Philadelphia Flyers decided to buyout the remaining two years on his contract after seeing him limited to only 16 points and a -13 rating.

Briere averaged 16:03 minues per game last season after averaging 17:21 in 2011-12 and 18:18 in 2010-11. His age mixed with the emergence of Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds and Matt Read on the wings plus Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn up the middle made the Flyers decision easier.

The Fit

Finding a fit for Briere on the Habs roster has many fans scratching their heads. Briere was brought in to provide scoring and was not simply a depth addition, however with Max Pacioretty, Rene Bourque, Brian Gionta, Alex Galghenyuk and Brendan Gallgher it may be problematic finding him a spot as a top six forward.

Even if Michel Therrein were to use him as a center, his natural position, he would find himself behind Tomas Plekanec, Lars Eller and David Desharnais.

The question isn't which position he"ll be playing, it's on what line. Briere will be playing on the wing and could possible be used alongside David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty. That would leave Gionta and Bourque to play on either side of Tomas Plekanec and the Gally's with Eller.

Briere will also see plenty of powerplay time as he has always been crafty given time and space.


The acquisition of Briere wasn't the most popular move made by Marc Bergevin in his tenure as Habs GM. Does the move make sense to you? If you were Therrien, where would Briere fit on your team?

Sean is a freelance writer currently writing for www.HabsAddict.com and ww.TheHockeyWriters.com
He can also be heard on occasion as a guest on www.MontrealHockeyTalk.com. You can follow Sean on Twitter @SeanLloyd93