The following ran in Saturday’s edition of “The Committed Indian”:
While Colin Fraser and Brent Sopel will spend the next 14 days rubbing sun tan lotion on each other, the best hockey players in the world will descend on Vancouver and treat us to the greatest 6-game tournament you may ever see.
It’s fairly humorous to see some Hawk fans and sectors of the local media become so outraged about their players participating in extra games during the break. It’s as if Gary Bettman and his lackies decided to adopt this policy for just this year; as a Red Wings fan might say, “That argument is so 2002.”
We’re here to present to you the most complete 1,200-word breakdown you’ll find of all 12 teams competing for the gold.
Strengths: Hands down, the most talented group in the entire tournament. Not many other countries can lose their 2nd line center (Ryan Getzlaf) and have four franchise players waiting in the wings to take his spot.
Weaknesses: The home team will face the most pressure in the tournament. Sure, a Russian mobster may threaten to cut off Sergei Fedorov’s pinky finger if they lose to Latvia (he hasn’t really needed it since his Kournikova days anyway), but try turning away 22,000 hosers with torches and pitchforks after Canada loses their quarterfinal game to Belarus.
Strengths: A very sneaky stacked roster with tons of offensive talent and perhaps the best goalie in the tournament.
Weaknesses: Their first two games are against Norway and Switzerland. Any missteps there and a must-win game against Canada is not the recipe to nab a medal.
Strengths: Jonas Hiller and Mark Streit.
Weaknesses: Every other player on the roster
Strengths: Their first game is against Canada. Can only go uphill after that sacrifice to the gods.
Weaknesses: They blow at hockey.
Strengths: In what is likely the tournament’s best group, no one can compete with the skill of Mother Russia’s top line of Ovechkin-Datsyuk-Kovalchuk. They may have to put two pucks on the ice so Ovechkin and Kovalchuk can get enough shots.
Weaknesses: The big question is their defense, but a huge misstep by the Russian Olympic Federation was their insistence on including KHL players on their roster. Instead of Nik Antropov or Alexander Frolov playing for them, they’ll have NHL retreads like Viktor Koslov and Aleksey Morozov chewing up big minutes. How can they possibly expect to compete with Canada with decisions like that?
Strengths: Assuming Marian Gaborik can play, they’ll have a very respectable top line of Hossa, Gaborik, and any Slovak with a pulse. Zdeno Chara will play upwards of 30 minutes per game and Jaroslav Halak gives them a respectable netminder with the capability of getting hot.
Weaknesses: Their first two games are against the Czech Republic and Russia. There’s probably no other top team facing a tougher challenge in their first two games.
Strengths: He plays in Florida so there’s a 98% chance you don’t know that Tomas Vokoun is having a ridiculous season. Even if Panther statisticians are notorious for padding goalie stats, Vokoun still leads the league in shutouts with 7. Otherwise, the Czechs are a “who’s who” of secondary scorers – Martin Erat, Milan Michalek, David Krejci, to name a few. A top line of Havlat-Plekanec-Elias is perfectly ‘meh’ by Olympic standards.
Weaknesses: Jaromir Jagr has re-grown his magical mullet from the early 90’s and is attempting to convince everyone he’s 22 again. That’s the only way to explain his presence on this roster. The most overrated star of the 90’s will give the world a crash course on how to look utterly useless in the defensive zone.
Strengths: After going 0-3 in the preliminary round, they’ll have the privilege of playing the 5th seed. So there’s a decent chance after playing sacrificial lamb for three games, they’ll get to face someone like Finland or the US. Bon appetite.
Weaknesses: The NHL allowing its players to participate in the tournament. Only two NHL players hail from the hockey hotbed of Latvia and neither of them are any good.
Strengths: The reigning Gold Medal Champions returns most of their roster from the ’06 Games. Newcomers like Loui Erikkson, Nicklas Backstrom, Douglas Murray, and Johnny Oduya only bring more talent to the table. It’s true Zetterberg and Lidstrom can’t play forever, but since they’re still here, the Swedes will have a say in who wins this tournament.
Weaknesses: Honestly, the Swedes are so methodical and boring that everyone forgets about them. Then, the medal round rolls around and their team is standing up on stage while their national anthem plays. They don’t have the sexiness of the Russians, the tradition of the Canadians, and the underdoggedness of the Americans;they’re just blond and they all look like the Sedins.
Strengths: The Silver Medalists from the ’06 Games open the tournament with two “gimme”games against Belarus and Germany before they take on the Swedes in their final round robin game. Two wins in two games will guarantee them a top-5 seed and set them up very nicely to once again return to a medal game.
Weaknesses: The Finns don’t have much defensively unless Sami Salo, Kimmo Timonen, Toni Lydman, and Joni Pitkanen get your blood boiling. It’s going to take another Mikka Kiprusoff Festival of Jaw Dropping Saves to bail out Team Suomi.
Strengths: The Kostitsyn brothers give them a cool Russian mob connection as well as guaranteeing the best looking puck bunnies for their team. When they make a movie about Team Belarus, hopefully the producers decide to cast Jean-Claude VanDamme as both Kostitsyn brothers.
Weaknesses: How can any Belarus team ever live up to the expectations set by their ’02 predecessors? Maybe they can convince Sweden to bring back Tommy Salo and they have a chance of making it to the quarter-finals again.
Strengths: Their first two games will be their toughest with games against Sweden and then Finland. A win against Belarus in the third game should give them a fighter’s chance in their first playoff game and a chance to move on to the quarterfinals. Goalie Thomas Greiss impressed in his first Olympic go-around.
Weaknesses: When perennial NHL fourth-liners Marcel Goc and Marco Sturm are expected to be big-time scorers for your team in a short tournament, you’re probably not the house favorites. Another thing to keep in mind: it’s been about 70 years since World War II and they’re not part of the USSR anymore, but maybe Belarus is looking to continue the Battle of Stalingrad with the Germans. That wouldn’t be good for anybody.
So with all this on the table, we’re now proud to present to you the Feather’s Final Four picks:
In one semi-final, it will be a re-match of the 1980 and 2002 semis where Mother Russia takes on the greedy, capitalist pig Americans. In the other, it will be the host Canadians against the defending champion Swedes.
At some point, the dream Gold Medal match-up of Russia vs. Canada will be played; just not this year because the Canadians will be playing the Americans in a bronze medal game.
So, your 2010 Gold Medal Game will be between Russia and Sweden. In the end, only socialism wins.
*On the Farm*
—The IceHogs continued their domination over the Grand Rapids Griffins, this time with a 2-1 victory on Monday afternoon. The Griffins scored 37 seconds into the game, but Bracken Kearns scored an unassisted goal seven minutes later to tie the score at 1.
The score remained the same until Brian Connelly scored the game-winner in overtime. Kyle Greentree and Jake Dowell got the assists.
Corey Crawford had 25 saves.
—Kyle Beach scored two goals including the game-winner in overtime against his former team, the Everett Silvertips. Byron Froese scored the tying goal for Everett.