Old Dudes and Little Stockholm: Olympic Thoughts

It’s early January, which means it’s time to start thinking about the Olympics! Who am I kidding, immediately after the closing ceremonies is the time to start thinking about the Olympics. But with the announcement of the Canadian, Russian, and Nordic rosters on Tuesday, here are some stray observations and thoughts on the upcoming Games:

Team USA is super young

This isn’t exactly surprising, given this was an observation made at their camp during the summer, but it was still startling to realize that David Backes at age 29 (and born in May) is the eldest of the forward core and that five out of the eight defensemen named to the team are under the age of 25. Only three members of team USA are over thirty: Ryan Miller (33), Brooks Orpik (33), and Paul Martin (32). In contrast, Czech Republic’s oldest player is 42! (Okay, bad example.) Still, Canada has seven players over 30 and the ages of the remainder skew towards the higher end of the 20s.

Blackhawks, Blues, and Red Wings have an awful lot of Olympians

This handy graphic displays how which teams have how many Olympians and for which country. Rather unsurprisingly, the three with the least are Calgary, Carolina, and Florida. There are four  teams sending seven players (I just realized this person forgot to tally Evgeni Malkin for Pittsburgh which is now making me question the rest of it, but never mind): Anaheim, Rangers, Pittsburgh, and Vancouver. And then there’s St. Louis, which has been a pretty diverse group of guys for a while now, and Chicago, who sent six last to Vancouver. It’s no secret that the Detroit Red Wings dressing room has slowly been turning into Little Stockholm, but it’s still startling to realize that a full six of their ten are playing for Sweden. That’s more than 1/5 of the team!

What does this actually matter? Well, conventional wisdom says that the Olympics tires out the players, both physically and emotionally. Then again, Chicago sent six players to Vancouver, five of them foundational players, and won the Cup that year. So maybe conventional wisdom has it wrong.

But let’s pretend that it’s right. Who could this be good for? San Jose, for one. Only four of their players are going to the Olympics, and Niemi is unlikely to play much unless Tuukka Rask forgets to do whatever demon sacrifice he did before last year’s ECF, so he should be nice and rested. The other players they’re sending are important, but they still have Thornton, Burns, and Couture, not to mention Hertl once he gets back from his injury. All it could take is a few games of Olympic hangover for them to catch the Ducks in the standings and if they get the ball rolling at the right time, it could be hard to stop them.

Who else could it be good for? Tampa Bay, maybe? Okay, yes, that sounds crazy but hear me out: they’re only two points in back of the Bruins right now and amongst their team members who aren’t going are leading scorer Marty St. Louis and goalie Ben Bishop, who is third in wins and GAA, second in SV%, and tied for shutouts with Tuukka Rask. Steven Stamkos, assuming he’s healthy enough to go, will probably need the time to get back into playing and by the time he’s back in Florida he could be back in pure sniper shape.

Don’t count out the Nordic countries

Okay, maybe you can count out Norway. But it seems to me that people always seem to be focusing on the strengths of the Canadian and United States teams as well as the talent and pressure fueling the Russians and completely forgetting that Sweden is a force to be reckoned with, not just in the handsome department but also in the offensive talent and defensive ability departments, and that Finland, though its roster might not be as star-studded as others, has three goalies that could easily be starters with no raised eyebrows. If Rask does his dark magic thing (and doesn’t look as alarmingly human as he has recently), we could see a bunch of 1-0  games culminating in Finland triumphantly riding out on their weird lions.

Hey, that old dude is going!

I’m actually kind of disappointed that Saku Koivu isn’t one of the older guys going because everything I’ve heard about the Koivu brothers tells me that if the NHL Revealed crew can get into the Finnish dressing room, we’re bound to see some Class A bickering. Alas, my dreams of them chirping each other before going out to the traditional Finnish sauna for team bonding are doomed. (I really hope the Finnish team does sauna bonding time.)

NHL Revealed will remind us how boring hockey players can be

If that clip of John Tavares they showed us is any indication, he’s even more boring than I assumed. So people who were bored by the Red Wings in 24/7 should get ready for a world of Canadian aw shucks moments. We might have to hope that Ovechkin or Kane does something nuts. We know it won’t be Crosby. On a side note, do you think the NHL Revealed guys will ever accidentally mislabel the Sedins?

Other stuff:

  • It’s going to be hilarious when someone on the US team gets injured and they have to call Bobby Ryan up.
  • I’m assuming, looking at the US defensive core, that they’re going to have two pairings: Orpik-Martin, and Ryan “never leaves the ice” Suter-one of the kids, who they’ll presumably just rotate. Suter’s on the ice so much he doesn’t know where the bench is. Suter only leaves the ice when his skate breaks. Suter — okay, I’ll stop.
  • I’m not sure if I want to see a Kunitz-Crosby-Stamkos line or a Kunitz-Crosby-Duchene line more. I guess you could also take Crosby’s comfort blanket away from him and put Kunitz with Getzlaf and Perry, but then what’s the point of bringing him if you’re not going to put him with Crosby (though it would be hilarious).
  • They should put Nash with Jamie Benn and just have them mow people down.
  • T.J. Oshie is part Ojibwe on his dad’s side, which made me  curious how many native athletes are in the Games this year aside from him and Carey Price.
  • Now that the Canadian team has been announced, David Backes’s programming has been activated. Watch out, Toews.
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