February 12, 2014

NHL Players at the Olympics

The Men's Olympic hockey tournament is starting tomorrow in Sochi, and I'm PUMPED for these games to start. You've all heard the debate before... should NHL players be allowed to compete or not?

The 1998 Nagano games was the first time the NHL allowed it's players to compete in the Olympics. Previous to this, each country would send a national team of amateurs to represent their country. Everyone remembers the 1980 "Miracle".... that USA team was made up of the best college hockey players in the country.

Since 1998 the NHL has taken a two week break for the games, this year the entire league is in holding pattern from February 9th through February 25th. No games, No trades, No roster moves allowed at all.

I totally get why some people think this sucks. It kind of does. Especially when you have a HOT team like the Bruins, who are 7-1-2 in their past 10 games…. Most people think “This break sucks, our team is playing so good right now, I’d rather not have a long schedule break to lose momentum.” However, I think a strong case can be made that the Bruins played so well down the stretch BECAUSE they knew this long break was coming. I guarantee at some point in January someone on the team got the guys together and said “listen, lets win X amount of games before the break, we need to get to this point and lets go make it happen.” Plus, the Bruins have a whopping 17 games in March and then 7 in April… that’s PLENTY of time to recapture momentum in time for the playoffs.

Anyway, that’s not the point of this blog. The point is that I LOVE that the NHL players play in the tourney. Here’s why:

Best Players in the world

I think this one is pretty obvious. I think it makes much more sense to have each countries’ best players compete vs. each other, so the Olympic games can truly produce a non-debatable winning country. If Finland’s amateurs beat our Amateurs in the gold medal game… I wouldn’t necessarily think Finland has the best team in the world. I would need to see Finland pros vs American pros.

These players actually care 

These NHL players are playing in Sochi for free. They don’t get paid. Their only motive is to win Gold for themselves and their country. In some sense, this makes the Olympics actually better than the NHL… these guys truly want to win and it’s not for a paycheck. Also, it should be noted that these Olympic games are nowhere near the same intensity and grind that you see in NHL playoffs. Well, maybe the intensity is there, but the rink is bigger and the gameplay is far less physical. There’s a lower chance of injury during the Olympics than there would be during the normal NHL schedule.

It only happens once every 4 years 

I totally understand why Cam Neely and other NHL execs don’t like their players going to the Olympics. It’s not good for business, it creates scheduling problems, etc… but c’mon guys. It’s once every 4 years. Deal with it.

It’s good for the game of Hockey 

The whole world watches the Olympics… I think it’s better for the sport itself if it’s recognizable names and players are competing in the tourney. Can you imagine if Alex Ovechkin or Evegeni Malkin weren't competing for Russia in the Olympics? Doesn't make sense. This is a huge stage for the best overall sport in the world. Take advantage of this by putting your best players on display.

It’s just cool 

The Bruins have 5 different players in the games, all competing for 5 different teams. It’s going to be pretty awesome watching David Krejci try to dangle past Chara in a game that matters. Who doesn’t want to see something like that? Duncan Keith and Shea Weber are the top D pairing for Canada this year… that’s just bad ass. I want to see that. I want to see Patrick Kane come down the wing on Keith. Any hockey fan would. It’s like watching an All Star game that people actually try in.

Anyway, I love the NHL players in the Olympics. It’s awesome. Unfortunately, this is likely to be the last time the NHL players will be allowed to compete. So, hockey fans, even though the time difference is shitty, do all you can to watch as much of this Olympic hockey as you can! I know I will.

Random Olympic hockey thoughts:

-Jon Quick (Umass!) is getting the start for Team USA in their first game over Ryan Miller. Hard to believe me and my buddies at Umass used to watch this guy play at the Mullins Center. The crazy thing is, everyone kinda knew Quick was special, but THIS special? Starting goliae for Team USA? So cool. Suck it BC, BU, etc..

-As I mentioned above the Bruins have 5 players playing for 5 different countries:

Zdeno Chara- Slovakia
Patrice Bergeron- Canada
David Krejci- Czech Republic
Tuukka Rask- Finland
Loui Ericksson- Sweeden

Pretty sweet. There’s a good chance one of these guys returns to Boston with a Gold Medal. Add in the fact that none play for the USA and that gives us Boston hockey fans 6 teams we can root for. If Russia wins, its fixed.

-Carl Soderberg got screwed. He should be on the Sweden team… the reason he wasn’t selected was because he left their national league to play in the NHL last year, and was told upfront that he was basically betraying his country by coming to the NHL to play, and that by leaving he removed himself for consideration from the national team. Whatever… I personally feel as if he’s really coming into his own as a Bruin so I’m fine with him not going… but I do feel bad for him. He’s a good player.

Team USA’s qualifying round schedule:

2/13 vs Slovakia 7:00am  (Chara!)
2/15 vs Russia 7:30am
2/16 vs Slovenia 7:30am

Team USA’s possible line combos:

James Van Riemsdyke – Joe Pavelski – Phil Kessel
Zach Parise – David Backes- TJ Oshie
Dustin Brown- Ryan Kesler- Patrick Kane
Ryan Callahan- Paul Stasny- Max Pacioretty

Cam Fowler- Ryan Suter
Ryan McDonagh – John Carlson
Kevin Shattenkirk – Paul Martin
Brooks Orpik- Justin Faulk

Jon Quick-Ryan Miller- Jimmy Howard

Extra Fwds: Derek Stepan, Blake Wheeler

My thoughts on this: Kinda lame. The top 6 are good but sorry you need Kane up top playing with Pavelski or Backes.

And just for fun, here’s Canada’s typical STUD line combos:

Chris Kunitz- Sidney Crosby- Jeff Carter
Patrick Sharp – Jonathan Toews- Rick Nash
Jamie Benn- John Tavares- Patrice Bergeron
Patrick Marleau – Ryan Getzlaf- Corey Perry

Duncan Keith- Shea Weber
Marc-Adouard Vlasic- Drew Doughty
Jay Bouwmeester – Alex Pietrangelo
PK Subban- Dan Hamhuis

Roberto Luongo- Carey Price- Mike Smith

My only thoughts on this is WOW and Bergeron not playing Center is a crime.

Anyway… GO USA!!! I really want them to win this year especially if this is the last time NHL players will be involved.

Parise- the USA captain

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