With the National Hockey League, the Players' Association and the International Ice Hockey Federation finally hammering out a deal for the NHL's participation in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, we can look ahead to another great hockey tournament this February (from the 12th to the 23rd), which should once again feature a number of Nashville Predators in prominent roles.
Recall that during the 2010 games in Vancouver, Ryan Suter & Shea Weber led the USA & Canada into the gold medal game, an event which drew incredible TV ratings, making it the most-watched hockey game since the 1980 Olympics at Lake Placid. Back then, the Preds sent six players to the Olympics, so which ones are likely to take the ice in Sochi this time around?
The groupings for the initial round of games are as follows:
|Group A||Group B||Group C|
Having David Poile as general manager of Team USA should mean a Pred or two might have the inside track for a roster spot, right? Well, probably not, unless the plan includes a specialist faceoff winner & penalty killer, in which case Paul Gaustad could conceivably get the nod. Given the "build a complete team, not just a collection of stars" mentality which makes Poile so well-suited for this job, it's not entirely out of the question.
Yes, I know Craig Smith has had good runs at the World Championships, but he has no realistic shot at making the Olympic roster, which is drawn from the NHL's best, not just those who are out of the playoffs.
Shea Weber is a lock for a prime job with the flying syrup chuggers from the Great White North, and will surely be motivated to add a second gold medal to his trophy collection. In 2010 he was named to the media's All-Star team from the Olympic tournament, as he soaked up major ice time for Canada and ripped a puck through the net against Germany, the stuff of which legends are made:
Patric Hornqvist should be right in the mix Team Sweden, which should once again be a serious contender for gold. Depending on how things work out both in terms of personal play and injuries to others, Viktor Stalberg could work his way into the mix as well, but he'd be considered a longshot at this point.
Hornqvist scored one goal for the Swedes in 2010.
The world is suddenly awash in excellent Finnish goaltenders, with Tuuka Rask dominating for Boston and Antti Niemi having been a finalist for the Vezina Trophy. Toss in Nicklas Backstrom and Kari Lehtonen, and while Rinne looks to be a favorite to represent his country in Sochi, it is by no means certain.
Roman Josi will be the star of the Swiss team, which should be an interesting one to follow in the opening round, as they are in a group with Sweden, the Czech Republic, and Latvia.
Who else might possibly boost their stock enough over the next few months to earn a trip to Russia for their shot at an Olympic medal? Does Colin Wilson step up his game and establish himself as a consistent power forward, for example?
More from On the Forecheck:
- Nashville Predators News: Rich Clune Signs 2-Year Contract Extension
- Nashville Predators Analysis: What's Luck Got To Do With It?
- Blake Geoffrion Retires, Reminding Us That Hockey's Fates Are Fickle
- Thursday's Dump & Chase:Concussion Rates Unchanged, Despite Rule Changes
- NHL Free Agency: Former Preds Matt Halischuk & Jonathon Blum Find Work With New Division Rivals