Hockey Headlines

Saturday, 8 February 2014

THN Olympic Rankings

The Hockey News published their February issue and had it news stands earlier this week. I was very interested in this issue simply because THN was going to rank the twelve men's Olympic hockey teams playing in Sochi, Russia this year. With there being many theories about who wins what medal, I wanted to see who THN had on their podium and why. There shouldn't be any surprise that Norway and Slovenia probably wouldn't be in the top-three teams, but would we see Russia? How about Finland? Sweden? The USA? Canada? There are a lot of factors to consider, and The Hockey News looked at each facet of the teams - forwards, defence, and goaltending - and ranked them accordingly to determine who wins gold in Sochi.

Centermen

It should be no surprise that THN ranked Canada as having the best centermen thanks in part to having players like Crosby, Getzlaf, Toews, Bergeron, and Tavares at their disposal. Outside of the Russian duo of Malkin and Datsyuk, there may not be another team that will even come close to Canada's depth down the middle. That being said, I was surprised that the Czechs weren't ranked higher based on their projected top-three centers of Krejci, Plekanec, and Hanzal.
1. Canada
2. Sweden
3. Russia
4. USA
5. Czech Republic
6. Finland
7. Slovenia
8. Slovakia
9. Latvia
10. Switzerland
11. Austria
12. Norway



Here are my rankings based upon the recent injuries seen by some teams, notably Finland and Sweden.
1. Canada
2. Russia
3. Czech Republic
4. USA
5. Sweden
6. Finland
7. Slovakia
8. Latvia
9. Slovenia
10. Switzerland
11. Austria
12. Norway



Wingers

Again, The Hockey News has ranked Canada as having the best wingers on the planet, but this should come with an asterisk. It's probably a given that Tavares will play on the wing based on the depth at center that Canada has, and they will be taking along a pile of other talented wings such as Corey Perry, Martin St. Louis, Jamie Benn, Patrick Sharp, and Rick Nash. What other country can leave Stamkos at home and not miss a beat? But are they better than Russia's Ovechkin and Kovalchuk? Should they rank higher than the talented group that the USA is taking?
1. Canada
2. Russia
3. Sweden
4. USA
5. Slovakia
6. Czech Republic
7. Finland
8. Austria
9. Switzerland
10. Norway
11. Latvia
12. Slovenia



Here are my rankings based upon the recent injuries seen by some teams, notably Sweden and Team USA.
1. Canada
2. Russia
3. USA
4. Slovakia
5. Sweden
6. Czech Republic
7. Finland
8. Switzerland
9. Austria
10. Latvia
11. Norway
12. Slovenia



Defencemen

There is simply no comparison between Canada's blue liners and the rest of the world. The riches that Canada possesses on its blue line should make this the strength of the Canadian squad, and it really should be what creates a gap between Canada and the rest of the world. However, Sweden will have a talented group going to Sochi who can play both a finesse game and a rough-and-tumble game, and the Americans have a few guys who have no problem playing thirty minutes a night. The overall talent being brought to Sochi by Canada, however, has them ahead of the rest of the pack.
1. Canada
2. Sweden
3. USA
4. Slovakia
5. Russia
6. Czech Republic
7. Finland
8. Switzerland
9. Latvia
10. Norway
11. Austria
12. Slovenia



Here are my rankings based upon the rosters announced.
1. Canada
2. USA
3. Sweden
4. Slovakia
5. Russia
6. Czech Republic
7. Switzerland
8. Finland
9. Latvia
10. Austria
11. Norway
12. Slovenia



Goaltenders

If there is one place that Canada has the talent, but simply does not excel, it is in the blue paint. One has to look no further than recent tournament success where goaltending played the Achilles' heel of the Canadian teams. There is one nation that seems to be producing the best goaltending talent, and Finland has a myraid of excellent goaltenders. Even without Pekka Rinne, the Finns still boast Tuukka Rask, Kari Lehtonen, and Antti Niemi. That's impressive. Throw in the Americans with Miller, Quick, and Howard, and the Swedes with Lundqvist who has a gold medal to his name in 2006, and Canada might be in tough when it comes to boasting the best goaltenders in the tournament.
1. Finland
2. USA
3. Canada
4. Sweden
5. Russia
6. Switzerland
7. Slovakia
8. Czech Republic
9. Latvia
10. Austria
11. Norway
12. Slovenia



Here are my rankings based on the rosters announced.
1. Finland
2. USA
3. Sweden
4. Canada
5. Russia
6. Switzerland
7. Slovakia
8. Czech Republic
9. Latvia
10. Austria
11. Norway
12. Slovenia



Overall Rankings

Judging by their scoring and defensive corps, THN has Canada ranked first. Honestly, I'm not sure that's a bad choice considering the talent on paper. But there's a reason why they play the games, and that's because the story on paper doesn't tell everything. Russia will have home-ice advantage in terms of playing in front of their fans, but that will come with intense pressure and scrutiny if they stumble. The Swiss always enjoy playing the role of spoiler, and could we see another Slovakian run like we did in 2010?
1. Canada
2. Sweden
3. USA
4. Russia
5. Finland
6. Slovakia
7. Czech Republic
8. Switzerland
9. Latvia
10. Austria
11. Slovenia
12. Norway



Here are my final predictions based on what we know.
1. Canada
2. Russia
3. Sweden
4. USA
5. Finland
6. Slovakia
7. Switzerland
8. Czech Republic
9. Latvia
10. Slovenia
11. Austria
12. Norway




Do you agree? Disagree? How far off am I? I know that some will be shocked at my fourth-place finish for the Americans, but I really don't like their scoring ability. If they get another tournament out of their goalies like they did in 2010, they could certainly move higher, but they need Miller or Quick to stand on his head in each game if they hope to win 2-1 or 3-2 on a nightly basis.

Let me know in the comments what you think. I'm curious to see who medals on your podium!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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