Friday, January 15, 2010

Olympic Preview: Group A

With the Olympics approaching, Nonsense Hockey will be breaking down each team group-by-group to give you a little glimpse of how things may shake out in Vancouver. The teams will be ranked by points. After pool play, the top four teams will get a bye and teams seeded 5-12 will play quarterfinal matches. The winners will play the top four seeded teams in a battle for Olympic gold.

Team: Canada
Current IIHF Rank: 1
Outlook: How can you pick against Canada? The 2002 gold medalists are looking to reclaim what’s theirs, and they may just have the team to do it. There are no questions in goal with Marty Brodeur (New Jersey Devils) likely being the number one guy and with Roberto Luongo (Vancouver Canucks) and Marc-Andre Fleury (Pittsburgh Penguins) waiting in the wings just in case. They do have a young team, with forwards Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins) and Jonathan Toews (Chicago Blackhawks) both making their first Olympics and being 22 or under. Drew Doughty (Los Angeles Kings) on the back end is a ripe twenty years of age and will be getting his feet wet in Olympic competition.

There will be no questions about youth when it comes to the rest of the line-up. The team has a nice mix offensively, with finesse and power. Corey Perry (Anaheim Ducks) will dazzle; Rick Nash (Columbus Blue Jackets) will bang in his rebounds. There is a nice veteran presence as well, with Brodeur, captain Scott Neidermayer (Anaheim Ducks), and sniper Jarome Iginla (Calgary Flames) rounding out the roster. All in all the team has perhaps the most firepower in the line-up, and when you can afford to leave a guy like Mike Green off of your roster, you know you’re in good shape.


TEAM: Norway
Current IIHF Rank: 11
Outlook: Norway will likely struggle in this pool, lacking the firepower and experience to compete at the international level. Not only that, they’ve got to face the U.S. and Canada in preliminary play and haven’t been to the Olympics since 1994. Defensively the team is respectable, with Philadelphia Flyer Ole-Kristian Tollefsen anchoring a relatively solid back end. Lars Erik Lund (Valerenga) is a veteran presence and has played for Norway since 2004, but after sustaining an eye injury in 2008 it’s questionable how effective he’ll be. Offensively they will likely key off of Per-Age Skorder (Modo), who led the Swedish league in points in 2009. Tore Vikingstad (pictured above, Hannover Scorpions), a former 6th round pick of the Blues, will be counted on to contribute as will 21-year-old Martin Laumann Ylven (Linkoping), who represented Norway in the 2005 and 2006 U-18 Championships, the 2007 and 2008 U-20 Championships, and the 2009 World Championships. Pal Grotnes (Stjernen) will likely be counted on to be the starting goalie. In Olympic qualifying in 2009 he played in three games with a 2.00 GAA and a .910 save percentage and posted a solid .901 SVP at the 2009 World Championships despite a porous defense in front of him. Wins may be hard to come by for an upstart country like Norway, but competing is all the Norwegians are really looking for.


Team: Switzerland
Current IIHF Rank: 7
Outlook: This team may actually surprise people in Vancouver. Goaltending is solid; Martin Gerber (Atlant Mytischi) will likely get the starting nod, although Jonas Hiller (Anaheim Ducks) is proving his worth at the NHL level. Defensively the team is solid, with Luca Sbisa (Portland Winterhawks) on the back end. Mark Streit (New York Islanders) provides a great power play option and is a good puck-mover. Hnat Domenichelli (HC Lugano) and Yannick Weber (Hamilton Bulldogs) will be threats offensively, though Martin Pluss (SC Bern) is a veteran with a good scoring touch, posting 4 points in 9 previous Olympic games and registering four points in six games at the World Championships last year. The team has not medaled since 1948 and there isn’t enough here to say that they’ll do that this year, but they could definitely open a few eyes by being solid enough to squeak out some points. They don’t have the firepower to compete with the Russias and Canadas of the world, but they must just have that Olympic magic.


Team: United States
Current IIHF Rank: 5
Outlook: The United States is anything but a favorite, but according to GM Brian Burke, that’s the way they like it. The team will be solid in net, with Ryan Miller (Buffalo Sabres) likely getting the starting job with good competition from Tim Thomas (Boston Bruins). Defensively the team is young and relatively inexperienced. Jack Johnson (Los Angeles Kings) and Erik Johnson (St. Louis Blues) will be making their first Olympic appearances. Overall, the team is solid on the back-end, though it could use another puck-moving defenseman. Brooks Orpik (Pittsburgh Penguins) will be a nice fit and Brian Rafalski (Detroit Red Wings) will be the rock on the back end and is competing in his third Olympics.
Offensively the team will key off of young stars Bobby Ryan (Anaheim Ducks), Phil Kessel (Toronto Maple Leafs), and Patrick Kane (Chicago Blackhawks), all of whom are playing in their first Olympics. Chris Drury (New York Rangers) and Jamie Langenbrunner (New Jersey Devils) are the gray beards on this team, the only other Team U.S.A. players with Olympic experience. This team may be offensively challenged when stacked up against Canada, Russia, and even Sweden and Finland. They should take care of Switzerland and Norway in pool play and will likely be seeded 5th or 6th going into the quarterfinals. I expect a deep run from this club, but they may be lacking the firepower to medal in Vancouver.


Make sure to check back for our Pool B & Pool C previews that will be coming in the next few days.


  1. Where is Germany, Russia, and the others?

  2. They will be previewed in parts 2 & 3. As I mentioned in the above article, I am breaking the preview down by pool. Group B preview will be tomorrow.

  3. USA will win gold because they have Kessel.


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