Projected Roles for Each Detroit Red Wing Going to Sochi
With the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi just over a month away, it's time to project the roles Detroit Red Wings players will have if they choose to participate for their respective countries.
The Detroit Red Wings featured in this slideshow are based off of my previous article on Bleacher Report that listed the Red Wings that could and should play in Sochi.
Here are the projected roles for each Red Wing that could be playing for his country next month.
Pavel Datsyuk, Russia, First- or Second-Line Center
Host nation Russia could be facing an embarrassment of riches as far as hockey players go in this Olympics. Although highly unlikely, the fact is that Pavel Datsyuk could center a line between Evgeni Malkin and Alexander Ovechkin.
Datsyuk could also play in the second-line center position, where he would get more favorable matchups against him.
But being one of the best players in the world, Datsyuk doesn't really need a more "favorable" matchup to incur damage on the scoreboard.
Regardless of the coach's decision, Datsyuk will dominate wherever he plays.
Tomas Tatar, Slovakia, Second-Line Winger
Tomas Tatar has gotten better and better with each game he has played with the Red Wings this season.
He has made a name for himself among his countrymen at the forward spot.
Because the injury-ridden Marian Gaborik has only played 18 games and put up 12 points in the process, Tatar is actually second in the NHL in points by Slovakian forwards. Marian Hossa has 35 points and leads that group, but Tatar has definitely made his presence felt in the Red Wings' lineup this season.
Although Tatar has been tearing it up this season, Slovakia would be wise to leave him off the first line and get him better scoring chances on the second or third line.
Tatar has shown the skills and offensive abilities this season to get a significant look at playing on the second line in the Olympics.
Unless he goes on a substantial cold spell before the Olympics start, the second line seems like a reasonable place for him to play in Sochi.
Henrik Zetterberg, Sweden, First-Line Right or Left Wing
Henrik Zetterberg missed almost a full month with a herniated disk in his back, but that hasn't stopped him from having the highest point-per-game average of any of the top-five Swedish scorers in the NHL this season with 36 points in 32 games played.
The Red Wings' captain is a center, unless he is playing on the same line as a player as gifted as Pavel Datsyuk.
That player—at least for Sweden in the 2014 Olympics—is Nicklas Backstrom of the Washington Capitals. Backstrom is used to setting up Alex Ovechkin for his goals, but Zetterberg also knows how to let shots go in high volume.
There are also the Sedin twins to consider. Since Henrik Sedin is a natural center as well and not quite in Backstrom's neighborhood recently as far as talent goes, the Sedins would be a better bet to fit in on the second line.
Zetterberg would play with Backstrom and whoever else Sweden plugs on the first line with them.
Daniel Alfredsson, Sweden, Second- or Third-Line Right Wing
Daniel Alfredsson is 41 years old, but he has been playing like he's 30 this season. Alfredsson is seventh among Swedish forwards in points (with 30), but has only played in 37 games.
Because he's now 41, if he plays in the Olympics, he should play third-line minutes at even strength. His minutes on the power play might bring it up to the equivalent of second-line minutes overall.
Alfredsson has a great shot and doesn't hesitate to let it go. Although he's not a front-runner for a 30-goal season, the veteran Swede knows how to get his shot through to the net and plays the point on the power play very well.
Niklas Kronwall, Sweden, First-Line Defense
Niklas Kronwall has been the No. 1 defenseman with the Detroit Red Wings since Nicklas Lidstrom retired.
It was a rough transition for Kronwall as he was thrust from the second pairing to the No. 1 spot in the span of less than two seasons, as Brian Rafalski and Lidstrom retired in back-to-back offseasons.
But Kronwall has come around and is playing the best hockey of his career. He will turn 33 before the Olympics start, but he is a strong candidate to play on the top defensive pairing with Erik Karlsson.
If for some reason Kronwall doesn't make the first pairing, then Team Sweden would be wise to reunite Kronwall with long-time defense partner Jonathan Ericsson to form a formidable second pairing.
Johan Franzen, Sweden, Third-Line Center
Johan Franzen has been to one Olympics, but could miss this one as he has been injured since mid-December. Franzen is a fantastic player when healthy and engaged in the play, but his lack of games played (30) due to injury might prevent him from being an effective forward at the Olympics.
Nevertheless, Franzen is still 10th in NHL scoring for Swedish forwards despite having missed a substantial amount of games.
His veteran experience and gritty personality is something that Team Sweden is lacking as far as its forwards go. If he can play, expect him to play on the third line.
Whether Franzen plays center or wing will be dependent on his linemates' abilities and tendencies, but the fact that the big Swede can lay the body on well makes him a prime candidate for a bottom-six role.
Jonathan Ericsson, Sweden, Third Defense Pairing
Jonathan Ericsson may not be the first thought on a lot of fans' minds when it comes to making Team Sweden's defense corps for the Olympics, but Ericsson is no slouch and should be recognized with a spot on the roster.
Ericsson's play on the top line of Detroit has gotten better over the past couple years and Sweden has a key injury to Alex Edler that could keep him from playing. Tobias Enstrom already declared that he isn't playing in the Olympics because he wants to focus on playing for Winnipeg, per NHL.com.
Sweden also faces some mobility issues with Douglas Murray, who might not be the best bet for international ice.
The logical option is Ericsson. Although he might not play a lot of minutes, he is capable of stepping in if needed and would be a valuable addition to Team Sweden.
Jimmy Howard, USA, Backup Goalie
Jimmy Howard has had a good past few seasons, but he has struggled this season. His numbers speak for themselves, but then again, so does his experience as an NHL goalie.
Howard will likely be the third-string goalie behind a Stanley Cup champion in Jonathan Quick and an Olympic silver medalist in Ryan Miller.
The first-time Olympian could get a start, maybe two if he dazzles in the round robin against weaker teams. But there are no games that are "freebies" in the Olympics, as all points count towards positioning in the medal rounds.
"Howie" is still a solid goalie, but will need to earn his playing time back in the Olympics.