Ranking Every 2014 Olympic Ice Hockey Team's Offense

Lyle Richardson@@SpectorsHockeyFeatured ColumnistJanuary 18, 2014

Ranking Every 2014 Olympic Ice Hockey Team's Offense

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    Every team competing for gold in men's ice hockey at the Sochi Olympics will rely on various aspects of the game to prevent opponents from scoring, from goaltending to defense to special teams. Ultimately, the purpose remains putting the puck in the opponent's net. Offensive depth will be crucial in determining success in this tournament.

    Each club has a scoring star to rely upon, from superstars like Canada's Sidney Crosby, the United States' Patrick Kane and Russia's Alexander Ovechkin to notable scorers like Slovakia's Marian Hossa, Austria's Thomas Vanek and Slovenia's Anze Kopitar. Many of these stars will be ably assisted by skilled linemates.

    These teams will not only look to their depth in scoring but also their abilities to play a solid two-way game, including focus on defensive aspects such as penalty-killing. Several teams in this tournament will have a distinct depth advantage in skilled talent.

    Here's a look at how the offense stacks up for the 12 Men's Ice Hockey teams at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

12. Norway

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    The Lineup: Morten Ask, Anders Bastiansen, Robin Dahlstrom, Kristian Forsberg, Mads Hansen, Marius Holtet, Sondre Olden, Ken Andre Olimb, Mathis Olimb, Mats Rosseli Olsen, Niklas Roest, Martin Roymark, Per-Age Skroder, Patrick Thoresen, Mats Zuccarello.


    Strengths: Thirteen members of their 2010 Winter Olympics roster are returning for this tournament. Zuccarello has blossomed into an NHL scorer. Thoresen is a proven performer in international competition. Skroder is MODO Hockey's leading scorer. 


    Weaknesses: A significant lack of top-level talent throughout Norway's forward lines.


    Overall Impact: The Norwegians are among the weakest offensive teams in the tournament. They aren't considered a serious medal contender.

11. Slovenia

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    The Lineup: Bostjan Golicic, Ziga Jeglic, Anze Kuralt, Jan Mursak, Ales Music, Ziga Pance, Tomaz Razingar, David Rodman, Marcel Rodman, Robert Sabolic, Rok Ticar, Jan Urbas, Miha Verlic.


    Strengths: Kopitar is the best player to come out of Slovenia and is an NHL star in his own right. Kuralt is among the top five scorers in the French Ligue Magnus. Ticar is among the leading scorers for Germany's Kolner Haie.


    Weaknesses: Other than Kopitar, they lack elite scoring forwards and true professional depth throughout their lines.


    Overall Impact: The Slovenians are making their first-ever appearance in men's ice hockey at the Olympics. Their limited offense hampers their hopes for medal qualification.

10. Latvia

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    The Lineup: Armands Berzins, Martins Cipulis, Lauris Darzins, Kaspars Daugavins, Zemgus Girgensons, Miks Indrasis, Koba Jass, Martins Karsums, Ronalds Kenins, Vitalijs Pavlovs, Mikelis Redlihs, Janis Sprukts, Juris Stals, Herberts Vasiljevs.


    Strengths: They have a promising young star in Girgensons. Eight members of their roster also play for KHL team Dinamo Riga, including Cipulis, Pavlovs and Indrasis, Riga's third-leading scorer. Karsums is among the KHL's top 20 goal scorers. Former NHLer Daugavins is among the top 20 scorers in the Swiss NLA.


    Weaknesses: There's simply not enough elite talent here to make Latvia a serious offensive threat.


    Overall Impact: The Latvians will give their best, but they lack the forward depth to be a medal contender.

9. Switzerland

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    The Lineup: Andres Ambuhl, Matthias Bieber, Simon Bodenmann, Damien Brunner, Luca Cunti, Ryan Gardner, Denis Hollenstein, Simon Moser, Nino Niederreiter, Martin Pluss, Kevin Romy, Reto Suri, Morris Trachsler, Roman Wick.


    Strengths: Niederreiter has improved into a good two-way forward. Many of their forwards come from the Swiss National League A. Wick and Cunti are first and second overall in scoring, respectively, in that league while Suri is in the top 10. Defensemen Streit and Josi can chip in offensively, especially on the power play. 


    Weaknesses: Lack depth in elite talent to compete effectively against this tournament's top teams.


    Overall Impact: The Swiss will rely heavily on their on their goaltending and defense in this tournament. Their limited offense hampers their medal hopes.

8. Austria

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    The Lineup: Michael Grabner, Raphael Herburger, Thomas Hundertpfund, Matthias Iberer, Thomas Koch, Andreas Kristler, Manuel Latusa, Brian Lebler, Daniel Oberkofler, Michael Raffl, Thomas Raffl, Oliver Setzinger, Thomas Vanek, Daniel Welser.


    Strengths: Possess NHL talent in Vanek, Grabner and Raffl. Setzinger is among the leading scorers in the Swiss National League A. Lebler and Thomas Raffl are among the top scorers in Austria's EBEL.


    Weaknesses: Lack the skilled depth to match up against deeper clubs, especially those stocked with NHL/KHL talent.


    Overall Impact: This is Austria's first Olympic appearance in men's ice hockey since 2002. Despite the presence of Vanek, Grabner and Raffl, they don't have enough scoring depth to be considered a medal contender.

7. Finland

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    The Lineup: Juhamatti Aaltonen, Aleksander Barkov, Valtteri Filppula, Mikael Granlund, Jussi Jokinen, Olli Jokinen, Mikko Koivu, Leo Komarov, Petri Kontiola, Lauri Korpikoski, Jori Lehtera, Antti Pihlstrom, Tuomo Ruutu, Teemu Selanne


    Strengths: They possess several skilled NHL stars, especially Koivu and Filppula. Komarov is the leading scorer for the KHL's Moscow Dynamo. Lehtera and Kontiola rank among the KHL's top 30 scorers. Ruutu and Korpikoski will bolster their checking lines.


    Weaknesses: Not enough world-class scoring to make their offense a serious threat. Koivu (broken ankle) might not return in time for the tournament. The aging Selanne is no longer an elite scorer.


    Overall Impact: The Finns' strength is their goaltending and stifling defensive game, but their lack of skilled scorers could cost them a shot at a medal in Sochi.

6. Slovakia

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    The Lineup: Milan Bartovic, Marian Gaborik, Michal Handzus, Marcel Hossa, Marian Hossa, Tomas Jurco, Tomas Kopecky, Tomas Marcinko, Michel Miklik, Peter Olvecky, Richard Panik, Tomas Surovy, Tomas Tatar, Tomas Zaborsky.


    Strengths: Possess skilled NHL stars in Gaborik and Marian Hossa. Marcel Hossa and Miklik are among the KHL's leading scorers. Marcinko is among the top 35 scorers in the Slovak Extraliga. Handzus and Kopecky provide solid checking line depth.


    Weaknesses: There's not enough firepower here to overcome stronger opposition. It's uncertain if Gaborik (broken collarbone) will recover in time to participate in the tournament.


    Overall Impact: The Slovaks possess good goaltending and defensive depth, but their limited scoring ability hampers their medal hopes.

5. Czech Republic

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    The Lineup: Roman Cervenka, Patrik Elias, Michael Frolik, Martin Hanzal, Ales Hemsky, Jaromir Jagr, David Krejci, Milan Michalek, Petr Nedved, Jiri Novotny, Ondrej Palat, Tomas Plekanec, Vladimir Sobotka, Jakub Voracek.


    Strengths: Significant depth on their top two lines. Elias, Jagr and Nedved possess years of NHL and international tournament experience. Cervenka (second in scoring for KHL team SKA St. Petersburg) could also boost their offensive attack. Plekanec and Sobotka provide two-way depth.


    Weaknesses: Elias, Jagr and Nedved are in the twilight of their respective careers. Their checking lines will be hard-pressed to shut down stronger opposition.


    Overall Impact: The Czechs possess skilled forward depth, but not enough to outgun the deeper teams in this tournament.

4. Russia

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    The Lineup: Artem Anisimov, Pavel Datsyuk, Denis Kokarev, Ilya Kovalchuk, Nikolai Kulemin, Evgeni Malkin, Valeri Nichushkin, Alexander Ovechkin, Alexander Popov, Alexander Radulov, Sergei Soin, Vladimir Tarasenko, Alexei Tereshenko, Viktor Tikhonov.


    Strengths: They have considerable scoring punch, led by Ovechkin, Malkin and Datsyuk, three of the world's top players. Kovalchuk, Popov, Tikhonov and Radulov are among the KHL's leading scorers.


    Weaknesses: Aside from Datsyuk, there's some question about their checking-line depth. They could struggle on the penalty kill. They'll face incredible pressure to win gold on home ice.


    Overall Impact: The Russians possess several dangerous scorers but could struggle if those players are shut down by strong defensive opposition. Their two-way game could hamper their efforts to become Olympic champions.

3. Sweden

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    The Lineup: Daniel Alfredsson, Nicklas Backstrom, Patrik Berglund, Jimmie Ericsson, Loui Eriksson, Johan Franzen, Carl Hagelin, Marcus Kruger, Gabriel Landeskog, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Jakob Silfverberg, Alexander Steen, Henrik Zetterberg.


    Strengths: Possess a largely veteran core of forwards, several with years of NHL and international experience. Backstrom, Karlsson, the Sedins and Zetterberg are among the NHL's top 40 scorers. High-scoring defenseman Erik Karlsson will provide an additional measure of offense.


    WeaknessesSome of their veterans could struggle against younger, swifter opponents. Steen (concussion) is only now returning to action. His lengthy absence could affect his performance. Eriksson and Franzen are also banged up. 


    Overall Impact: The Swedes' offense is one reason they're ranked among the favorites to win gold. They are very deep at forward and should match up well against the other elite teams in this tournament. 

2. United States

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    The Lineup: David Backes, Dustin Brown, Ryan Callahan, Patrick Kane, Ryan Kesler, Phil Kessel, T.J. Oshie, Max Pacioretty, Zach Parise, Joe Pavelski, Derek Stepan, Paul Stastny, Blake Wheeler, James van Riemsdyk.


    Strengths: One of only two teams comprised solely of NHL talent. Retained over half their offense from their 2010 silver-medal team. Possess a good mix of all-round skill, size and speed. Kane, Kessel, Pavelski and Oshie are among the NHL's top 30 scorers. Team USA will also get significant offensive contributions from blueliners Kevin Shattenkirk and Ryan Suter.


    Weaknesses: Parise is recovering from a stress fracture in his foot and remains questionable for the tournament. Callahan is also banged up. Brown and Stepan are struggling offensively. They must adjust to the larger Olympic ice surface.


    Overall Impact: Their balanced depth up front is among the reasons the Americans are considered a serious Olympic gold-medal contender this year.


1. Canada

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    The Lineup: Jamie Benn, Patrice Bergeron, Jeff Carter, Sidney Crosby, Matt Duchene, Ryan Getzlaf, Chris Kunitz, Patrick Marleau, Rick Nash, Corey Perry, Patrick Sharp, Steven Stamkos, John Tavares, Jonathan Toews.


    Strengths: A potent mix of size, speed and all-round skills. Made up entirely of NHL talent. Crosby, Duchene, Getzlaf, Kunitz, Marleau, Perry, Sharp, Tavares and Toews all rank among the NHL's top 25 scorers this season. They can also count on offensive contributions from their core of talented two-way defensemen.


    Weaknesses: Stamkos (broken leg) might not be fully recovered in time for this tournament. They must adjust to the larger Olympic ice surface. They also face intense pressure to repeat as gold medalists. 


    Overall Impact: The Canadians' tremendous offensive depth gives them a great opportunity to repeat as Olympic champions.