Note: I wrote this before the USA roster for training camp was announced. I promise.
On paper, this is most likely the strongest team in the Olympics. However, we have said that many times, ultimately watching Team Canada fall short at the Olympics. As Herb Brooks always said, “All-Star teams fail because they rely solely on the individual’s talent.” Will this year be the difference?
Team USA has not had a good showing at many Olympics in years past. Other than the silver medal in 2002, the USA has not placed higher than fourth since the 1980 Miracle on Ice. With a potential all-Devils’ first line and a Vezina winner in net, the United States has the best shot they’ve had in years to win a medal. However, the competition is fierce, so coach Ron Wilson better have a few tricks up his sleeve.
Ryan Gardner-Romano Lemm- Roman Wick
Thomas Ziegler-Raffaele Sannitz-Martin Pluss
Thierry Paterlini-Sandy Jeannin-Thomas Deruns
Andres Ambuhl-Kevin Romy-Ivo Ruthemann
Mark Streit-Yannick Weber
Luca Sbisa-Mathias Seger
Roman Josi-Raphael Diaz
Although not the weakest team in these Olympics, Switzerland is not sitting pretty at all. With only a few NHL players on their roster, it will have a tough time making it to the medal round. Switzerland has not finished higher than sixth place since 1952.
Ole-Kristian Tollefsen-Kristian Forsberg-Patrick Thoreson
Martin Roymark-Morten Ask-Anders Bastiansen
Marius Holtet-Mads Hansen-Peter Lorentzen
Per-Age Skroder-Andreas Martinsen-Tore Vikingstad
Jonas Holos-Lars Erik Lund
Anders Myrvold-Alexander Bonsaksen
Mats Trygg-Tommy Jakobsen
Norway seldom qualifies for the Olympics, so simply being in Vancouver next year is a great achievement. Norway has never won a medal and has not participated in the Olympic games since the 1994 games in Atlanta. It has an unbelievably weak team with just one current NHL player (Tollefsen). Look for Norway to finish at the bottom of the standings.
M Koivu-S Koivu-Miettinen
The silver medalists in Turin in 2006, Finland still has much of the talent they had then. With a solid netminder in Kipper, some great defensemen and a full NHL roster, expect it to qualify for the medal round.
D Sedin- H Sedin- Alfredsson
The reigning Olympic champions, Team Sweden has arguably the best team on ice. Sweden has two gold medals in its history, both in the last two decades. Although this lineup seems like the Detroit Red Wings and Co., the talent pool in the NHL for Sweden is endless. Imagine the Sedins and either Alfredsson or Zetterberg on a line. Serious talent. Look for Sweden to go back to the gold medal game and perhaps defend its title.
Slava Kozlov-Viktor Kozlov-Filatov
Arguably the best offensive team in the Olympics, Russia lacks defense, which is often their problem in the Olympics. Long gone are the days when the USSR would dominate the Olympics. Team Russia has never won a gold medal, but perhaps this could be the year. With good goaltenders in net, the lack of defense may not prove to be a problem, but ultimately, if matched up against Canada or Sweden, it could prove to be the difference.
Mikelis Redlihs-Janis Sprukts-Martins Karsums
Lauris Darzins-Armands Berzins-Herberts Vasijevs
Martins Cipulis-Aleksandrs Nizivijs-Girts Ankipans
Roberts Jekimovs-Guntis Dzerins-Aigars Cipruss
Karlis Skrastins-Rodrigo Lavins
Aleksandrs Jerofejevs-Kristaps Sotnieks
Guntis Galvins-Olegs Sorokins
Team Latvia is one of the weakest in the 2010 Olympics. With very little NHL experience on their roster and little talent, Latvia can only hope they get lucky enough to win a couple games. Look for them to finish down near the bottom of the standings.
Salei-A Kostitsyn-S Kostitsyn
Grabovsky-Aleksandr Kulakov-Evgeny Kurilin
Andrei Mikhalev-Aleksei Ugarov-Sergei Zadelenov
Dmittry Dudik-Dmitry Meleshko-Oleg Antonenko
Andrei Bashko-Vladimir Denisov
Viktor Kostyuchenok-Aleksandr Makritsky
Oleg Leontiev-Sergei Kolosov
Although a weak team, Belarus has a glimpse of hope. With a potential first line that could do a bit of damage, Belarus could be looking at a top eight finish, something that would be very much appreciated by their country. Don’t expect Belarus to finish much higher than that, though.
Eduard Lewandowski-Thomas Oppenheimer-Felix Shutz
John Tripp-Christoph Ullmann-Bill Trew
Alexander Sulzer-Robin Breitbach
Robert Dietrich-Nikolai Goc
After losing Olaf Kolzig to retirement, Team Germany has not found a new goalie. It has a bit of NHL experience on the roster, but ultimately, this team does not have what it takes to win games on the international level. Look for Germany to also finish near the bottom.
Team Czech Republic
The Czechs are the reigning bronze medal champions and last won the gold medal in 1998 in that memorable shootout win. Nonetheless, this team is overshadowed by Canada, Sweden, Russia and the rest. The Czech Republic has the potential to return to the medal rounds, but don’t look for it to happen.
Peter Olvecky-Ladislav Nagy-Stefan Ruzicka
Marcel Hossa-Branko Radivojevic-Lubos Bartecko
Boris Valabik-Milan Jurcina
In their short history since splitting from Czechoslovakia, the Slovaks have never made it to the medal round. Do not expect that trend to be turned around this year, as the team does not have the talent to succeed, especially if Marian Gaborik, its star player, is injured again.
This will be the most exciting Olympics in recent memory. Especially with the possible lack of NHL players in the 2014 Olympics in Russia, players know this may be their last chance for gold medal glory for a long time.
The Final Four
Russia vs. Sweden
Finland vs. Canada
The bronze medal game
Finland vs. Russia
The gold medal game
Canada vs. Sweden
Gold Medal: Sweden
Silver Medal: Canada
Bronze Medal: Russia
6. Czech Republic
Alan Bass is a Senior Writer for Bleacher Report, the Community Leader for the NHL and Philadelphia Flyers’ section, and a writer for Prohockeynews.com,Insidehockey.com, and Hockey54.com. You can contact him at ALN424@aol.com.