Too Many Men: The Abundance of Olympic-Caliber Stars May Harm the Sharks

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Too Many Men: The Abundance of Olympic-Caliber Stars May Harm the Sharks
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

With the Winter Olympics less than 70 days away, it is hard not to take a quick glance over your NHL team's roster to see who may represent their country in these always exciting world games.

While it will be an undoubtedly enormous honor for these talented stars to make the trip to Vancouver, the amount of players on your team's roster slated to play this mini-season within a season could be disadvantageous to that team's chances of winning the Stanley Cup.   

Being selected to play in the Olympics isn't exactly like being selected to the NHL All-Star game.

In the exhibition game played with the league's stars, hitting, and really defense in general, tends to be nonexistent.  People want to see the stars score, and scoring is what they usually get.

However, in the Olympics the bodies of these stars need to be ready to bare the brunt of the violent collisions that they have become accustomed to during the regular season. This is the one chance for a country to lay claim on the title "Best Hockey Team in the World."  Anything short of an all-out brawl for the gold should not be surprising. 

Extra hits, extra shifts, and extra mental fatigue will take their toll on these selected players, and if your team has more than a handful of stars representing their countries, don't be surprised if things start off a little slow after the break.    

In the 2006 Winter Olympic Games, 10 NHL teams sent six or more players to Torino.  Of those 10 teams, only four made the playoffs. Of those four teams, zero made it past the first round. 

The Red Wings and the Canadiens were the most successful of these teams after the Olympic break, but were not able to fight through those extra games and make any type of playoff noise.

Despite sending nine players to the Olympics, Detroit rattled off the best post-Olympic record in the NHL, improved on their pre-break record by 11.9 percent, and finished the season with the Presidents' Trophy.

The Canadiens also saw a boost in their six-player return from Torino, experiencing a 12.6 percent increase in wins.

But, the underlying point is that neither of these teams with outstanding Olympic-caliber players were able to recover fast enough to win the ultimate prize—a prize these players were highly paid to capture. 

The two teams that did make the Stanley Cup Finals that year, Edmonton and Carolina, only had three players participate in the winter games. The extra rest gained by the other 20 players on this roster cannot be ignored.

They had time to nurse any hidden injuries, to build up more energy, and to prepare for an extremely strenuous Stanley Cup Playoffs run.   

For the San Jose Sharks, this should raise great concerns in regard to the members of the "Heated Jumbo Patty" line expected to play for their home and native land.  With Canada expected to make a full-fledged effort for the gold, it could wreak havoc on the Sharks' chances of bringing home Lord Stanley's hardware. 

Seven extra games over a span of two weeks should certainly create additional wear and tear on these stars, and there is a great chance that they will be tapped out when the city of San Jose needs them to perform at their best. 

But the Sharks are not only facing the possibility of their top forwards playing these extra games. Their top defenseman, Dan Boyle, and elite goaltender, Evgeni Nabokov, are amongst those that are also highly likely to get an Olympic invitation. 

The fatigue effect on all of these key players could be tremendously detrimental.

As much as I enjoy seeing these stars partake in this outstanding event, am I really willing to sacrifice the success of my true allegiance (my home team, not Team Canada) when push comes to shove?

My answer would have to be no. 

As an American, I know that the US's chances of bringing home gold are about as solid as this country's housing market, which makes sending my team's most valuable assets to fight for a crown that I will not even be able to enjoy seem like a losing proposition.

But since there is really no way to change the system currently in place, I pray that some of the Sharks get overlooked when the time comes to select which players represent their countries and that they stay focused on the real prize...

Winning the Stanley Cup!   

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