With the XXII Winter Olympic Games due to take place in 8 months time in Sochi, Russia, and with the Summer months rapidly approaching – bringing with it the beginnings of Olympic camps for each participating country – it is possible to start taking stabs at who might be invites these camps.
Whilst there is not yet a formal agreement between the NHL and the Olympic Committee, it doesn’t seem likely that there is any way in which NHL
players don’t participate. The delay is likely down to working out the finer points of NHL participation. This is too big an event that the fans and the players both absolutely love to be a part of for the NHL to abandon it, even if it does eat into their season, take away their All-Star Game and pose injury risk to their star players.At the last Winter Olympics, in Vancouver in 2010, the Anaheim Ducks were extraordinarily well represented by many of the participating nations. Here is a run-down of the Ducks who took part:
- RYAN GETZLAF (C)
- SCOTT NIEDERMAYER (D)
- COREY PERRY (RW)
- JONAS HILLER (G)
- LUCA SBISA (D; still in junior at this point but had played 8 games for the team that year)
- RYAN WHITNEY (D)
- BOBBY RYAN (LW)
- SAKU KOIVU (C)
- TEEMU SELANNE (RW)
These nine Olympians represent the highest number of players that any NHL team sent; Detroit and San Jose were next with 8 apiece followed by Vancouver with 7. What’s even more impressive, is that in 2009/10, so many of these players were among the very best players in the world, not just complimentary parts to their teams:
- Niedermayer scott 48 points in 80 games that season, his last in the NHL, leading all Ducks d-men;
- Ryan Getzlaf scored 69 points in 66 games, his third straight season above a point-per-game pace;
- Corey Perry led the team in scoring with 76 points;
- Jonas Hiller emerged as the team’s full-time starter, earning 30 wins in 59 games;
- Bobby Ryan had his second straight 30+ goal season, emerging as one of the most consistent NHL scorers;
- Saku Koivu’s first season with the Ducks and with 52 points proved he was nowhere near done in the NHL;
- Teemu Selanne scored 48 points in 54 games at the age of 39, and tied for the team lead in goals with 27, whilst also reaching the 600 career goal plateau.
Furthermore, three Ducks won the Gold Medal (Niedermayer, Getzlaf, Perry), two won the Silver (Whitney and Ryan) and two won the Bronze (Koivu and Selanne), whilst Getzlaf finished tied for 6th in tournament scoring with 7 points in 7 games.
Whilst the Ducks, somewhat surprisingly given the number of international stars on the roster, went on to miss the playoffs that year, it certainly wasn’t all doom and gloom as evidenced above.
So, four years later – has much changed?
A prudent course of action would possibly be to look at this past year’s World Championships to examine which Ducks players took part. These were regarded by many countries as a warm-up for the Olympic selection process, and so it wouldn’t be surprising to see many of the players who took part – particularly for the smaller European countries – be top choices for their countries at Sochi.
However, looking at the rosters for all the teams playing, not a single Anaheim Duck participated in the tournament. Not one. Zero, nada, zilch. Why would this be?
Well, the NHL lockout probably had something to do with. With the season starting late, a reduced and compacted schedule was rolled out, and the NHL playoffs didn’t begin until April 30th, as opposed to the usual mid-April start date – the WCs were due to start on May 3rd. For players on teams finishing out of the playoffs, with the regular season ending only 5 days earlier on April 28th, this would be difficult enough – having to decide whether or not they wanted to play, getting to Sweden/Finland and all the preparation involved in that, it’s understandable that some players wouldn’t want to go.
For a team like the Ducks that did make the playoffs, they wouldn’t finish their first round series until May 12th, leaving only 6 days after that for them to make it to Europe and participate. A tall order, and whilst some NHLers (the Sedins, Ovechkin most notably) did go over, more did not – particularly with many teams already having their rosters well and truly set. More over, the emotional and physical drain of playing in the playoffs would probably not leave many of them wanting to travel to Europe to play, despite the honour of pulling on your country’s jersey.
There is one exception however – John Gibson, the very highly regarded goalie prospect currently plying his trade in Kitchener of the OHL, was included on Team USA’s roster, and surprised many by playing 5 games, and playing very well. All the same, he is only 19, hasn’t yet played more than one game at the professional level, and has to prove he is better than other US goalies such as Ryan Miller, Jimmy Howard, Jonathan Quick, Cory Schneider, Craig Anderson, and even the likes of Ben Bishop. All these goalies have extensive and impressive resumés at the NHL level, and it would shocking if Gibson was included on the roster ahead of any of them.
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the Ducks roster and examine who may have a chance to be on an Olympic training camp roster:
- MATT BELESKEY - Considering Canada’s depth at forward, no chance.
- NICK BONINO - Like Canada, USA has such depth up front that a bottom 6 player like Bonino doesn’t stand much hope of an invite.
- ANDREW COGLIANO - Cogliano is a quality middle 6 player, but again Canada is just too deep.
- RADEK DVORAK - At 36, is up there in age, but proved he wasn’t done this past year and may be able to lend a veteran hand to Czech team’s bottom 6. May not be a Duck next year.
- EMERSON ETEM - Maybe in future Olympics, but Etem still has a lot of development to do. No.
- RYAN GETZLAF – A slam dunk of an invite, and you can pretty much pencil him in to the second/third line center slot already. One gold in the bag, another hopefully on the way.
- PETER HOLLAND – Hasn’t even had an impact in the NHL yet, no chance.
- SAKU KOIVU - dependent on whether he chooses to retire/remain with the Ducks. If he doesn’t retire, then I’m sure he’ll be an invite and I can’t see him not making the team.
- MATTHEW LOMBARDI - has had too many injury/form struggles, and even when healthy Canada has too many players of better calibre.
- PATRICK MAROON – has turned career around in minor leagues, but unless he makes the NHL out of camp and stuns people I would think it’s impossible to see him earn an invite.
- KYLE PALMIERI – Very good young centre, but like so many of the above Canadian centres, just isn’t as good as other options.
***EDIT: As was pointed out to me on Twitter by Jeff Shibley, Palmieri is in fact from the US, and further to that he isn’t even a center! So I really messed that one up. This changes things slightly; the Americans’ forward depth isn’t quite at the Canadians’ level, though still good, but Palmieri was in the top 30 in scoring by US skaters this year, and was the 11th highest scoring US-born right winger. Whilst still a longshot, he could yet earn an invite. My mistake!***
- COREY PERRY - Like Getzlaf, an absolute lock for an invite and probably to make the team too. They’ll need versatile veterans like Perry, and despite a down year he’s far from done.
- BOBBY RYAN – Had a down year, but barring a further downturn Bobby Ryan is just too good a goalscorer to not have on the US team.
- TEEMU SELANNE – like Koivu, contingent on whether he retires or not. If he stays, then he’s a lock for the team. Very real chance of him retiring, however.
- BRAD STAUBITZ – goons are nearly worthless in the NHL, no chance of seeing him in the international arena.
- DAVID STECKEL – Decent defensive centre, but almost no offense to speak of; no chance.
- DANIEL WINNIK - high-end defensive forward, if this was a World Championship he might stand a chance but it’s the Olympics and there are more talented players available for Canada.
- BRYAN ALLEN - Like many of the forwards, Allen is a good player but far from talented enough to make the Canadian team.
- FRANCOIS BEAUCHEMIN - Certainly one of the best Canadian defencemen there is, providing excellent two-way play and veteran presence. Would love to see him get an invite, but don’t know what Hockey Canada’s opinion of him is. Has only ever played 7 games for his country, in the 2010 WC’s.
- CAM FOWLER - Really struggled this year gone, if he’d had a good year I would have said he’d had a chance, but now it’s unlikely, unless he knocks it out of the park in 2013/14.
- NATE GUENIN - Depth defender, no chance of making the US team.
- JORDAN HENDRY – ditto, except this time for Canada.
- BEN LOVEJOY - Had a very good year for the Ducks, but has yet to show his stuff over a full season. Highly unlikely.
- TONI LYDMAN - Played for Finland in Vancouver in 2010, but has dropped off somewhat since then. May still garner an invite as a veteran hand.
- LUCA SBISA - Tough year for Sbisa, but it would be surprising not to see him get an invite to Switzerland’s camp. One of that country’s best players, although they are a far better team than they used to be, as evidenced in this year’s WC’s which Sbisa wasn’t a part of.
- SHELDON SOURAY - Souray is still a solid defenceman, but Canada’s roster is just too good. Doesn’t have extensive international experience, plus Kevin Lowe of the Oilers is on Team Canada’s staff – no doubt some resentment remains there.
- SAMI VATANEN – quality young defence prospect, but only 8 NHL games to-date. Lot’s of international experience for Finland at junior level and even one senior tournament, but would be surprised to see him earn an invite unless he breaks out.
- FREDERIK ANDERSEN - Top young goalie prospect, has already played in two World Championships for Denmark though not in 2013. Stands a very good chance of earning in invite.
- IGOR BOBKOV - Young Russian is a very good prospect, but likely not going to earn an invite due to established goalies in his path.
- VIKTOR FASTH - Has already earned an invite to the Swedish Olympic camp, and stands a very good chance of making the team, although he’s not without competition, particularly since Henrik Lundqvist likely already has the number 1 spot sewn up.
- JONAS HILLER - Martin Gerber and Reto Berra were fantastic for the Swiss this year, but given Hiller is the only one currently playing at the NHL level it would be extremely surprising not to see him make the team, let alone earn an invite.
There you have it. I would count four definites in Ryan, Fasth, Getzlaf and Perry, two definites-if-they-don’t-retire in Koivu and Selanne, an almost certain in Sbisa, a high chance in Andersen and Hiller, a possibility in Beauchemin, and very slight maybe’s in Lydman and Dvorak (though as mentioned they may not be Ducks next year).
Whilst that might not represent the high quality of the previous Games’ participants, that is still a good number of potential Olympians possessed by the Ducks, and you never know, some of the others may, with a minor miracle, force themselves into contention.
It’s sure to be an exciting year for Ducks fans, both at home and in Sochi, Russia.