The biggest story line league wise in the second half will be the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia and the Ducks angle on that is how many players will represent their countries in the short tournament.
While a few names have emerged as obvious contributors to their respective countries, some names are on the bubble and possible play in the upcoming tournament.
The names that are more than certainly going to be playing in the Olympics;
Ryan Getzlaf, Team Canada
Corey Perry, Team Canada
Jonas Hiller, Switzerland
Hiller stole the show for Switzerland at the 2010 Games in Vancouver by nearly defeating the Host team in round robin play, and will again lead the Swiss into another Olympics.
Along with Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz, Getzlaf and Perry might be the most dynamic duo in the sport (that are from the same country – Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane), and their chemistry and physicality will make them one of the most difficult lines to defend at the games – no matter who they match with them.
A few other names to watch that may be on the bubble for their respective countries.
Luca Sbisa, Switzerland
Jakob Silfverberg and Hampus Lindholm, Sweden
Cam Fowler, United States
Teemu Selanne, Finland
Watching him play, and looking at the numbers – one would assume that a player with Selanne’s numbers wouldn’t get an Olympic nod. But then again, this is Teemu Selanne we are talking about. He could very well get the nod in his last season playing. It could come down more so as whether or not he can deal with the grind of a tournament, cross seas and come out of it healthy enough to finish the year with his NHL team.
Watching the Pittsburgh Penguins play, a lot, it is easy to point out what Penguins head coach, as well as the Americans bench boss, Dan Bylsma looks for in his defenders – quick puck movers with skating ability. Even his ‘shutdown’ defender, Brooks Orpik, is a great skater. Fowler has taken the first step into rounding out his game, and hasn’t let it affect his offensive game. Even if Fowler is still seen as a defensive ‘liability’, Bylsma still plays Kris Letang 25-minutes a game, so why not Cam?
Silfverberg and Lindholm could make the team in a very reduced role, but won’t likely play a major factor until the 2018 Olympics. Silfverberg isn’t far removed from being the MVP of the Swedish Elite League, so he is likely still on their radar – the question is if he is a big enough blip to be realized. Lindholm has been rated as the best offensive defenseman according to Hockey Analysis (as of December 16), and has been almost as good in the defensive zone. His skating ability would be an asset in the bigger rinks they will be playing on.
For Sbisa, it will be a question of whether or not he can stay healthy enough to warrant keeping a roster spot for him. From the Ducks’ prospective, I would like to think they would prefer him to stay home and rest – but a call from his country could easily sway his decision.
Who do you think are locks for the Olympics? Do you agree or disagree with the list? Let me know.
Anthony Muprhy is the Editor at Pucks of a Feather. You can reach him by email [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @AMurphyTFC.