Ah, the Olympics. Hundreds of nations sending their best athletes to one place for a three week athletic frenzy. In just about one year’s time, we will have the privilege of watching the winter version of the game.
Included in those winter games is the sport we love: hockey. Canada, Russia, Sweden, and of course the ol’ stars and stripes among other nations will send all their best players to Sochi to compete in the ultimate tournament.
Although a deal has not been struck to ensure that NHL players will be in Sochi next year’s games, the general consensus is that something will be worked out. That being said, we are talking about striking a deal with Gary Bettman which can obviously be a task in itself.
At the end of the day however, we should expect to see the NHL players lining up for their respective countries in 2014. Among those players will be several of your favorite St. Louis Blues. Which Blues’ players will take the ice in Sochi? Let’s take a look.
There seems to be about one million elite defenseman from Canada, but Pietrangelo is definitely near the top of that list. Petro had his coming out party last season, potting 12 goals alongside 39 assists while racking up an impressive +16 rating. Pietrangelo also logged big minutes for the Blues in 2011-2012 skating just 25 minutes per game.
Petro rode all of this to a fourth-place finish in the race for the Norris Trophy that is annually awarded to the league’s best defenseman. Petro’s success has thus far carried over into 2013 as he has posted three goals and nine assists in the first 18 games. Canada would be crazy to leave him off their roster.
Polak skated for the Czechs last time around in Vancouver and should be back with them in Sochi. Polak is a great stay at home defenseman which is something that the Czechs tend to lack. Polak is certainly able to man one side of a shutdown pairing for the Czechs.
Polak’s numbers are not particular impressive considering he did not pot any goals last year and snagged only 11 assists. That being said, Polak has shown plenty of ability to distribute the puck to teammates and is great on his skates. He will be an important part of the Czech team.
There is a good chance Sobotka does not make the Olympic roster, but the Czechs will be doing themselves a huge disservice by leaving him off their team. The Czechs have lots of small and skilled forwards, but severely lack physical players. Sobotka would be absolutely perfect for a checking line on the team.
Blues fans know that Sobotka plays the game the right way. He is a physical forward who seems to be everywhere when he is on the ice. Sobotka is also capable of putting up a few points. He put up five goals and 15 assists in 2012 and was often times put into a top six forward role on the team. The Czechs really need to consider opening up a spot for Sobotka.
Russia always seems to put together one of the most offensively explosive rosters of all the nations. However, once you get outside Russia’s top six forwards, things begin to get a bit blurry. Therefore, Tarasenko has a great shot at skating on one of Russia’s bottom two lines alongside some other youngsters.
Tarasenko has excelled in several international tournaments as a youngster and should get his first crack at the Olympics next season. He has already registered six goals and six assists in his rookie campaign this season and is showing plenty of promise moving forward. It would be a surprise to not see him line-up with the Russians in their homeland next year.
Halak is head-and-shoulders above any other goalie the Slovaks have to offer. He was the starter for the team at the 2010 games, and he has only gotten better since then. Barring an injury, he is a stone-cold lock to be between the pipes for the team in Sochi.
Halak’s 1.97 GAA and .926 save percentage in 2012 established him as a top ten goaltender in the entire NHL. Slovakia will need Jaro to put up numbers similar to that come 2014 if they wish to make another run like the one that earned them a berth to the bronze medal game back in Vancouver.
For years now, Blues fans have wondered why Berglund has not been able to be a big time point producer. He has the size and the skill to put up gaudy numbers, but it has never really come to fruition.
However, 2013 looks like it might be Bergy’s year. He has already potted nine goals, the most of any player on the team. Berglund has also jumped at opportunities to represent his country at world championships and other tournaments. With several older Swedish players set to possibly retire before the 2014 games, Berglund will get his shot at an Olympic roster.
Steen was born in Canada, but he is also a citizen in his father’s homeland of Sweden. Steen has always chosen to compete for the Swedes in national tournaments and should get his first crack at the Olympic roster in 2014.
Steen knocked home 15 goals and 13 assists in his injury shortened 43 game campaign last season. Early on in 2013, he leads the Blues in scoring with four goals and 12 assists. Steen also plays a very solid defensive game, which is something the Swedes could use. He would be perfect in a bottom six role for the Swedes in Sochi.
United States of America
The American’s took notice of Backes' outstanding two way game back in 2010 and named him to their roster for the Vancouver games. Backes’ game has only gotten better as he has been able to put up 50+ points year in and year out while not missing a beat defensively.
Last year’s Selke Trophy finalist is a guarantee to make the USA roster in 2014. Backes plays one of the most solid defensive games of any forward in the league. There is speculation that he would center a fourth line between the Ranger’s Ryan Callahan and the King’s Dustin Brown. How’s that for an energy line?
Oshie has matured into one of the better American players in the league. Osh’s 35 assists last season put the league on notice that he was one of its better playmakers. Plus, Coach Hitchcock has helped the forward develop into a great defensive forward as well.
Oshie has some of the best puck skills in the league and his insane hockey IQ allows him to be a wonderful decision maker on the ice. He is the kind of player that the Americans love to put on their roster. Osh may even end up being a top six forward for the Americans in Sochi.
The man known as “Shattdeuces” has a great chance of being a blueliner for the Americans at the games. Shattenkirk has shown that he is one of the best young offensive defensemen in the league. Plus, his defense is not too shabby either.
Shatty lit the lamp nine times while snagging 34 helpers in 2012. Despite his offensive mindset, he also racked up a +20 rating last season. Early on in 2013, Shattenkirk has looked outstanding as he has already put up 15 points in 18 games. The Americans could use Shattenkirk on the back end to help spark their offense.
So there you have it! These are my (very) early predictions of which Blues will be heading to Sochi for the 2014 games. Plenty more than the mere three players the Blue Note sent to Vancouver in 2010!
The Blues could send up to ten players to Sochi come next February. That is certain to be one of the highest totals of any team in the league. There is still plenty of time before the planes will start departing for Russia, but expect your Blues to be well represented at the games!
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