Men's Olympic Hockey Preview - Sweden

December 27, 2009

Today, the defending 2006 Gold Medalist - Team Sweden. The Swedes bring back a tonne of the same players from 2006, but are clearly fighting the injury bug.


Olympic Appearances: First entered in 1920. Missed 1932 and 1976
Best Finish: Gold (1994, 2006)
Total Medals Won: 8
Pool: Finland, Belarus, Germany

Sweden has always been a perennial hockey power, if maybe a half-step behind front-runners Canada and Russia. The Swedes have always excelled at 'big-ice' hockey, taking an almost soccer approach to the game at times. Puck posession and a focus on solid defence is normally what you can expect out of your Swedish opposion. Of course, not that they can't put the puck in the net.

Sweden comes into the Olympics as the defending Champion, having beaten Finland in the finals four years ago. Therefore, its not surprising that they have returned a large number of the same players from 2006:

Jonas Gustavsson (Toronto Maple Leafs)
Stefan Liv (HV 71)
Henrik Lundqvist (New York Rangers)

Tobias Enstrom (Atlanta Thrashers)
Magnus Johansson (Linkopings HC)
Niklas Kronwall (Detroit Red Wings)
Nicklas Lidstrom (Detroit Red Wings)
Douglas Murray (San Jose Sharks)
Johnny Oduya (New Jersey Devils)
Henrik Tallinder (Buffalo Sabres)
Mattias Ohlund (Tampa Bay Lightning)


Daniel Alfredsson (Ottawa Senators)
Nicklas Backstrom (Washington Capitals)
Loui Eriksson (Dallas Stars)
Peter Forsberg (MODO Hockey)
Tomas Holmstrom (Detroit Red Wings)
Patric Hornqvist (Nashville Predators)
Fredrik Modin (Columbus Blue Jackets)
Samuel Paahlsson (Columbus Blue Jackets)
Daniel Sedin (Vancouver Canucks)
Henrik Sedin (Vancouver Canucks)
Mattias Weinhandl (Dynamo Moscow)
Henrik Zetterberg (Detroit Red Wings)

As I said, the first thing that I noticed was how many of these names are the same as from 2006. I understand the 'don't mess with success' forumla, but a full 13 of these 23 players were on the team in 2006. And of those players, most of them are getting a little long in the tooth, and more than a little banged up.

Perfect example here is Forsberg. There is no denying the fact that in his prim, Forsberg was probably the best player in the world (when healthy). Even in 2006, he was clearly an elite player. Now I haven't seen any of his play over in the Swedish Elite League, but at 36 and with the miles on his body, is he still going to be an elite player?

The same can be said for a number of the Swedes. Lidstrom is still an excellent excellent defenceman, but he's clearly not the man he was 4 years ago with 1 goal in 38 games so far in the NHL. Daniel Alfredsson, Tomas Holmstrom, Samuel Paahlsson...all still good players...but also all players on the downside of their careers.

Notable execeptions that were left off to make room: Mikael Samuelsson, Johan Franzen and Nik Bergfors.

Not surprising considering the veteran nature of this club, the Swedes come in with a tonne of injury questions. Between guys that have just returned from injury or are currently out, if the Swedes win a medal in Vancouver, the first people they should put on the podium will be the training staff. A quick cross-section:
  • Forsberg - You name it, but the most recent was a broken foot in the fall.
  • Gustavsson - Two heart ablations this year.
  • Alfredsson - Separated Shoulder - Out 4-6 more weeks.
  • Kronwall - Out for another month with a knee problem.
  • Zetterberg - Separted Shoulder, back soon.
  • D. Sedin - Just back from a broken foot.
  • Modin - Just back from a knee injury.
Perhaps everyone will be 100% come Vancouver, but what if everyone only gets to 80%? In a tournament with so many good teams, being banged up like the Swedes are can be the difference between Gold and 7th.

I look at this Swedish team, and I see them repeating the same mistakes that Canada did in 2006. First, I think they are taking too many players from their previous Gold Medal run. Was taking Freddy Modin over a young player like Nik Bergfors really based on talent, or was it based on the fact that Modin was on the 2006 team?

The second mistake is taking too many banged-up players. In Turin, a number of Canadian's played hurt...and it showed. I think the Swedes are making a big mistake by taking so many guys who might only be shadows of themselves.

Further. As much as the Leaf fan in me likes Gustavsson, is he really ready to take this team to Gold if Lundqvist goes down?

I suppose time will tell, but I don't like this roster the Swedes have assembled. I would have had them as my bronze medal pick, but I think they will get upset somewhere along the way. They could still medal, and could still win it all, but my money is on an off-the-podium finish.

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This blog is the online chronicle of our adventures leading up to, and including, the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games. We hope to give you a little insight into what went into planning our trip and a first hand look at the Games from the ground in Vancouver.

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