Even in Olympic Years I Like The IIHF WHC

Someone please sign this guy, he's giving the puppy dog eyes.

Despite the controversy and perceived “lack of talent” at the World Hockey Championships this year, I’ve been having good time watching this “B” tournament, and for all the hell that has been raised over players like Crosby, Lidstrom and Backstrom declining invitations, I don’t miss them one bit.

If I were a pro scout for the NHL, I would use this year’s “Olympic Drain” on the WHC as a chance to look for potential NHL talent. It’s not very often you see this mix of NHL talent, from third line grinders to superstars and players presently assigned to European Elite Leagues playing against one another. It’s very easy to discount a guy like Dennis Endras during the Olympics when he lets in seven goals against Team Canada during a qualifying game. It’s easy to write off Germany in this scenario because of who they’re playing against, but people need to remember that NHL teams do not have forwards like Eric Staal, Ryan Getzlaf and Cory Perry playing together on the third line. Yes, the NHL has the highest level of hockey talent in the world, but it takes a careful combing through 30 teams to create a national squad. When you have this perceived “watering down” of typically powerhouse teams you actually get a true sense of how some players would react playing against what might be a really good NHL club.

When you watch a gem of a game like the Quarterfinal between Germany and Switzerland, it becomes obvious that these countries actually have the potential to produce NHL caliber players. Look at how the Swiss handled Canada’s “C-squad” (I’d also like to point out that a lot of Canucks were quick to boast that a “C-squad” could have won us a gold medal. Maybe this will level out our hockey egos a little.) it should begin to become clear that in another world Martin Pluss might have developed into an amazing late round gem. Germany fared a lot better against a “stacked” Russian team than Canada did and actually beat the Swiss.

So while GMs like Brian Burke are suggesting that the International Ice Hockey Federation cancels the tournament due to an “Olympic Drain” and articles like “Saying No To Your Country” are tossed out there by communications directors like Szymon Szemberg – suggesting that players who “decline the call” forgot the national systems that made them millions and have become spoiled. I say “relax” and stop insulting the players who actually accepted the invites. Let the other nations have a chance at testing their own national development programs instead of worrying about playing against these stacked superstar squads that would crush them like ants, and while our own superstars are at home recharging their emotional batteries, enjoy the stellar hockey that is still yet to be played.

~J

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