As you may or may not be aware, the 2010 Winter Olympics are coming up in less than 3 and a half months. By the end of December, all of the nations will have announced their men's ice hockey rosters. The NHL is taking part in this year's games, so expect all the top nations to be loaded with talent. Therefore, each blog on SB Nation Hockey is listing who on their team is likely to represent their nation in Vancouver. You can find the other team previews in this updated story stream.
The New Jersey Devils have more than a few Olympic hopefuls and so I'm taking a stab at categorizing their chances of representing their nation. Some are definite locks, others are more of a long shot. I'll be using the same template the other SBN-Hockey blogs, which is the same template Yanks Abroad uses for their excellent 23 Tickets feature. Read on to see which Devils I think you'll see in Vancouver and which ones need to play really well to make their case. Feel free to comment on the players listed, yell at me if I missed anyone or put them in the wrong place, or discuss the Olympics in general.
PACK YOUR BAGS, VANCOUVER AWAITS!
Zach Parise, LW, USA
Let's see, top ten NHL scorer, former Gold medal winner for USA from the 2004 World Junior Championships, MVP of the 2004 WJCs, consistently played for USA in the WCs, and the Olympics are being played on a NHL surface. The question shouldn't be whether Parise will be on the team; but how far will he lead the American offense? He's going to be an absolute blast to watch, especially on the smaller ice surface.
|2009 - Zach Parise||24||15||15||30||19||4||2||1||1||20:30||109||13.8|
Martin Brodeur, G, Canada
Age really is just a number, isn't it? He went to Team Canada's evaluation camp and the story became, "Brodeur or Luongo?" Given that Brodeur has superior numbers so far, I think the answer is clear. While I'll be supporting America in this tourney, let me give a pro-tip to the Canadians about their starter. If you want to go with youth, go with Marc-Andre Fleury. If you want to be popular, go with Roberto Luongo. If you want to win the Gold, consider starting the one goaltender who has actually led Canada to win one in the last 50 years.
|2009 - Martin Brodeur||22||1318||15||6||45||2.05||603||558||.925||1|
Patrik Elias, LW, Czech Republic
Elias won the Golden Stick last year for being the best Czech hockey player in the world. Surely, the Czechs wouldn't forget about him in Vancouver? Now that he's healthy, he's showing the NHL why exactly he won it. His playmaking, offensive awareness, backchecking, and a better-than-decent shot make him an important weapon up front.
|2009 - Patrik Elias||10||3||7||10||3||4||1||0||1||18:47||23||13.0|
NEARLY A LOCK, EXPECT TO SEE THEM IN VANCOUVER
Paul Martin, D, USA
Martin has been out with a significant injury for most of the past month, he'll likely not be back to playing until the middle of December. Prior to the injury, Martin has looked good - taking on big minutes (09-10 average: 23:57) and keeping himself (and his positioning) calm in the final minute as well as he does in the first minute. Brian Burke said the injury wouldn't hurt Paul Martin's chances for representing America, per Tom Gulitti. Considering he can handle 24-27 minutes against top opposition regularly, this leads me to believe he'll be in Vancouver.
|2009 - Paul Martin||9||0||2||2||1||0||0||0||0||23:57||9||0.0|
Jamie Langenbrunner, RW, USA
Believe it or not, but the Devils captain has never represented the U.S. in the Olympics after 1998. Really. Well, if there's any time for him to have one more go at it, it's now. Langenbrunner broke out with his best offensive season last year and he's enjoying another productive year so far. Seriously, would you have expected 22 points in 24 games? I didn't. The man can play the point, join up on the rush, handle cycling down low, and even play primarly as a checking player. Langenbrunner is versatile and experienced, which are invaluable on a potentially young American roster. I think he goes.
|2009 - Jamie Langenbrunner||24||5||17||22||8||6||1||1||1||20:32||68||7.4|
IN A BATTLE, THESE GUYS NEED TO HAVE A VERY GOOD DECEMBER
Johnny Oduya, D, Sweden
Oh, how much can change in such a short while. Prior to this season, I would have said he was nearly a lock; but then he spent the beginning of this season getting burned repeatedly. The two-way defenseman hasn't shown much in terms of offense or in defense. Instead of looking poised, he's looked nervous. I had to even raise the point about how bad he was this season. Then he gets injured. So Oduya has to get back into form and play much better than he had been at the beginning of this season. Combine that situation with Sweden potentially having 6 defensemen ready and Oduya has to prove himself all over again. Hopefully, he is able to do just that.
|2009 - Johnny Oduya||11||0||0||0||-5||16||0||0||0||21:04||9||0.0|
WORK TO DO, LONG SHOTS BUT NOT OUT OF CONSIDERATION
Travis Zajac, C, Canada
Nothing against Zajac. His performance in New Jersey so far has been perfectly acceptable. He's productive, he's winning faceoffs (51.9%), he can play big minutes (21:10), and he can play in all situations. However, the problem isn't with Zajac, it's with Canada. Namely, Canada is absolutely stacked at center. We're talking about a team that could have Joe Thornton, Sidney Crosby, Brad Richards, and Patrick Marleau down the middle. Guys like Mike Richards, Rich Peverley, Ryan Getzlaf, and Paul Statsny have all made good cases, but even they are on the outside looking in (or will play as wingers). It really is just a numbers game for Zajac unless he has one amazing December. Maybe in 2014?
|2009 - Travis Zajac||24||7||15||22||13||10||3||0||0||21:10||58||12.1|
Nicklas Bergfors, RW, Sweden
A few days ago, Bergfors mentioned how much he would love to represent Sweden at the Olympics according to this post by Tom Gulitti. Now, I first thought this was just a hope because, hey, Bergfors is a rookie. Surely, Sweden would have many forwards ahead of him on the depth chart. Then, I check NHL.com and find he's currently 9th among Swedish skaters in scoring and 3rd among Swedish right wingers (behind Daniel Alfredsson and Mikael Samulesson). That surprised me and now that hope doesn't seem so far-fetched. Given that Gulitti's post also notes that Sweden's head coach is trying to get Bergfors on the eligibility list, perhaps he's got a more realistic shot than I thought. Even so, I think Bergfors needs to show much more consistency in his game to be considered. Sure, it's understandable that he's not consistent, he's a rookie, after all. He truly is a long shot.
|2009 - Nicklas Bergfors||24||6||10||16||3||6||3||0||2||15:33||60||10.0|
MOVING UP, COULD BE CONSIDERED WITH AN AWESOME DECEMBER
Brian Rolston, LW/RW, USA
He's played for the U.S. in 2002 and 2006, he's currently 20th among American skaters in scoring, he's still got a cannon of a shot, and he's could be catching fire real soon in New Jersey. Brian Rolston, in my opinion, is even more of a long shot to make the American roster than Bergfors making Team Sweden. But if he has an amazing December, then he has to at least be in the discussion - perhaps as an reserve player in case injury strikes. I don't think he'll make Team USA but I can't say never if he's finally going to get it together in New Jersey for the next month. Mind you, that's a pretty massive "if."
|2009 - Brian Rolston||23||8||5||13||-1||4||4||0||2||18:33||80||10.0|
NOTABLE DEVILS WHO WON'T BE IN VANCOUVER IN FEBRUARY
David Clarkson, RW, Canada
Does Canada really need an agitating winger who can score? Well, on the smaller ice surface and to give the team some more grit, Clarkson could be in a useful role. But Canada doesn't necessarily need to go that route and they may have other players who are just as useful for that role (e.g. Ryan Clowe). The recent injury basically puts him out of the running, however bleak it originally was.
|2009 - David Clarkson||23||7||8||15||1||39||3||0||2||15:08||65||10.8|
Andy Greene & Mike Mottau, D, USA
Yes, they have both been been playing out of their minds this season. But Greene had to fight to keep his #6 spot on the team multiple times last season and even to the start of this season; and Mottau is a literal "does everything OK, but nothing really well" defenseman. I appreciate what they are doing in New Jersey, but I doubt they crack the USA lineup ahead of Martin, Brian Rafalski, Ryan Suter, Erik Johnson, James Wisniewski, Matt Carle, Jack Johnson, Ryan Whitney, Alex Goligoski, and even Joe Corvo and Jordan Lepold. I'd be honestly surprised if either makes the roster.
|2009 - Andy Greene||21||3||9||12||6||4||3||0||2||23:21||25||12.0|
|2009 - Mike Mottau||23||1||1||2||5||13||0||0||0||22:31||23||4.3|
Not Considered: Matt Halischuk (CAN), Mark Fraser (CAN), Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond (CAN), Andrew Peters (CAN), Bryce Salvador (CAN), Rod Pelley (CAN), Rob Niedermayer (CAN), Cory Murphy (CAN), Matthew Corrente (CAN), Yann Danis (CAN), Tyler Eckford (USA), Ilkka Pikkarainen (FIN), Jay Pandolfo (USA), Tim Sestito (USA), Dainius Zubrus (LTU), Dean McAmmond (CAN), Vladimir Zharkov (RUS).