Canucks in Sochi: Part II
Roberto Luongo and Dan Hamhuis will don the Maple Leaf for Canada, while Ryan Kesler once again hopes to be a thorn in the side of the opposition while suiting up for the United States. The Canucks once again have a strong Swedish contingent with Daniel Sedin up front and Alex Edler on the back end.
Henrik will be sitting Sochi out with a rib injury after attempting to play through it leading up to the tournament. And hard-shooting defenseman Yannick Weber figures to play a prominent role for an underdog Swiss team, as does new Canuck and fellow blueliner Raphael Diaz.
Today we will look at the four five Canucks representing Sweden and Switzerland, respectively.
Swedish Canucks: No Lack of Talent
Is there a third Sedin at Sochi this year? Loui Eriksson played the role at the 2013 World Championships, and countless NHLers have enjoyed success alongside two of Sweden’s all-time greats in the NHL. However, some hard-hitting research from the CBC has dug up what could be the long-missing third Sedin twin (triplet?), but for now he calls himself Henri Hurskainen.
Left Wing – Daniel Sedin
Team Canada may have the biggest and fastest team at Sochi this year, but the argument could be made that Sweden has the deepest roster from top to bottom, and that will start with the Sedin twins Daniel and a center-to-be-named-later. Daniel and Henrik were dominant at the 2013 World Championships, leading Sweden to a gold medal alongside linemate Loui Eriksson. The Swedes may think about promoting Henrik Zetterberg up to the top unit with Daniel and Eriksson – three strong two-way players with ample ability to put the puck in the net.
Here is some of Sweden’s handiwork against the Finns from the World Championships last spring:
Although Daniel’s point production (40 points in 60 games) is currently well below what we have come to expect at this point in the regular season, both of the Sedins have both factored in on many of Vancouver’s most exciting and important goals to date in 2013-14.
They both have Olympic gold medals from 2006, but will want to rebound from a disappointing fifth place finish in Vancouver four years ago. The way Henrik and Daniel take care of themselves (they are two of the fittest players in hockey) should allow them to play in at least one more Olympic games. But in there here and the now, the Swedes will enter Sochi with a gold medal state of mind, and anything less than that will be a disappointment.
Daniel will make up one-third of Sweden’s top scoring attack, both at even strength and on the power play. Expect him to be reunited with Eriksson. Daniel won’t be as effective without Henrik, and even with Henrik on his line he has struggled with the Canucks this season. However, he is still one of the better wingers in hockey and Sweden will do everything they can to get him going.
Defense – Alex Edler
Edler wasn’t completely sure he was going to crack the final roster for the Swedes. Not because he wasn’t one of the top seven or eight defensemen from Sweden, but because he will miss the first two games of the Sochi Olympics finishing up a suspension after a knee-on-knee hit on Eric Staal at the 2013 World Championships.
Edler has the potential to be a top-pairing stud for the Swedes, just as he has the potential and ability to be one of the most impactful NHL defensemen as well. But he is still prone to the same errors and inconsistent play that have dogged him for much of his career. He is going to play in all situations for the Swedes, and the fact that he skates so well for a big guy will help him defend against the top forwards in the world on the international ice.
Defense – Yannick Weber
Weber is one of four NHLers (Roman Josi, Mark Streit, and new Canuck Raphael Diaz) who will skate on the Swiss back end, joining Severin Blindenbacher (also a member of the vaunted pre-tournament “all name” team), Philippe Furrer, Mathias Seger and Julien Vauclair. Jonas Hiller will start in goal for the Swiss, and he should expect to see a lot of rubber as long as he can keep his team in contention over in Sochi.
In the NHL, Weber is a power play specialist, but he will play a much larger role for the Swiss team. He was recently cleared to play in this tournament after suffering an injury a few weeks ago – expect to see a lot of him on the ice whenever the Swiss team has an offensive opportunity.
Defense – Raphael Diaz
The Canucks acquired Diaz for his solid two-way play and for the fact that he is a right-handed shot, as the team is currently missing three right-shooting defensemen due to injury. Montreal fans were none too pleased to hear about the Diaz/Dale Weise swap, as the statistics show that Diaz was actually one of the club’s steadier blue liners.
Diaz is similar to current Canuck Chris Tanev and former Canuck Lukas Krajicek in the way that he chooses to defend with his stick and his positioning rather than with physical play. He skates really well but he isn’t much of an offensive threat.
The Swiss team will lean heavily on Diaz in all situations. He is a more well-rounded defenseman than Weber, which should mean tougher matchups and more ice time in defensive (see: all) situations.