Monday, February 23, 2009

2010 Olympic Hockey Preview; Part II

The Longshot

8. Germany

I really didn’t know what to do with the Germans.  While 8 is (to me anyways) the clear spot for them, they don’t really fit in with any other teams. 

On the one hand, they clearly have more talent than any of the teams in the “thanks for showing up” category.  The German team is, at least for the first couple of lines, stocked with NHL talent.  They also have a goaltender with NHL and international experience, as well as an up and comer who may in fact take the place of the veteran.  The Germans will fill the remainder of their roster spots from the strong DEL (comparable roughly to the AHL). 

So where to put the Germans?  Well, they are in limbo, so we will treat them as such.  Not a true contender for the Gold, it isn’t worth choosing an entire roster for Die Deutsch.  On the other hand, they are a step ahead of Switzerland, Norway, Latvia and Belarus, so we need to give them slightly more attention.  The solution…I will go ahead and break down the German team position by position, rather than person by person.


The Germans are actually in fair shape along the blueline.  Christain Ehrhoff has shown flashes of brilliance for San Jose, but the Germans will need him to step up in this tournament and be a number 1, at least as far as offense and transition games are concerned, something he is not for the Sharks.  Ehrhoff will be joined on Germany’s back end by three other NHLers, Ottawa’s Christoph Schubert, Carolina’s Dennis Seidenberg, and Nashville’s Alexander Sulzer (who has spent most of this season in the AHL).  The remaining two Spots on defense will likely be filled by DEL players, although Bruins prospect Denis Reul and Toronto prospect Korbinian Holzer will likely attempt to make the jump from World Juniors to the Olympics.


Up front, the Germans are much weaker.  They lack the both the depth and the go-to scorer that this tournament’s contending teams have in spades.  The Bruins’ Marco Sturm, and the Sabers’ Jochen Hecht are holdovers from the 2002 and 2006 tournaments, and will likely be relied upon once again to carry the scoring for Germany.  Marcel Goc of San Jose is really the only other full time NHLer up front that is expected to lace up for the Germans.  The one thing that could help in this facet would be if Germany could entice Mikhail Grabovski and Dany Heatley to play for their national squad.  Both were born in Deutschland, but play for Belarus and Canada respectively, having been born to parents living as expatriates, then raised in their respective countries, rather than Germany.  Unfourtionately, Heatley and Grabovski are not eligible to play for Germany in IIHF sanctioned events such as the Olympics having previously played for Canada and Belarus, although they could play for Germany in the 2011 World Cup.


Germany will likely field two of the four San Jose Sharks on their roster at goaltender.  The likely starter Thomas Greiss spent most of last season as Evgeni Nabokov’s backup, but has yet to play in the NHL this season because of Brian Boucher’s emergence as Nabokov’s #2.  The likely number 2 will be youngster Timo Pielmeir, still playing in the QMJHL, who starred in World Juniors this past year.   

So, in the end, in order to judge Germany’s chances, one must first define their goals.  Germany is much too shallow (as well as lacking in top end talent) to compete for any sort of medal.  Teams such as the Scandinavians or North Americans will be better than the Germans pretty much to a man, and it will likely show.

Having said all that, there is hope for the German team in Vancouver.  A win or two, maybe even making the second round would be considered a successful trip in 2010.  That is a definite possibility.  Belarus is a beatable opponent, and if Germany could upset the Sweeds or the Finns ( a long shot, but not quite impossible), they would likely be able to draw a weaker team in the qualifying round. 

So a medal is completely out of the question, but a couple of wins could be a big boost for the German team.


Up Next…the Velvet Sleepers

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