Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Scouting the World Junior Championships

Rare recent footage of a hockey player
wearing a maple leaf celebrating something.
The eyes of the hockey world are focused on Buffalo this week as the annual World Junior Championships gets underway. Ten nations from around globe are represented at the tournament, each hoping to be the last team standing when the gold medal is awarded on January 5.

Of course, that's a more realistic goal for some teams than for others. Here's a look at the strengths and weaknesses of all ten teams participating in this year's tournament.

USA
The good: As tournament host, will be bombarded with "Go Canada Go" chants that are slightly less deafening than in other years.
The bad: A United States team made up mostly of young college kids has never won a
major hockey tournament on home ice, presumably, since that seems like the sort of thing American sports fans would probably bring up every once in a while.

Russia
The good: After checking and rechecking the tournament roster rules, team officials have confirmed that Evgeni Nabokov is not eligible to participate.
The bad: Many players have spent their entire lives in places like Siberia, and may have a difficult time adjusting to the harsher living conditions of Buffalo.

Finland
The good: Have made good progress in their quest to earn a World Junior medal, thanks to a national program called "Operation Convince Them To Start Giving Out a Medal For Sixth Place".
The bad: As always, you can distract them during the game by yelling "Hey Teemu!" and waiting for half the players to turn around and say "Yes?"

Germany
The good: Are unlikely to get blown out more than four or five times.
The bad: Due to a linguistic misunderstanding over the term "World Junior Championships", have sent a team consisting entirely of small children who have the same names as their fathers.

Czech Republic
The good: The team seems fired up thanks to a passionate pre-tournament motivational speech from the country's best-known hockey ambassador, Jaromir Jagr's 1991 mullet.
The bad: The national program is so badly underfunded that they often can't afford to supply star players with basic necessities, such as vowels.

Sweden
The good: Goaltender Robin Lehner is a Senators prospects but has not spent much time in Ottawa yet, so he may still have some vague clue how to make an occasional save.
The bad: Not to be nitpicky, but they maybe should have hired a head coach who speaks Swedish.

Slovakia
The good: Virtually the entire roster is able to focus exclusively on this tournament, without the distraction of thinking about future professional careers.
The bad: In hindsight, it may have been a mistake to stop producing decent hockey players in 2000.

Switzerland
The good: Islander draft pick Nino Niederreiter will be extra motivated to do well since he knows it's his last chance to win anything until he reaches unrestricted free agency.
The bad: Everything the nation knows about hockey comes from a single smuggled in copy of NHL '93, so their entire offensive strategy consists of lobbing weak wrist shots at the goaltender and hoping he slides all the way across the crease for no reason.

Norway
The good: Starting goalie Lars Volden is a Maple Leafs prospect, and will be gaining invaluable experience on how to get completely shelled in Buffalo.
The bad: They'll find it nearly impossible to field a competitive team thanks to an obscure tournament rule that stipulates that their roster must consist entirely of Norwegians.

Canada
The good: Will be one of the hungriest teams at the tournament, since as per Canadian law they won't be given any food or water until they've won the gold medal.
The bad: Will be under more pressure from home fans than any other team in the tournament, given that they're the only team from a country where fans are aware this tournament is taking place.




19 comments:

  1. Everything the nation knows about hockey comes from a single smuggled in copy of NHL '93, so their entire offensive strategy consists of lobbing weak wrist shots at the goaltender and hoping he slides all the way across the crease for no reason.

    i guess we should see lots of wraparounds as well. i imagine they'll be disappointed when the goalie doesn't get himself stuck on the far post.

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  2. "The bad: Will be under more pressure from home fans than any other team in the tournament, given that they're the only team from a country where fans are aware this tournament is taking place. "

    All too true. Although TSN will hail it like some sort of grand nation-building triumph anyway.

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  3. NHL 93...great memories. Cross ice pass, one timer, score. Repeat.

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  4. And you didn't even call the Czech Republic Czechoslovakia!! Kudos!

    (btw your Chris Durno Chronicles link links to the wrong article)

    nd NY Times links? Multiple kudos! If you can make it there you can make it anywhere. Which makes me think the time is right for the DGB Broadway musical. I'm thinking Down Goes the Oklahoma Streetcar Named Brown. Justin Beiber could play the young Gary Bettman. And the older Gary Bettman. "SidNEY, SidNEY"

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  5. "Starting goalie Lars Volden is a Maple Leafs prospect"

    I can't find any information on Volden being drafted and/or signed by the Leafs. Did you mean Sondre Olden who plays forward for the Norwegians?

    -PassivelyTruculent

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  6. @TheTick... But there was no one-timer in '93. They didn't add that until '94. (Is it sad that I know this without looking it up, but don't know my relatives' birthdays?)

    @Mike Pelyk... The mandatory geography lessons are paying off.

    @Anonymous... Good question. SB Nation has him listed as Leafs property. If they're wrong, I'll sue them back to the stone age.

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  7. "The bad: Not to be nitpicky, but they maybe should have hired a head coach who speaks Swedish."

    What do you mean? Sweden's head coach is Roger Rönnberg, he is Swedish...

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  8. "The bad: Will be under more pressure from home fans than any other team in the tournament, given that they're the only team from a country where fans are aware this tournament is taking place. "

    It's actually quite popular in Sweden nowadays. A lot of people probably prefer this to the somewhat watered down World Championships

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  9. Technically, the Slovaks do have at least one decent player: Martin Marincin is tearing up the Dub right now. Beyond that, no, I couldn't name anyone else on the team.

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  10. i'm also curious about the swedish one, as the coach is indeed swedish...

    and sweden's first game in WJC is actually headlining the first page of one of sweden's biggests news sites currently (aftonbladet)

    oh, and the bad part of czech made me lol =)

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  11. I loved it! My favorite parts were the Russian and Finnish teams. :)

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  12. Canada sucks.

    And so does this blog.

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  13. "The bad: A United States team made up mostly of young college kids has never won a
    major hockey tournament on home ice, presumably, since that seems like the sort of thing American sports fans would probably bring up every once in a while."

    I know that the Olympics isn't the WJC, but the 1980 Olympic team was all college kids and it was on home ice.

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  14. @Paul

    I think that's the joke, about how the Americans don't stop talking about that....

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  15. Lmaoo too funny keep it up:)

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  16. I don't think Volden is a Leafs prospect. He was eligible for the 2010 draft but I think he was passed over..I'm sure at least someone would've heard about us drafting him by now, I haven't read a single thing about the Leafs and Volden on HFBoards or any other site for that matter

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  17. @Anonymous...

    Re: Volden. On further review, I'm pretty sure you're right.

    Crap. This is totally going to cost me my $10K bond.

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  18. Canadians are more passionate about Hockey than Americans are about any of their 3 sports (although Basketball was invented by a Canadian). Yes, Americans are passionate fans, but their passion does not penetrate their National psyche like Hockey does to Canadians. Having said this, Canadians do not care if no other Country gives a damn about this tournament. We do, and that's all that matters. Every sport should be so lucky to have such passionate fans.

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  19. I watch this tournament every year, like most Canadians, coast to coast. These juniors don't play for money, or endorsements. They just play for the maple leaf. That's what we love it so much. They are usually the cream of the crop when it comes to character, and always conduct themselves as ambassadors to our great country. It's the best hockey you can watch, full tilt from start to finish. We mourn when the loose and rejoice when they win, and looking back over recent years you remember before they were stars the likes of Crosby, Toews, Stamkos, Tavares, Getzlaf, Carter....and the list goes on.

    That's what makes it special. Go Canada Go.

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