We should have seen the 2013 National Hockey League schedule by now, and rumor has it the teams have the schedules, but the league has not finished negotiating how it is going to handle the Olympic break – whether players will participate.
Many Russian players around the league have expressed an interest in attending the 2014 games to be played in their home country. This could be the last time the NHL is featured in the games that take place every four years.
Take what you will from his rumors, Eklund outlines the end of an Olympic era well. Of course South Korea doesn’t look appealing for the National Hockey League in 2018 – but how much less appealing did Japan look in 1998 when the NHL was first welcomed into the games at Nagano, Japan. Sure the political culture of the Korean Peninsula is going to be the biggest topic of the 2018 games, but hockey in Asia isn’t a foreign concept. The Asian Hockey League currently features seven teams from three countries. The 2022 Olympics could be heading for another non-hockey country – and occur after the next round of collective bargaining and the next lockout.
Having the National Hockey League participate in the 2014 games could be a good thing for the Buffalo Sabres – who may have a few Olympic players to send to the competition.
Ryan Miller could be considered in the mix for Team USA. He was the starting goaltender for Team USA at the last winter Olympics, but does have competition for the leading role at the 2014 games. Younger goalies with more recent success than Miller in Jonathan Quick and Jim Howard could be tapped on the shoulder by Team USA.
Austria makes an appearance in the upcoming Olympics, and Thomas Vanek will most likely get a stick tap from his home country. The fact that there are only six National Hockey League players reigning from the European country, none of which have had the success that Vanek has had will make him a lock for his country. He will join the second best Austrian Michael Grabner in Sochi once the National Hockey League reveals that players will be involved.
Austria will compete in Group B along with Finland, Canada, and Norway.
Latvia will also join the big teams in this years tournament. Buffalo Sabres prospect and potential blue and gold member this year Zemgus Girgensons could be considered by his country as they look to possibly medal, or put on a good show for their countrymen in the February international tournament. Latvia will compete in Group C with the Czech Republic, Sweden, and Switzerland.
The Buffalo Sabres defensive pairing of Christian Erhoff and Alexander Sulzer won’t get the chance to represent this year, as Germany does not have a bid to the Olympics.
If the Buffalo Sabres are hovering near the bottom of the standings however, many Sabres Olympic hopefuls could be passed over for guys finding greater success. Do the Buffalo Sabres have a chance at a medal in the Sochi Olympics?
While it may not help them in the standings by having their roster plucked for international competition half way around the world, we are not looking at a cup contender, so why not give the younger players that might get the nod the chance to play in a high intensity tournament to test their mettle?