Hockey Roundup: World Cup Preview

Your weekly shot of hockey to go with your afternoon coffee

The World Cup of Hockey begins on Saturday Afternoon after a 12 year hiatus. The third iteration of the event, the NHL has reestablished this tournament to be held every four years instead the random years of 1996 and 2004 for the original two. The original two World Cups featured North American and European pools, each designating the continent on which it would be played. The 2016 edition will have every single game held in the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. Like its predecessors, the 2016 World Cup has eight teams competing but unlike the previous events, two of the teams in 2016 represent multiple countries. I’ll explain below, let’s get to it…

Teams:

You can view the full rosters here

Group A:

Team Canada – Head Coach: Mike Babcock (TOR), Captain: Sidney Crosby (PIT) — the host nation features one of the most stacked lineups in the tournament (with some very notable snubs). The possible line combinations and D-pairings are just plain scary. Imagine a starting line of Crosby, Corey Perry, Steven Stamkos at forward with Shea Weber and Brent Burns at defense. That’s just one of the many possibilities Canada has.
Team Czech Republic – Head Coach: Josef Jandac, Captain: Tomas Plekanec (MTL) — the team consisting of the least NHLers won’t be slouches. The Czechs feature a good goaltending trio (Pavelec (WPG), Neuvirth (PHI), and Mrazek (DET)) and a solid, younger core of skater. Depth will be their issue however. Sidenote: The Czech team features the most Flyers on their roster with Neuvirth, Jakub Voracek, and Radko Gudas (who is injured and will not play)
Team Europe – Ralph Krueger, Captain: Anze Kopitar (LA) — Team Europe consists of players from countries not represented in the World Cup but are normally in the Olympics and World Championships. Meaning Slovakians Zdeno Chara Marian Goborik and Marian Hossa, the Swiss Mark Streit and Nino Niederreiter, Slovenian captain Anze Kopitar, Austrian Thomas Vanek, and Norwegian Mats Zuccarello can all team up.
Team USA – John Tortorella (CBJ), Captain: Joe Pavelski (SJ) — featuring a lot of the same roster from Sochi (with a few notable snubs), the USA has looked sharp in the exhibition games leading up to the tournament. The Americans feature Patrick Kane and Max Pacioretty–both great goal scorers, a solid unit of defensemen, and solid goaltending with Ben Bishop (TB), Jonathan Quick (LA), and Cory Schneider (NJ) all on the roster.

Group B:

Team Finland – Head Coach: Lauri Marjamaki. Captain: Mikko Koivu (MIN) — anchored goalies Tuukka Rask (BOS) and Pekka Rinne (NSH), the Fins are a very young team with older leadership. Aside from our team, Finland is the only team to feature teenagers on their roster. Watching Koivu, Jussi Jokinen, Valtteri Filppula, and Mikael Granlund lead this young squad will be fun to watch.
Team North America – Head Coach: Todd McLellan (EDM), Captain: Connor McDavid (EDM) — This team is a roster of Canadians and Americans who are under 23 years old. I might be most excited to watch this team. Their forwards are the future of the NHL: McDavid (2015 1st Overall Pick), Nathan MacKinnon (COL, 2013-14 Rookie of the Year), Austin Matthews (TOR, 2016 1st Overall Pick), Jack Eichel (BUF, 2015 2nd Overall Pick), plenty of other great forwards with Aaron Ekblad (FLA), Shayne Gostisbehere (PHI), and Seth Jones (CBJ) leading the defensemen, and the goalie who should have won the Conn Smythe, Matt Murray (PIT). Seriously, go look at their roster.
Team Russia – Head Coach: Oleg Znarok, Captain: Alex Ovechkin (WSH) — another scary set of forwards, the Russians will give our last glimpse of Pavel Datsyuk who moved back to the Russian KHL after last season. He, Ovi, Malkin, and crafty vet Andrei Markov (MON) lead the Russians with Sergei Bobrovsky (CBJ) and Semyon Varlamov (COL) in the goaltending core.
Team Sweden – Head Coach: Rikard Gronborg, Captain: Henrik Sedin (VAN) — the other stacked lineup, the Swedes are coming in with a deep roster. Easily the best defensive team: King Henrik in goal, Niklas Hjalmarsson (CHI) and Anton Stralman (TB) leading the defensemen. The forwards are solid as well with the Sedin brothers, Filip Forsberg (NSH), Carl Hagelin (PIT), and Jakob Silfverberg (ANA).

Schedule:

The first week of play is the Group Play which will feature two games per day from Saturday, September 17th to Thursday, September 22nd. The semifinals will be on Saturday the 24th and Sunday 25th and the finals will be a best-of-three series on the 27th, 29th, and October 1st, if necessary. You can view the full schedule here. Many of these games are during the afternoon, including the weekday games. I understand the need of warmups, leaving space for OT, and fans coming in and out for each game, but a 3pm start for the afternoon games? Thankfully, the Americans only play one afternoon game on Saturday at 3:30 to kick off the tournament. The other gripe I have is the channel choices. ESPN has exclusive rights to this tournament but only has two primetime games on ESPN, USA vs. Canada on Wednesday the 21st, and Game 1 of the final, the rest will be on ESPN2 aside from the one game on ESPNEWS. Again, I fully understand the MLB TV Deal ESPN has had forever, but it feels like a slap in the face to an event called the “World Cup.”

Picks:

Group A: Winner: Canada, Runner-Up: USA — I hope it’s the reverse, but Team Canada is loaded. The Czechs and the Europeans aren’t deep enough to surpass neither Canada nor the USA.
Group B: Winner: Sweden, Runner-Up: North America — The U-23 Roster is loaded, but Sweden is maybe the deepest team in the World Cup. The Fins and Russians will make this more interesting than Group A but I’ll give the edge to the U-23 Team.
Semis: Canada over North America and Sweden over USA — Canada and Sweden are the deepest teams in the field
Finals: Canada over Sweden in Three — Team Sweden has the better defense, especially at goalie. Canada’s defense is also solid but they have the better offensive unit. The final series will need all three games to decide the winner, but the host nation will finish on top.

Disagree? Let me know in the comments

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