Team Sweden has been made official mere hours before the roster announcement deadline imposed by the International Ice Hockey Federation, and similarly to the United States and Czech Republic, there are some surprising omissions.
Defencemen Viktor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Jonas Brodin of the Minnesota Wild were not selected to wear Sweden’s beautiful Yellow & Blue in Sochi, next month. Hedman’s absence from the final Swedish roster is somewhat surprising. The big Swede – former 2nd overall NHL entry draft selection – is performing at a very high level for the Bolts this season. For my money, he’s one of the top defenceman in the NHL; highly underrated force from the back end. And that Brodin is pretty darn good, too.
The Swedes won this tournament the last time it was played on international ice, making them the defending big ice champions. That being said, much of the ’06 gold medal winning core is retired; Mats Sundin, Nicklas Lidstrom, Peter Forsberg, and Markus Naslund. However, despite the infusion of a new core, the Swedes are still one of the elite hockey nations in the world. In fact, at face value, it’s very arguable they are the second best team entering the tournament, behind Team Canada – which will feature several decorated NHL superstars and Cup winners.
Sweden’s new core is elite, even by NHL standards. Defenceman Erik Karlsson won the Norris trophy for top defender in 2012. He is joined by some of the league’s finest blue-liners: Niklas Kronwall and Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and… Viktor Hedman, oh wait.
Up front, Sweden’s roster is stacked. Nicklas Backstrom, the Sedins, Alex Steen, and Henrik Zetterberg are scoring with the best of ’em in the NHL this season. In goal, Henrik Lundqvist – although he’s not having his best season – has been there done that in this tournament. He’s a proven gold medal winner, and arguably the most impressively consistent elite goalie in the world over the last seven years.
Sweden bailed out early in 2010, losing an elimination game to the surprising Slovakians, led by Zdeno Chara in the prime of his shutdown glory. It was a disappointing loss for the defending champs from ’06, however, it also marked the first true test for the core of Swedes that return with something to prove in Sochi.
The Swedes should do very well in this tournament, despite their track record of being a hit or miss nation. The biggest key to their success will be their utilization of speed and puck possession on the bigger ice. If they can excel at dictating game flow and pace – much like they did in 2006 – I’d expect them to medal with ease this time around.
Meet the Swedish men’s hockey team that will smoothly attempt to win a gold medal in Sochi, Russia:
Goaltenders: Jonas Enroth, Jonas Gustavsson, Henrik Lundqvist.
Defence: Alexander Edler, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Jonathan Ericsson, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Erik Karlsson, Niklas Kronwall, Johnny Oduya, Henrik Tallinder.
Forwards: Daniel Alfredsson, Nicklas Backstrom, Patrik Berglund, Jimmie Ericsson, Loui Eriksson, Johan Franzen, Carl Hagelin, Marcus Kruger, Gabriel Landeskog, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Jakob Silfverberg, Alexander Steen, and Henrik Zetterberg.