There is an exchange in the movie "Airplane!" that sort of goes like this but doesn't really go like this:
Elaine (stewardess): "Would you like something to read?"
Old Woman (not the one who later "speaks Jive"): "Do you have anything light?"
Elaine (hands over a bookmark-sized paper): "How about this leaflet, 'Famous Islanders 2010 Olympic Hopefuls'?"
(The original line is a harmless religious gag that you might not remember unless you're someone who watched that film way too often in the '80s ... someone like me.)
Because 2010 Olympic hockey rosters will start to be announced later this month, several of us hockey site managers on SB Nation are taking turns looking at our respective teams to see who's a lock, who's on the bubble, etc. for each country. Sadly, Team Denmark did not qualify for this Olympic tourney -- cutting Islanders representation by a scientifically estimated figure of 33 to 50 percent.
Fine by me. While I like to have good players, I don't mind our good players getting a big rest in February while everyone else's stars fight it out for
bigger endorsement deals the pure patriotic pride that the completely uncommercialized Olympics has proudly represented for so long. Unfortunately, our best player at our weakest position is the most important player on his national team.
[Olympic outlook continues after the jump, after the poll...]
This Guy Right Here, He's an Olympian
#2 / Defenseman / New York Islanders
Dec 11, 1977
"Mark Streit" is Latin for "Swiss god of hockey"
"Lay her down and slap 'em yack 'em"
|2009 - Mark Streit||27||4||11||15||1||22||2||0||1||0||61||6.6|
With all due apologies to David Aebischer, Mark Streit is the face of Swiss hockey on these shores. Be it Olympics or be it the annual World Championships -- where Streit played 10 consecutive tournaments -- Streit is a fixture. He was captain in 2006 (when Switzerland beat Canada and the Czech Republic in group play) and the captain at the World Championships last spring, when I really wish he'd been resting his banged-up body after his first NHL season as a #1 defenseman.
Streit's not only a lock this year (barring injury), he's probably a lock until he gets old and gray, sort of like Petr Stastny was for Slovakia. Why this sort of stinks? As often discussed here, the Islanders blueline is a bit of a weak point, and Streit is their best defenseman, logging the most minutes. I don't relish the thought of him coming back exhausted. Fortunately for the Islanders-centric view, his team is a long shot to make it to the medal round.
Streit might be the only Islander at the Olympics ... but maybe not.
This Guy, He's Got Work to Do, But One Day He'll Be an Olympian
#21 / Right Wing / New York Islanders
Apr 16, 1988
2008 WJC, 2009 WC
A Brian Burke-type of player, minus the dumb penalties part. But would need to pick it up, quickly. Or, in short: "Cutter say can't hang."
|2009 - Kyle Okposo||26||5||9||14||-6||16||2||0||2||0||82||6.1|
The first step for Kyle Okposo was last spring, when he formed the most consistent line for Team USA at the WC with David Backes and TJ Oshie. That line is an ideal, North American-style combo of physicality, hands and determination right there. The coach's stereotypical "Give me 18 Backeses/Okposos/Oshies and I won't have to coach" sort of deal. The second step for Okposo was being among the 34 invited to last summer's orientation camp.
But after a promising second half last year and a nice start this year, Okposo's been in a bit of a slump. He's only 100 games into his NHL career, and his scoring totals will definitely improve (particularly if he re-unites with John Tavares and Matt Moulson on the top line). But for now, his totals and play tell me he's not on pace to make the cut this year. Lots of games in December could change that projection, though. And generally when people watch an Islanders game, they notice when this Minnesotan is on the ice. That talent and love for the game could make him an Olympian one day ... if the NHL is still doing that thing in 2014 or 2018.
This Guy Has Been Shelved, But Deserves a Mention for Service
#93 / Center / New York Islanders
Jan 21, 1971
Led the U.S. team to gold at the 1960 Olympics in Squall Valley
Dinner is every day at 4:30 in the cafeteria. Bridge is in the lobby. In the lounge is a TV with SAP where you can watch Wapner and the Olympics in closed-caption.
|2009 - Doug Weight||11||0||6||6||2||0||0||0||0||0||19||0.0|
I'll just be happy if Doug Weight, whose body keeps reminding him this is a young man's game, is healthy in February. When healthy, he's a big help to the Islanders powerplay. But he's on the shelf now, likely for several more weeks, and he wasn't in the picture for this year's Olympics anyway. Of the World Cup '96ers -- man, what a wonderful week that was -- only Mike Modano was invited to last summer's orientation camp as a player. And seriously, Modano shouldn't be in Vancouver either.
Don't Call Us, We'll Call You
#20 / Left Wing / New York Islanders
Feb 08, 1984
Multiple WJCs plus 3 of the last 4 WCs
Pretty slim, actually - but he'd fit right in if called.
|2009 - Sean Bergenheim||27||4||6||10||1||14||0||1||0||0||55||7.3|
Sean Bergenheim is a diligent, feisty, responsible two-way player, which is why Scott Gordon trusts him in defensive situations more than the "pure" scorers on the Islanders. Of course, that description fits a ton of Finnish players, so there's no reason Bergenheim should expect to be on the squad. He would have played at last spring's World Championships, but as with Frans Nielsen and his Mottau'd knee, the Islanders wisely talked Bergenheim out of putting his wonky groin through an intense tournament test.
Still, if a plague of injuries wiped through Finland's best players, you know Bergenheim would handle a fourth-line role like a pro.
Sticking with Bergenheim's team: Finnish goalies are as common as Texas quarterbacks and Nebraskan linemen, so no, Mikko Koskinen does not get the call, even if Miikka Kiprusoff is doing the whole prima donna thing.
Sticking with Nordic goalies: Were you like me when you saw Chris Botta's headline about Anders Nilsson being "selected to Team Sweden?" Wha-wha-what?! Oh, that Team Sweden. I always forget about the kids, so of course I was going to forget about the WJCs when it was the Olympics on my mind. Still, the fact Nilsson is in the picture for his national junior team is nothing but a positive for the Islanders' future. Oh, hey, did you hear Rick DiPietro is about to get some game action in Bridgeport?
If Only My Country Had Qualified
Frans Nielsen, the NHL's first Dane, would be there if the rest of his team was. He's a smart two-way center with some savvy puck skills -- okay, and I have a man-crush on his game -- but the fact he's one of Denmark's best hockey products tells you why Denmark won't be in Vancouver. As with Streit and Switzerland, though, players like Frans are the guys who pave the way for national team growth. And unless you're the type of Canadian who thinks the sky is falling each time the percentage of Canucks in the NHL drops, then more hockey played by more people in more countries is always a good thing. Period.
Richard Park, one of the few Korean-born players in NHL history, will not be at the Olympics. But not because South Korea won't be -- Park's actually a U.S. citizen who has represented the U.S. several times at the World Championships. But the pool of willing Olympic players is deeper than the IIHF's annual spring tournament, so the role Park normally plays will be taken by a 20-goal scorer.
Regardless, Park is also a trailblazer with a very interesting route to the NHL, and a couple of times on this site we've had at least one Asian-North American (another Nova Soctian, actually) log on just to share with us what Park's career has meant. That is always cool.
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Related: Full stream of SBN's 2010 Olympic hockey previews.
Note: This is a hockey-lover's site, run as a labor of love. Which means it's hardly authoritative and not sourced by Olympic team insiders. You're not only welcome to disagree with these assessments, you're encouraged to lodge any disagreement or other thoughts in comments, whatever they may be ("Airplane!" quotes, for example).
Side question: How much do you care about Olympic hockey? I feel a bit inconvenienced by it myself. Kind of miss the amateurs and the Canada Cup/World Cup.