May 04, 2012
The Road To Sochi Begins
But the 2012 worlds are the first step on the road to the Sochi 2014 Olympics. World rankings will conclude following the tournament. Those rankings will be used to seed teams for the Olympic tournament.
Therefore this world championship is extra important, especially for Canada. Canada enters the 2012 IIHF world championship as just the fifth-ranked men's hockey team. Despite winning Olympic gold in 2010, the Canadians are currently ranked behind defending world champions Finland, 2011 world runner-up Sweden, Russia and the Czech Republic. The United States are 6th.
The fact that Canada is 5th is alarming at first, but it can be remedied with a World Championship in 2012. Should Canada win gold, and the host (and defending world champions) Finland fail to reach the gold medal game, Canada would regain the top IIHF spot and the top seed (and presumably easier round robin schedule) in Sochi.
Canada brings plenty of talent up front, with NHL tandems such as Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle and Evander Kane and Andrew Ladd leading the way. Jamie Benn, Alex Burrows, Ryan O'Reilly, Ted Purcell, Patrick Sharp, Jeff Skinner and John Tavares provided plenty of talent for coach Brent Sutter to work with.
The defense is a little thinner, with only Duncan Keith likely to make the Sochi team. Jay Bouwmeester, Dion Phaneuf provide lots of international experience. Youngsters Luke Schenn and P.K. Subban (update: injury will prevent him from playing) will begin auditioning for Sochi, while veteran defensive rearguards Marc Methot and Marc Eduoard Vlasic round out the blue line group.
The goaltending may prove to be Canada's downfall. Cam Ward is a potential Sochi netminder, but like 2012 Canadian teammates Devan Dubnyk and Matt Hackett will not have played for over 3 weeks by the time the worlds get started. Ideally Canada would like a goalie who has seen more recent game action. Will Ward or one of his backups be able to shake off the rust before the medal round?
One thing for sure is there is a lot more at stake than just the 2012 world championship gold medal. The fight for the 2014 Olympic gold medal begins on Friday.