San Jose Sharks: Olympic Gig No Guarantee For Antti Niemi

By Randy Holt
Antti Niemi
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The San Jose Sharks finally got the season they were waiting for from Antti Niemi, who came into the 2013 with a little bit of uncertainty surrounding his future. While it’s tough to say it was a make-or-break season for the netminder, it was about as close as you can get.

Niemi was brilliant throughout the season. Even when the Sharks’ offense fell completely silent barely a quarter into the year, he remained as steady as ever. He pieced together a career season, which included a nomination as a Vezina Trophy finalist.

Though the year didn’t end the way that Niemi or the Sharks would have liked, it certainly set them up for a more positive outlook than what could have been heading into the 2013-14 season. For Niemi, it also set him up for a potential Olympic gig next February in Sochi.

However, while Niemi might be looked at as something of a favorite for the job, it’s far from a guarantee for the Finnish netminder. He’ll be up against some top tier competition. The big names include the likes of Tuukka Rask, easily the favorite for the job, as well as Pekka Rinne, who is coming off of a down year.

There are other veterans in the mix. Niklas Backstrom and Kari Lehtonen represent another pair that could be in the mix. There are some more unknown quantities as well, including Karri Ramo and Antti Raanta, the latter of which is just now making the jump over to the United States.

The point is, that Niemi likely has his work cut out for him to make the Finnish roster for the Olympics. He’s likely rolling as the no. 3 guy right now, but who knows what could happen between now and then. Of course, as large of an honor it is to represent your country, the Sharks may not mind Niemi staying home for this one, if it keeps him fresh for the playoffs.

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