5 NHL Teams That Will Be Hurt By 2014 Winter Olympics
5 NHL Teams Not Looking Forward to the Olympic Break
As long as NHL players are allowed to participate in the hockey tournament at the Winter Olympics every four years, the event and the logistics surrounding it are going to pose problems for NHL teams. Depending on where the Olympics are being held, which teams have the most players chosen by various nations and the oddity of having a long break right in the middle of the league season, teams will sometimes be adversely affected by the Olympics.
All such factors are in place next month when the 2014 Winter Olympics take place in Sochi, Russia. The games begin in early February, and the NHL will be on hiatus for most of the month. Such a break comes at a bad time for some teams who are playing really well right now or have been playing great all season. The last thing those clubs want to see is a long break to take away their momentum.
Other teams will be worrying while watching the Olympic hockey tournament because of the sheer number of players they have representing various countries. For some teams, however, the story is the opposite. There are teams that may not have had many players picked to participate in Sochi, but the players that were picked were absolutely their best so the teams would be lost without them should an injury occur during the Olympics.
For a variety of reasons, there is cause for concern for five NHL teams in particular as the Olympics are now just around the corner.
5. Washington Capitals
It's definitely a case of quality over quantity for the Washington Capitals when it comes to being concerned about the Winter Olympics. The Caps send a mere three players to Sochi, but they are probably the three best players on the team in forward and NHL goals leader Alex Ovechkin, center Nicklas Backstrom and defenseman John Carlson. The Caps can't afford to lose even one of these three players if they are going to stay in the playoff race. Ovechkin is far and away Washington's goal leader, and the Caps' season will be sunk if something happens to him during the Olympics.
4. Los Angeles Kings
The Los Angeles Kings send six players to the Winter Olympics representing four different nations. The Kings are just above the playoff line in the Pacific Division with 61 points, four ahead of fourth-place and top wild-card Vancouver Canucks. Los Angeles has not been good over its last 10 games, going just 3-6-1. Should the Kings turn it around a bit before the Olympic break, that momentum will then be shelved for nearly a month while the Olympics are staged. This is a team that has little margin for error in its playoff run as it is.
3. Montreal Canadiens
Long a legendary franchise in the NHL and really all of sports but short on a Stanley Cup since 1993, the Montreal Canadiens now must sit back and watch eight of their best players go to Sochi for the Olympics. That tally includes four defensemen. P.K. Subban (Canada), Andrei Markov (Russia), Alexei Emelin (Russia) and Rafael Diaz (Switzerland) will all be putting more miles on their treads during the Olympics after what was already a condensed NHL schedule because of the Olympic break. Like Los Angeles, the Canadiens are four points ahead of the wild-card teams in the Eastern Conference and can't afford to have four defensemen wearing down late in the season due to the added strain of Olympic play.
2. Anaheim Ducks
The last thing anyone associated with the Anaheim Ducks wants to see is the Winter Olympics. The Ducks have been the NHL's best team this season, putting up 36 wins in their first 49 games and tallying 77 points thanks to a 36-8-5 record. A simple three or four-day All-Star break during a normal season wouldn't be enough to derail Anaheim. But with this long break and seven players going to Sochi, there's every reason to believe the Ducks could come back in worse shape than when they left, and the Western Conference race for top seed could tighten up because of it.
1. St. Louis Blues
If the Olympics are going to hurt the Ducks because it could take away their momentum, the Olympics will hurt the St. Louis Blues because half their active roster is headed to Sochi. While the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings are also sending 10 players to the Olympics, the Blues have several younger players who won't be quite as used to this stage, how to prepare for it and how to wind back into shape for NHL play when it's over. The Blues are represented on five different Olympic teams next month, and they take a particular hit at forward where six players (Vladimir Sobotka, Vladimir Tarasenko, Patrik Bergland, Alexander Steen, David Backes and T.J. Oshie) are scheduled to appear. Getting everyone back healthy and in good form will be almost impossible for the Blues who sit two points behind Chicago for the lead in the Central Division.