Years ago, the Red Wings bloggers participated in a roundtable in which each blogger asked a question and every participant responded via e-mail with the Q&A going up on their blog. We decided to bring it back this year and due to the growth in numbers, the posts will be lengthier in nature so that each of the 11 bloggers, including myself, can have their say.
Be sure to head to Snapshots tomorrow as George Malik hosts Day #2 of our blogger roundtable with discussions centering around Todd Bertuzzi and Jason Williams.
Now onto my three-part question concerning the Winter Olympics...
This is a big year for the Wings with a chance to return to the Finals for the third straight year while overcoming the loss of 90 goals, but also an opportunity for many players to participate in what may be the last NHL Olympics. This naturally leads me to a few questions:
Which team will you root for in the 2010 Winter Games? You have your own country, but only one Wing on the roster with USA Hockey. Half of Sweden's squad could be Red Wings players. And then Team Canada's management is largely composed of Detroit's staff and there's a chance Cleary could make the team.
Tyler @ The Triple Deke: I think first, I'll be rooting that nobody gets injured. So in some respects I'll be watching the Olympics like an anxious mother. Secondly I'll be rooting for USA, as I feel every American should, but I'm not going to go all self-righteous about it. After that I'll be pulling for Sweden, not just because of all the Wings, but because they've got some other guys I enjoy watching as well. Same goes for Russia.
Bill @ Abel to Yzerman: I am absolutely conflicted. I have no idea and I plan to play it by ear. I've been looking into the logistics of attaining temporary Swedish citizenship just so I won't have to deal with the guilt of rooting against my country, but that's proving to be a difficult task considering my day job. I'm serious. I have no idea what I'm going to do. No other fan base has this kind of dilemma. Screw it. I want the Swedes to win it and defeat Canada in the Final, but only after Dan Cleary scores the game winner in the semi-final against Russia, short-handed....because leaders play the PK.
I closed my eyes and typed that paragraph above. My opinion may change after my next beer. I have no idea. Christy, you're a sadistic woman for asking me that.
Chris @ Motown Wings: As much as I want to see the Wings players do well in the Olympics, there's only one team I'm pulling for in Vancouver: USA. National pride trumps my local loyalties and I think it would be absolutely incredible to watch the Red, White and Blue bring home a gold medal in hockey. Will it happen? Doubtful. In that case, I'll go for whichever squad has the most remaining Wings.
George @ Snapshots: I'm a mercenary when it comes to the Olympics and the Red Wings. I tend to root for the team that has the most Red Wings on its roster, and I think that the Swedes have the best combination of superstar talent and honest-to-goodness depth players from the Eliteserien willing to play supporting roles that they can function as a more smoothly-oiled machine than the top-heavy Canadians, brash young Americans, and slick-but-thin Russians. I think that the Canadians will finish very well, but the pressure on that team's going to distract the players.
Drew @ Nightmare on Helm Street: I will always root for the USA to win. I wish all of the Red Wing players well in their Olympic endeavors...but more than anything I just want them to stay healthy. If I could choose between the US winning gold and all Detroit Red Wing Olympians returning from Vancouver 100% healthy...I would certainly choose the latter. If Team USA does get knocked out, then I'll be back team Sweden since Detroit makes up half of that team practically.
Kyle @ Babcock's Death Stare: This is such a tough question. Ordinarily, I am thrilled about the prospect of Canada flopping at international competition, but then the blame game starts and Yzerman and Babcock would receive a media and fan trashing. And that's just no good. Canada is expected to win, and when they don't, it's a colossal failure. Yzerman would go down in history as a bad manager because of it. Luckily for him, it probably won't hurt his future in Detroit's organization too much.
On the other hand, I like seeing the United States do well, but all they can do consistently on the international stage is underachieve. However, Canadians would never let Yzerman live down losing to the Americans on home ice. Sweden is also an appealing choice because of the Wings. Ideally, I'd like to see all three teams medal. I'd like to see the US take it all, but best case scenario for Wings fans I would say is Canada taking the gold, Sweden the silver, and USA for bronze.
Jessica @ Bingo Bango: Interesting first question. I think many Red Wings fans will be experiencing divided loyalty when it comes to who they will be rooting for in the 2010 Olympics. As for myself, as cheesy as it sounds, I’ll be rooting for team USA first and foremost. It’s my country and in many ways they are the underdog. It would be great to see them take silver or gold. However, when they inevitably are eliminated, yes I’m a realist, I’ll be rooting for team Canada. Despite Cleary being the only possible Wing on the team, I don’t have it in me to consistently root against Yzerman. If the US is eliminated I’d sooner wear a Crosby jersey with a Bettman mask while attending a game at the Joe than hope my childhood idol falters. Yeah I know, dramatic.
Kris @ Snipe Snipe, Dangle Dangle: First and foremost, I’ll be rooting for Team USA. I really don’t expect them to win, but I’m an unapologetic homer. I always have to root for the Americans in the competition, no matter what sport or how hopeless it may seem (ie ski jumping, ping pong, the marathon). Beyond that, I usually find myself rooting for Canada, just because of proximity and the long-running joke that I’m secretly Canadian. They’re kind of the sentimental favorites this year what with the Olympics being in Vancouver, but a part of me will be rooting for Sweden because of the large Red Wings contingent.
Michael @ The Production Line: Like any good yank, I’ll be rooting for the United States. After all, everyone loves an underdog.
That said, I will be thrilled for the half-dozen or so Wings on Team Sweden should they capture another gold. Same goes for Canada, which – obviously – is being run by the Wings braintrust. In 2006, Finland was a fun team to watch – and there may be a pair of Production Line favorites on the ’10 version of that squad. All in all, the only way I’ll be UPSET is if Marian Hossa and Slovakia wins…
Matt @ On the Wings: I'll technically root for the US until they get elminated, then I'll be pulling for Sweden. I feel a little dirty even thinking about cheering for a team involving Brian Burke, but I don't expect to have to do it for long. I'm skeptical of his ability to assemble a team that can win in the Olympics. I have a hard time seeing his usual recipe of size and physicality be successful on an international stage. I feel the appeal of cheering for Canada, with Babcock and Yzerman's involvement, but I don't want to have to hear about it over and over again if they win.
Christy @ Winging It In Motown: As Jessica stated, I will root for USA Hockey when they are playing and would love to see them win the gold. However, I do not believe they will play in the gold medal game and I will root for Team Canada. I also plan on cheering for Sweden and Canada whenever they are not playing against the U.S. Last Olympics, Sweden was my backup squad and I was delighted to see them win the gold (in fact, I have a 16x20 photo of our Wings wearing gold medals signed by our five winning Swedes). However, I cannot root against Steve Yzerman and I desperately hope that he can bring home the gold amidst all that pressure.
How will the Olympic break affect the Wings this year? The team has had two very long seasons with consecutive trips to the Finals. The All-Star break is usually a chance for most of our guys to take a short break to rest and heal up. With much of our team likely playing for their respective countries, how will that affect our team heading down the final stretch of the regular season and into the playoffs?
Tyler @ The Triple Deke: I have mixed feelings about how the Olympics will affect the Red Wings. On one hand, I don't see how it CAN'T affect them; not only does the league schedule get a bit more snug, but you have the added pressure of playing in a highly anticipated international competition. That has to take something out of you, I just don't know how much.
Bill @ Abel to Yzerman: I used to worry about it. Not anymore. These guys are in great shape and they're motivated. I think, if anything, the Olympics re-charges the better players. As long as nobody goes in hurt and makes an injury worse, or gets hurt during the tournament, I'm cool with it.
Chris @ Motown Wings: There's a very good chance that playing in the Olympics could present some fatigue concerns down the stretch for the Wings. With an "off-season" that involves orientation camps for each respective country, many of these guys have spent their R&R time playing the game they are supposed to be taking a break from. However, the Wings are deep enough with their developing players that, if the playoff situation is not in question, they can potentially bring up some of their younger players later in the season to provide some relief to the regular lineup.
George @ Snapshots: You always worry about somebody getting banged up, especially given the star power that will take part in the Olympics, but for the rest of the team, it's a two-week vacation. In 98, 02, and 06 that overworked-vs-rested factor tended to balance out, and the fact that the Wings are among the best-conditioned athletes who have become used to the concept of playing from late September to early June should help the Olympians better battle their way through the increased workload.
I'm not worried about the trips to the finals because the Wings played in the Western Conference Finals in 07. The team's adjusted to the mental and physical fitness regimens necessary to play hockey for almost ten months a year.
Drew @ Nightmare on Helm Street: I have to admit that I'm worried. As The Triple Deke pointed out in their segment, we've played in so many post-season games in recent years, it's like we've almost played a whole extra regular season. How hard or easy the players go in the Olympics is obviously up to them. What's more revered: a gold medal or the Stanley Cup? To say that the Olympics will have no affect on the season would be stupid, but I don't think it's going to break our season or our team, barring any injuries of course.
Kyle @ Babcock's Death Stare: I really don't think it hurts us any more than other team. I don't think a couple dozen extra playoff games over the span of three years is going to be the difference between this team flying high or running out of gas. We've all seen that this team likes to fall apart a little bit in February, so maybe a big chunk of Olympic games can help us get over that hump. I don't think you have to tell the players what an honor it is for them to play for their country. Especially the guys like Cleary, Ericsson, and Leino who will be getting long looks at camps but might not be locks -- I expect more confidence out of all three of them. They should have all the motivation they need to gear up for a playoff run.
Jessica @ Bingo Bango: I think the Wings will notice the fatigue and exhaustion from the Olympic Games during the second half of the regular season. They will be drained from the Olympic campaign and the long final stretch of the regular season will once again cause them to show some level of complacency. With that being said, the great thing about this team is what we learned last year. Babcock and Holland seem to have some sort of switch they have the team flip when playoff time comes. We will see a tired team in the regular season, but a hungry driven team come playoff time. Fans expect nothing less and the players will push themselves just as much.
Kris @ Snipe Snipe, Dangle Dangle: I don’t think the Olympics are going to be a huge factor down the stretch. As I’ve mentioned before, 1998 and 2002 were also Olympic years, and things worked out pretty well both times. It’s also important to keep in mind that every team’s biggest stars will be participating, even if the Wings have a higher percentage than most. The break will also be a good chance for the other players to rest up, especially guys like Helm and Leino (assuming he doesn’t play for Finland) who aren’t used to the grind of a full NHL season.
Michael @ The Production Line: It’s totally fair to question how the Olympic "break" will affect the Wings – especially given the fact that they’ve played so many extra games the last few years. I think that the guys that are talented enough to garner an invite to the Games are the kind of guys that can build personal momentum off of an Olympic tournament. Someone like Filppula might get an extra boost in confidence from an appearance like that – and imagine what Cleary will feel all season if he actually makes Team Canada.
I am, however, worried about guys like Homer – whose body is clearly sore by the end of the year given his style of play. An extra six games really might affect his back down the stretch.
Matt @ On the Wings: I'm not looking forward to the Wings' Olympians wearing themselves out during the tournament. The team's best players need to be playing fewer games, not more, at this point. It's definitely going to have an effect. How much is the question. In light of that, it'd probably be best of Sweden especially doesn't get too far. So, on the one hand, I'd like them to win. On the other, it'd be best for the Wings if they get Belarussed again. I'm less worried about Rafalski with the US, Cleary (if he makes it) with Canada or Datsyuk with Russia going far since they're not such a big chunk of the team as the Swedes are.
Christy @ Winging It In Motown: I believe the Olympics will hurt any players, who are dealing with injury problems. We saw in 2002 how the Olympics took an even greater toll on Yzerman's knee. He was still able to rise above the pain and lead the team to the Cup, but that would be my concern. As long as it doesn't result in any new injuries, I don't think it can be a nice, competitive break from NHL play for our guys. They will get all revved up for the Olympics and even though they are still playing hockey, it may be a refresher of sorts from the daily grind of the NHL.
Do you support the NHL or NHLPA when it comes to the Olympics? Would you like to see NHLers continue to represent their countries on an international stage or do you hate that it interrupts the NHL season? When the 2014 Winter Olympics take place in Russia, do you want to see NHL players there?
Tyler @ The Triple Deke: On the other hand, I've really enjoyed the three previous "NHL" Olympics. I don't have it pinned down exactly to what it is, but I just think it's a cool event, seeing how guys from different club teams play together on their national teams. I remember being 12 years old and staying up way late to watch the games in Nagano, and watching the '02 USA squad make that run to the gold medal game was one of my favorite sports memories. If the players enjoy it (which they seem to), and it doesn't impact the NHL schedule TOO much, then it would be hard for me to find a way to be against an event that I really like watching.
Bill @ Abel to Yzerman: I like it because the talent level is so incredible. Every game is awesome. Interrupting the NHL season? Oooh. Hate to see those fascinating February matchups lose their luster. It's great hockey and it should stay. I'm not sure who that answer supports, the NHL or the NHLPA but I know it supports me.
Chris @ Motown Wings: I might be heading in a different direction than most folks here, but I would prefer that the NHL players do not compete in the Olympics. To be fair, this is based mainly on the fact that the U.S. development programs or the world juniors teams tend to play better at international championships than the professionals do, mainly because they have been brought up with a better understanding of the international game. They've played in more contests, they know the rules better and they generally perform better together because they have been in development programs with the same guys for a good amount of time. However, if you go to those teams you run the very real risk of alienating the casual fan, as they won't have any of the big name players to connect with. In the end, I think that the younger guys are the better choice, for all the reasons listed above as well as the fact that their usage doesn't affect the NHL season as drastically and also alleviates the concerns that professionals may have about an injury affecting their professional careers.
George @ Snapshots: The NHL's position is completely understandable. They don't want their assets to be placed at the risk of sustaining injuries for the sake of participating in a season-disrupting tournament unless it directly promotes and benefits the NHL's 30 teams--and their fiscal bottom line--via prime-time ratings.
I can't deny that the games that have involved longer flights in addition to that nasty Olympic schedule (they play repeated back-to-backs and three-in-threes on occasion) tend to produce more injuries.
Dominik Hasek's groin injury in 06 is a great example--the NHL had switched to 11" wide pads for the 06-07 season, which had caused a spate of groin injuries (Osgood struggled with the problem, too) and a good dozen hip surgeries after the season because that one inch on each pad changed the mechanics of making butterfly saves. Hasek figured that he'd go back to 12" wide pads because the IIHF had not yet adopted the NHL's rules, and he was practicing with 12" pads in Ottawa, but when he headed over to Torino, his pads got lost in luggage and took an extra day to arrive, so he borrowed Team Italy goaltending coach (and former Sabres goalie coach) Jim Corsi's old 14" wide pads with no "landing gear" (protection for the knee and thigh when your pads rotate into the butterfly) for the Czechs' only pre-Olympic practice.
The next day, Hasek put the 12" inch pads back on and promptly yanked his groin and couldn't play for the rest of the season, and the Sens melted down in the playoffs and started their death spiral under Brian Murray. Those kinds of injuries happen to at least two or three players during every Olympic tournament, and as a plain old Red Wings fan, the thought of Johan Franzen blowing out a shoulder or something is rather disturbing.
In all honesty, however, my biggest concern about the 2014 Olympics involves not the country in which they take place (the KHL's battle with the NHL notwithstanding), but its location.
Sochi is a fantastically wealthy resort town whose development has reached near-Dubai proportions as it's the biggest Black Sea resort town still belonging to Russia. The Russians lost the vast majority of tourists' favorite locales because places like Odessa are in Ukrainian territory, so Vladimir Putin's summer hometown (and Stalin's former vacation hoime) is now the place to be...
But Sochi's very close to Georgia, the Georgian-turned-Russian province of South Ossetia, extremely unstable Russian provinces in Abkhazia, Ingushetia, Dagestan, and my old favorite, Chechyna, with the ever-stable Azerbaijan and less than West-friendly Iran nearby. The Caucasus region is a deep fryer of ethnic and nationalist tension, and I fully believe that staging the games in Sochi is an example of dollars overcoming common sense. There are serious security concerns for everyone involved, and that makes me itchy.
In the non-socio-policial realm of commentary, I can't blame the NHLPA's membership for wanting to play for their home countries. For many kids growing up outside North America, playing in the Olympics and World Championships are equivalent to winning the Stanley Cup, and the PA does want to promote the growth of hockey all over the world.
I don't think that there's an easy answer because the NHL will make this a sticking point of the next CBA, and the PA will take an equally vigorous position supporting participation, but I don't see it playing out the way that the PA wants because ending non-North American Olympic participation might take the significance usually given to salary rollbacks and eliminating guaranteed contracts. The PA may be forced to give up participating in every Olympics to protect other interests.
Personally, I have reservations about participating in the Olympics as I'm a Red Wings fan who knows that at least half a dozen of his favorite team's superstars will place themselves at risk of injuries in non-NHL competition, but I don't believe that the league should stand in their way. If I was a betting man, however, I'd suggest that you place bucks on the league ensuring that the Vancouver games is the last one they take part in.
Drew @ Nightmare on Helm Street: I believe that the whole point of the Olympic Games is to see which country has the best athletes, not just "the best athletes NOT signed to a pro-contract in the United States". Of course I don't like the fact it disrupts the regular season, but I can accept it as a fan since it only happens once every four years. Now, having said all that, would I be heartbroken if they went back to amateurs playing in the Olympics? Not one bit. It would certainly make watching them less stressful and confusing. Since I'm not only cheering for my country, but praying that none of my Red Wings get hurt.
Kyle @ Babcock's Death Stare: I think the Olympics should continue using NHL players. Yeah, it's not a great move from a business standpoint, but it's a way to grow interest in the game that can pay off in the long run. International hockey is an entirely different animal -- no contracts, no egos, just national pride. Everyone loves the 1980 American team (and those who weren't alive for that love Miracle), but something like that doesn't happen often. I think it's much more fun for fans of the NHL to see the best of the best going at it and watch teammates, linemates, and close friends line up on opposite sides for a change.
Jessica @ Bingo Bango: Finally I love seeing NHL players in the Olympic Games. I think it is a great way to showcase the league’s top players to potential new fans, while also rewarding current fans with the opportunity to see their favorite players perform on the world stage. If done correctly, and marketed well, the league could really grow their product. Although yes, that may be asking a lot.
Kris @ Snipe Snipe, Dangle Dangle: I would like to see the NHL continue to participate in the Olympics in the future. The first reason is selfish: I really enjoy watching my favorite players represent their countries. The second reason is the cliché "it’s good for the game" argument. I realize that halting play in the middle of the season and exposing star players to the risk of additional injury are concerns, but I think it’s worth it. With the exception of figure skating, hockey gets more media attention than any other sport at the Winter Olympics. While it’s not NHL-centric, any chance to attract new fans is worth taking. (Do league officials think that an American who takes a liking to the sport during the Olympics is going to tune into a televised KHL game afterward? No. They’re going to find an NHL broadcast on their local cable station or check out a game in their closest NHL city if they want to follow up.) During the Olympics, people watch curling, skiing, and cross-country skiing being performed by the best athletes in the world. I like to think that if networks can convince average viewers to sit through coverage of those sports, they could also get them to watch a hockey game or two. And hockey played at its highest level is nothing short of addictive. I can’t think of a better way to draw new fans to the sport, or to reclaim those who may have lost interest during the lockout.
Michael @ The Production Line: Rob and I discussed the use of pros in the Olympics on TPL – and I was all about putting amateurs back in the Games. I don’t think it’s fair to take the pros out of the 2014 Sochi Games, but perhaps beyond that. I won’t get into details here, but the gist is this: the risk of injury is obviously there, but there’s something magical about the Olympics when a bunch of kids are competing (see: Ice, Miracle on). In addition, the giant break in February is probably excruciating and definitely ill-timed for the 600 NHL players who AREN’T playing in the Games.
Matt @ On the Wings: On NHL involvement in the Olympics, I can see both sides of the argument. It's great to have the high level of competition that comes from involving the best players in the world, but a return to something approaching the old school amateur feel has its appeal, too. Unfortunately, if the NHL pulls out, that doesn't mean the KHL, SEL and other European leagues would, which would put the US especially at a competitive disadvantage. Our college system produces some great players, but assembling a team of them capable of competing with Canada's best young non-NHLers, or Russia's KHLers, would be hard to impossible. We couldn't expect another 1980 Miracle. I guess I could handle that, though. It wouldn't be that big a change from now since they're not exactly locks for the gold any year.
The biggest thing against NHL involvement in the Olympics is the toll it takes on its best players. The Wings fan in me would probably prefer they not have to go. I mean, I'm generally no fan of the All Star Game because our best guys have to go when they could really use a rest, so I'd definitely prefer they not play an extra however many games in the middle of the season. But the hockey fan in me loves to see the highest level of competition possible. If I had to choose, I'd say let the NHLers go to Russia (for Ovechkin and the other Russian NHLers' sake, at least) and then pull out of the Games.
Christy @ Winging It In Motown: I don't like that in Olympic years, our schedule is so compressed with games seemingly every other day. That being said, I love having the NHLers in the Olympics and couldn't picture them going back on that. The Olympics is supposed to feature the best athletes in the world competing for the gold. If NHL players can't participate, that previous statement is no longer true so I support the NHLPA in this regard.