It is nearing.
We are less than three weeks away from the start of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and let me tell you, I'm excited.
Myself and the rest of the WiiM crew have decided to take part in the upcoming festivities by previewing the nations that will be competing for the Ice Hockey gold.
We begin today, as I breakdown Team Sweden's Olympic Ice Hockey team.
Here is the current Team Sweden roster, per SBNation.
This roster contains a lot of notable players. Quite a few of them will ring a bell.
There are a total of 6 Red Wings' players on Team Sweden. Gustavsson, Ericsson, Kronwall, Alfredsson, Franzen, and Zetterberg will all represent Tre Kronor in Sochi. Besides Gustavsson, all of these players are expected to play in the majority of Sweden's games.
Also, while someone may want to double check me on this, I am pretty sure that the Wings are the only team that has supplied two captains to two nations. Pavel Datsyuk for Russia, and Henrik Zetterberg for Sweden.
Another interesting notability about this roster is Jimmie Ericsson. Ericsson is the only non-NHL player to make the team, and more importantly, Jimmie Ericsson is Jonathan Ericsson's older brother. The 33-year-old currently plays for Skellefteå AIK in the Swedish Hockey League. Besides that, I don't know much about the guy. But, he must have something going for him since he received multiple NHL offers during the offseason.
On the defensive side of things, Kronwall, Ericsson, Ekman-Larsson, and Edler are all some of the best defenseman in the NHL. And then there is Erik Karlsson. I rarely like players that don't play for the Wings. If I do, there is a 99% chance that his nickname is "Happy". With that in mind, I really like Erik Karlsson. Not only is he a great hockey player, but he also represents a level of class and respect that few others can achieve. While Karlsson is by no means near him yet, in 10 years time, after he has won a Norris Trophy or two, his name will be up there with Lidström as one of the all-time greats.
And one can't forget about Henrik Lundqvist. Besides being a rich, classy guy, King Henrik is arguably the best goaltender in the world right now.
I had to think about this for quite some time.
Initially my gut told me that Sweden's greatest strength is its goaltenders, but as you will shortly read, that may be more of a weakness than a strength.
Instead, Sweden has, in my mind, the best defensive corps of any nation in the Olympics. When you combine this with the formidable Lundqvist, you can see how hard it will be to score goals on the Swedes.
The Swedes also have dynamic defenseman. They don't just have offensive defenseman like Karlsson, nor do they just have defensive stalwarts like Ericsson. They have a variety of different types of defensman, which, if you ask any NHL coach, is the key to victory.
Team Sweden lacks a clear weakness. This fact alone is one of the key reasons why I believe that they will win.
However, if I were to find a weakness, it would have to be goaltender depth. I mean no disrespect to Jonas Gustavsson, but if he is your second best option in goal, you know that you have a problem. When you compare this to Team USA's or Team Finland's crop of goaltenders, it's almost a laughing matter.
As for Jhonas Enroth, I would much rather have had Viktor Fasth on the roster.
Team Sweden's head coach is Pär Mårts. I honestly don't know too much about the guy. But, I know that the Swedish media always critiques him, and as such, I have mixed feelings towards him.
I wouldn't call him a weakness, but he is certainly a question mark.
While I do hold a certain bias towards Sweden, I wholeheartedly believe that they will win the gold at the Olympics.
The reason for that is simple, assuming there are no major injuries in the coming weeks, Sweden has the best overall roster of any nation competing in the Olympics. They have arguably the best goaltender in the world, along with the next incarnation of Nicklas Lidström, and some of the NHL's best forwards.
Every other nation has a blatant hole. The Canadians don't have a stable goaltender. The Americans aren't skilled enough at the forward position. While the Russian's and Finn's lack one key ingredient to a successful team: defenseman.
Assuming that nothing extraordinary occurs, I have no reason to believe that this team can't win gold. They are simply that good.