We continue are our preview of the 2014 Winter Olympics today by taking a look at Norway's, Latvia's, Austria's, and Switzerland's chances in Sochi.
Here is Norway's roster, per SBNation:
|F||Ken Andre Olimb|
|F||Mats Rosseli Olsen|
Norway. Also known as Sweden's little brother. From a hockey perspective, they're not even acquaintances.
Outside of Mats Zuccarello and Ole-Kristian Tollefsen, who on this roster do you recognize? Exactly, no one. It's always surprised me why Norway doesn't have a good hockey program, considering their neighbors to the east. Then again, they are the best skiing nation in the world.
As for their biggest strength, Mats Zuccarello is going to have to carry this team on his shoulders.
While a mediocre defense or offense can be manipulated to work, a team is only as successful as their netminder is. Simply put, Norway's imminent failure will rest on the shoulders of its goaltenders.
Norway is in Group B alongside of Finland, Canada, and Austria. The Canadians and the Finns will battle it out for the top spot in the group, while Austria should claim 3rd place.
Along with Latvia and Slovenia, I rank Norway as one of the worst teams in the tournament. They simply don't have the fire power to play with the stars.
Here is Latvia's roster, per SBNation:
Good old Latvia.
The Latvians do boast a couple of decent players, most notably at the forward position. Current Sabre Zemgus Girgensons and former Senator Kaspars Daugavins are the two most notable players on the roster.
Those two players, alongside former Florida Panther, Janis Sprukts, will be tasked with providing the Latvian offense.
Similar to the Norwegians, the Latvians lack a solid netminder. Despite Kristers Gudlevskis being a prospect of the Tampa Bay Lightning, a simple prospect will not be enough for the Latvians to do any serious damage in the tournament.
I personally believe that the Latvia has the worst roster in the tournament.
While it does have a few recognizable names, including a pair of former NHL defenseman (Kulda & Bartulis), it doesn't have enough depth to do any serious damage.
Also, it doesn't help that Latvia is in the same group as Sweden, the Czech Republic, and Switzerland.
Here is Austria's roster, per SBNation:
Österreich. My ancestral mother land.
The nation is also home to some pretty decent players, especially at the forward position.
With players such as Thomas Vanek, Michael Raffl, and Michael Grabner, the Austrian's will be able to provide a decent chunk of offense.
While a lot of attention will obviously be focused at the 3 aforementioned players, as it should, don't underestimate the other forwards on the team. The Austrian league isn't bad, and I'm sure that quite a few of these players will surprise.
I don't mean to sound repetitive, but Austria's biggest weakness is its netminders.
Bernhard Starkbaum, who has a really cool name, plays in the Swedish Hockey League for Brynäs IF. Of the three goaltenders, I would rate him as the best.
If nothing else, we can be amused by his name.
Austria will have an opportunity to turn some heads at this Olympics.
They are in Group B, along with Canada, Finland, and Norway. Don't expect the Austrians to rub the Canadians, but I wouldn't be shocked if they were able to snatch a point from the Finns.
This, along with the defeat of Norway, will give Austria a decent seeding for tournament rounds. Once there, it is anyone's guess what may occur.
Here is Switzerland's roster, per SBNation:
Last, but certainly not least, we have Switzerland. Out of the four nations covered in this article, the Swiss are by far the best hockey nation.
And unlike the other nations, the Swiss have a complete roster. They have good forwards, defenseman, and goaltenders.
With that said, Switzerland's greatest strength is by far its goaltenders. Jonas Hiller has been great this season, and if he for some reason would get injured, Reto Berra isn't a bad replacement.
Despite having the formidable Damien Brunner on their roster, the Swiss' biggest weakness are their forwards.
Out of the three positions, the Swiss are the thinnest at this position. The depth isn't there the same way that it exists on the defensive side of things.
But, just like I said with the Austrians, a lot of these lesser-known players will impress. If you ask me, the Swiss league is the 4th best in the world, behind only the NHL, SHL, and KHL.
Switzerland is in Group C along with Sweden, the Czech Republic, and Latvia.
The battle for 2nd place in the group will come down to the Swiss vs. the Czechs. I am actually looking forward to watching that game, as there are quite a few NHL players on both teams, and both nations boast some of the better home leagues.
Once the group stages are said and done with, expect the Swiss to make a run to the quarter-finals. Once there, the dream will be extinguished.