Following the announcement of NHL participation in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Monday saw many countries announce the players that will be attending camps for their respective hockey teams. To the pleasure of Winnipeg fans everywhere, there were many Jets scattered among four of those lists. Today we take a look at the players mentioned, some that weren’t, and my thoughts on each.
There was only a single Jet representative on Team Canada’s list, and that name was Andrew Ladd. This comes as little surprise to many, as the Jet captain has grown into one heck of a hockey player. Ladd has represented Canada in the last three World Championships, clearly developing a positive relationship as a leader with Hockey Canada. He finished 19th in the NHL is scoring during the lockout shortened season, despite constantly being depended on to face and shut down opposing teams top lines.
Adding Ladd to the team Canada roster could provide the team another player to fill the role that Jonathan Toews provided in 2010. Slotting the two of them together would be a strong foundation for a defensively-focused line that has the ability to score, one that was highly spoken of as a turning point for Canada in Vancouver.
Being invited is one thing, but managing to make the team will be a whole new challenge for Ladd. One of Canada’s biggest “problems” heading into Sochi is the abundance of talent at the centre position. With players like Tavares, Toews, Crosby and Stamkos clearly ready to take that Olympic step, where do guys like Bergeron, Thornton, Getzlaf and Stall fill in? Do you move them to the wing, thus possibly bumping Ladd? Or do you feel more comfortable leaving guys in their natural position? It’s definitely something to watch as the team moves forward.
This problem could also provide an answer to the question as to why Evander Kane was left off of the list of Canada’s invitees. One may also contribute the lack of World Championship participation as a reason, but you would think Hockey Canada would recognize a medical decision as valid. You could also look at how much trouble he had adjusting to the KHL and the larger ice surface during the lockout last year. Nonetheless, Kane has had two spectacular offensive seasons in a row now, despite playing with lack-luster line mates. Giving him the chance to play with some of the top-notch talent that will be in this team would have been a sight to see, and a good start to the upcoming NHL season may just allow him a chance to find himself on the team.
United States of America
A total of four Winnipeg Jets were invited to the States camp, and possibly the biggest story (ha ha) will be that of Dustin Byfuglien. There is no doubt that Buff is a talented offensive defenseman. In fact, contrary to popular belief, when Buff is on the ice with the right partner (Enstrom) he is a very solid defenseman overall. When the two of them are on the ice together, they have a goal-for percentage of 60% (which is quite spectacular). The real problem will come in regards to his conditioning on the bigger ice surface. There will be more room for forwards to utilize, which could potentially leave Byfuglien at a disadvantage he may not be able to recover from with size. He may also be the one player the Jets are nervous with sending over. Fatigue has been an issue for Buff at the end of the last two seasons and it has led to some injury trouble, so adding in a full Olympics may not turn out very well should the Jets be in any race for the playoffs next year.
Zach Bogosian and Blake Wheeler were also invited and good starts to the 2013-14 season will all but lock up spots for each player. Jets fans already know the spark that Zach Bogosian can provide to a team both offensively, defensively, and aggressively when it is needed. A full offseason of training and recovery will be beneficial to his play next season and should give the USA another strong, young defenseman. Blake Wheeler has been a regular 40-point player in the NHL, and was 4th among Americans in league scoring last year (he was 6th in 2011-12). Again, a strong start to the year will likely be needed to secure his spot on the team, but from the looks of things there will be a lot of Jets on this United States squad.
What a year it has been for Jacob Trouba. Starting with the 9th overall selection at the 2012 draft, to being the top defenseman at the World Juniors, then signing his first pro contract, having a great showing for the States at the Worlds, and capping it off now with an invite to the Olympic team camp. Trouba will be a long shot to make the team, especially considering he is one of three invitees to never play an NHL game, but the experience alone will be terrific for his development. Jacob Trouba has quickly become a household name in Winnipeg, and making the American squad would all but secure his folklore in this city.
Your choice for the Jets “Goat of the Year” Olli Jokinen got himself an invite to the Finland camp, despite his pitiful performance last season. This is likely more of a necessity thing that anything else, but who knows. Maybe Jokinen will flourish on bigger ice? Maybe he will turn things around at age 34? Maybe I’m really hoping everyone picks up on the sarcasm here?
Oh you poor poor Czechs. Ondrej Pavelec was invited to the Czech Republic camp, but luckily for them Tomas Vokoun will likely get the nod as starter. Heck, despite the lack of starts there is a good chance that Michal Neuvirth will be his backup, leaving Pavelec in the number three spot. After all, both had better save percentages last season. Funny, considering both were backups to start the year last season. Boy do I feel sorry for the team that pays Pavelec on a regular basis.
Newly welcomed Jet Michael Frolik also received an invite to the Czech’s camp. The Czech’s made a fair bit of noise in 2010, and will likely have a solid team once again, so it’ll be interesting to see where Frolik finds himself.
The story out of Sweden has more to do with who was left off the list rather than who was on it. Toby Enstrom was shockingly left off of the invite list, which has to be a testament to his lack of World Championship appearances and injury problems over the past two years. Despite only playing 22 games last year Enstrom put up 15 points, mainly on the heels of an 11 points streak to start the season. He is another guy who will have to play his way onto the team next year, but if he is unable to it should come as a shock to many.
In an interesting twist of fate, former Jet and unfairly hated Johnny Oduya was rightfully invited to Sweden’s camp and will be looking to solidify a spot on their 2014 Olympic team.
All though nothing is set in stone, it is likely that Jets fans will have a few teams to keep eyes on during the 2014 Olympic break. As an added benefit, it at least looks as if there are a few guys who will start the year looking to prove that they belong with the best their nation has to offer, which could provide a jump in a lot of players steps. That certainly can’t be a bad thing if this team wants to compete down the stretch, can it?
Let us know your thoughts, and if you think Ladd, Kane, Trouba or Enstrom will make their respective squads in the comments below!