(This post is part of a fundraiser for 826 Boston, a non-profit tutoring and writing center. For $50, readers can get me to write anything about hockey they want, so donate today to make me say stuff by clicking here. I probably don’t believe the nonsense below, which was requested by Link.)
One would find it difficult to believe that any of the U.S., Canada, or Sweden are likely to be knocked off from being the three best hockey countries in the world any time soon. They are and have been juggernauts for a while.
But they might also be hearing footsteps. The problem, of course, is that it might be hard to discern them from those of Russia, which are fading, and Finland, which are always close to the pack but don’t seem especially likely to catch up to it at any point in the reasonable future. But the loudest echoes now seem to be coming not from Northern or even Eastern Europe, where the seat of hockey power outside North America has always been located. Now, it seems likely that the Swiss are about to start doing very well at this sport.
Yeah, I understand they lost to Latvia in the qualification games in the playoffs, and only won two of their three group games (they lost to Sweden, as you might expect), but you have to keep in mind two things: 1) They did it with a Calgary Flame as one of their goalies, and 2) They only lost to Latvia because of all the performance-enhancing drugs.
Let’s put it another way: in terms of possession, only two teams were ahead of Switzerland in the percentage of shots for in the tournament. Those were Canada and Russia, and Russia was only playing so well offensively because they knew that letting the puck come into their own zone would mean certain doom. The Swiss were also effectively somewhat unlucky, thanks to a PDO of less than 100 (that 2.4 percent sh% will do it every time).
The only thing really holding the tiny, neutral, clockmaking Swiss back from being a truly dominant hockey power is a good forward or three or six. The only guy on their roster who had a point that I’d even heard of was Martin Pluss. They scored three goals in the entire tournament for that reason. If they want to start getting a few more high-quality projects like Nino Niederreiter pushed through the development system before Pyongchang, that’d do ‘em a world of good. And if they want to kidnap Jonathan Toews and Steven Stamkos, and brainwash them into thinking his name is Simon and Martin Brunstein, and the sons of a well-known chocolatier, well then I’m not going to complain about that either.
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