Winter Olympics 2014 preview: Sweden men's hockey team

Jamie Squire

After a disappointing finish in Vancouver, Team Sweden looks to repeat their gold medal performance from the 2006 Olympics.

Roster

NAME POSITION AGE LEAGUE TEAM
Daniel Alfredsson (a) RW 41 NHL Detroit Red Wings
Nicklas Backstrom C 26 NHL Washington Capitals
Patrik Berglund C 25 NHL St.Louis Blues
Jimmie Ericsson LW/RW 33 SHL Skelleftae
Loui Eriksson RW 28 NHL Boston Bruins
Carl Hagelin LW 25 NHL New York Rangers
Marcus Kruger C 23 NHL Chicago Blackhawks
Gabriel Landeskog LW 21 NHL Colorado Avalanche
Daniel Sedin LW 33 NHL Vancouver Canucks
Henrik Sedin (a) C 33 NHL Vancouver Canucks
Jacob Silfverberg RW 23 NHL Anaheim Ducks
Gustav Nyquist RW 24 NHL Detroit Red Wings
Alexander Steen LW 29 NHL St.Louis Blues
Henrik Zetterberg (c) LW 33 NHL Detroit Red Wings
Alexander Edler D 27 NHL Vancouver Canucks
Oliver Ekman-Larsson D 22 NHL Phoenix Coyotes
Jonathan Ericsson D 29 NHL Detroit Red Wings
Niklas Hjalmarsson D 26 NHL Chicago Blackhawks
Erik Karlsson D 23 NHL Ottawa Senators
Niklas Kronwall D 33 NHL Detroit Red Wings
Johnny Oduya D 32 NHL Chicago Blackhawks
Henrik Tallinder D 35 NHL Buffalo Sabres
Jhonas Enroth G 25 NHL Buffalo Sabres
Jonas Gustavsson G 29 NHL Detroit Red Wings
Henrik Lundqvist G 31 NHL New York Rangers

Strengths

Sweden will enjoy an embarrassment of riches in every position. Their main strength will be their play-making ability. A quick glance at their roster is enough to immediately place them in medal contention, however a similarly strong roster failed to finish top 3 in Vancouver, eventually ending up in 5th place.

A highly skilled crop of forwards, headlined by Henrik Zetterberg, the Sedin twins, and Gabriel Landeskog should create havoc for opposing defencemen. Sweden possesses a great crop of support forwards, although their depth up front is not quite comparable to either Team Canada. Henrik Lundqvist will be the starter, and Sweden will lean on him to repeat his 2006 gold medal-winning performance.

The defence corps is quite mobile, which means that Sweden should have absolutely no problems clearing their zone, or activating d-men on the pinch.

Weaknesses

Although quite mobile, the defence corps lacks a little bit of grit. Players like Kronwall and Hjalmarsson should add a physical element to the blue line, but they are at risk of having a hard time clearing the crease if their opponents happen to set up in their defensive zone. The omission of Victor Hedman becomes even more confusing when you take a closer look at their deficiencies. Hedman is responsible in both sides of the ice, and could have added a little more punch to their physical prowess. As it stands, Hedman is probably the worst omission of any Olympic squad.

An injury to Johan Franzen means that the forwards also lack the pugnacity of other teams. His replacement Gustav Nyqvist will definitely help out on the puck possession side of things, but he's not known to go to the dirty areas like Franzen.

That being said, Sweden shouldn't suffer much from their lack of truculence, seeing as the games will be played on international sized ice.

The lack of a high-end back up is also somewhat of a grey area for the Swedes.

X-Factor

Goalie Henrik Lundqvist will have to be sharp, as he's always been in the Olympic games. However he's put up mid-pack numbers in the NHL for the Rangers, and will have to up his game if Sweden hopes to finish in the top 3.

There are no glaring weaknesses on Team Sweden's roster besides perhaps a lack of physicality, which means If all goes to plan they should definitely threaten for gold. Besides, Olympic Rosters really shouldn't be built like an NHL team. Sweden is the complete package, and have arguably the best roster on paper, even with the omission of Hedman.

Par Marts is their coach, and to be honest I don't know enough about him to comment on his potential influence on the team. He did manage to coach Sweden to a gold medal in the 2013 World Championships.

One thing is for sure, Sweden has a tendency to either win gold or finish 5th, at least according to their results in the last 6 Olympic Games (5th, Gold, 5th, 5th, Gold, 5th).

Unfortunately for the Swedes, Henrik Sedin will not be attending the games, as he's had to pull out due to a rib injury. He will be replaced by Marcus Johansson.  This is a huge blow to Team Sweden.

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