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Olympic Hockey Preview 2006: Switzerland
By BRIAN PIKE, MOP Squad Sports Hockey Editor
Feb 18, 2006 - 3:43:00 AM
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2006 Men’s Olympic Hockey Preview: Switzerland
2002 Result: Switzerland was unable to make it out of the preliminary round at Salt Lake and settled for eleventh place.
Since then: No major international medals.
Players are listed in probable combinations with their NHL city, Swiss league city or other European club team city and country in parentheses.
1. Ivo Ruthemann (Bern) - Thomas Ziegler (Bern) - Flavien Conne (Lugano)
2. Martin Pluss (Frolunda, Sweden) - Paul DiPietro (Zug) - Thierry Paterlini (Zurich)
3. Patrik Fischer (Zug) - Patric Della Rossa (Zug) - Sandy Jeannin (Lugano)
4. Marcel Jenni (Kloten) - Romano Lemm (Kloten) - Adrian Wichser (Zurich)
1. Julien Vauclair (Lugano) – Mark Streit (Montreal)
2. Goran Bezina (Geneve-Servette) – Severin Blindenbacher (Zurich)
3. Mathias Seger (Zurich) – Beat Forster (Zurich)
4. Steve Hirschi (Lugano) – Olivier Keller (Basel)
1. David Aebischer (Colorado)
2. Martin Gerber (Carolina)
3. Marco Buhrer (Bern)
Key Player: Mark Streit. Streit leads a fairly young and inexperienced defense into this tournament as one of the best international players in Swiss hockey history and the team’s captain. He’s been a bit underwhelming in his first year in the NHL with Montreal, but he’s a smart, savvy player at the point in the offensive zone and carrying the puck up-ice. On a defense with four guys who are 25 or younger, no one older than Streit’s 28, and as one of only three who played in the 2002 Olympics, Streit will have to play some big minutes and really lead this team for the Swiss to have an impact in Turin.
How They’ll Win:
1. With David Aebischer and Martin Gerber, the Swiss are as solid in goal as anybody at this tournament. Aebischer has struggled with consistency this season with Colorado, but has really come on of late. Gerber, on the other hand, plays for the first place Carolina Hurricanes and has proven himself as a number one goaltender in the NHL. Like most teams with two goaltenders vying for the top spot, Switzerland will likely let Aebischer and Gerber split the round-robin part of the tournament, then should they make the playoff round will go with the hot hand.
2. Switzerland has thirteen players returning from their 2002 Olympic team, but the really impressive number is the twenty-one players who’ll be back from their eighth-place team at the 2005 Worlds, a number that no other team is even close to matching. Switzerland will have a few extra days practise time as a team that squads made up mostly of NHL players won’t, but with this many returning from their World Championship team, they’ll hardly need it with so little turnover.
3. One of the reason the Swiss have so little turnover is national team head coach Ralph Krueger. Krueger has been coach of the Swiss team for an unprecedented seven years; he knows the players, knows who he wants where, and above all knows who’s going to fit best with his team. Many national team coaches don’t have nearly Krueger’s longevity and find it difficult to implement their own system and make their mark on the team. Krueger doesn’t have that problem; he sent two guys home for violating curfew at the last Olympics. While he might not have the most talent to work with, this is clearly his team, and he’ll demand discipline.
How They’ll Lose:
1. Switzerland really doesn’t have the scoring to compete with other teams at this level. Paul DiPietro played almost 200 games in the NHL and has a lot of talent, but most of these forwards have never played outside the Swiss league and simply aren’t at the same skill level as the NHL forwards making up the rosters of a lot of other teams in Turin. The Swiss will have to work hard to keep games close, because their lack of any real scoring stars means they can’t really depend on getting goals when they really need them.
2. As a whole, this Swiss team is quite small. Only five guys are over six feet, three defensemen, a forward and David Aebischer, and only five guys are over 200 pounds. Which means that not only are they lacking in big, physical defensemen that can handle the power forwards of some of the opposition teams, they’re also lacking in their own power forwards to dig the puck out of the corners and hit the opposition’s defense. It’s going to be tough for this team to play any really physical opponents.
3. The Swiss just aren’t a hockey power. Their only Olympic hockey medals came in 1928 and 1948, both bronzes, and their last medal at the World Championships was in 1953, which was their third straight bronze. Since a fourth place finish at the 1998 Worlds, the Swiss have finished sixth once, eight four times, and ninth twice. While they’re capable of an upset, this isn’t a program that’s going to win a medal anytime soon without some kind of minor miracle.
The Bottom Line: Switzerland has a good shot at finishing fourth in group A and making the playoff round, but that’ll most likely be where it ends. An eighth place finish is likely in the cards for Switzerland.
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