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With the 2009-2010 season well past the half-way mark and the Winter Olympic break looming around the corner, some of the excellent SB Nation hockey bloggers were brought together to discuss some of the top storylines from the season thus far. From illegal hits, to the trade deadline to the Winter Olympics, our bloggers discussed a wide variety of topics in our SB Nation chat.
This week's roundtable will run in two parts, with Part One discussing the Olympics and the ugly Alex Burrows incident from last week. We'll have more of these in the future, with new bloggers discussing the current events in the NHL each time.
This week's features Cassie McClellan, Dirk Hoag, John Fischer, Derek Zona and Joe Fortunato. SB Nation (Brandon Worley) acted as moderator for the chat. Please note that this chat has been directly transcribed from the discussion.
Brandon W. - The 2010 Winter Olympics are just around the corner. Everyone is gearing up for Games, but a future looms where NHL players might not play in 2014. What are your thoughts? Are NHL players good or bad for Olympic Hockey?
Dirk H. - Ultimately I think the NHL will be there, it's just too early for them to commit to it.
Joe F. - Well i think that NHL players are vital for Olympic Hockey because each nation wants to prove that they are the best, which would require the best players to actually play.
John F. - As international hockey grows, there's more pride in going out and playing for one's country. Many top prospects represent their nation when they are younger and I think that - among other factors - drives more players to participate when they are pros. The Olympic hockey games are far more of a draw now that the best in the world are involved, like basketball in the summer games. So the players involved want to be there, the Olympics are thrilled they are there, so I think it's good for both parties.
John F. - It's only a bad thing if the experience leads to injury - which can happen during any game or even off the ice, admittedly.
Dirk H. - I'm really looking forward to it. 2002 in Salt Lake was great, and this could be as good if not better.
Cassie M. - The problem with playing in Sochi is the NHL schedule and getting guys to Russia in the middle of the season, though.
Derek Z. - I don't know if the big question is about the health of Olympic hockey. There's no question that the NHL is good for the Olympics. The problem is that the Olympics are not good for the NHL. No other sport takes a two week break in the middle of the season. No other sport runs a crazily compressed schedule. And no other sport forces players into back-to-back games like the NHL. I'm in the corner of skipping the Olympics and allowing amateurs to take it back. Bring some glitz and meaning to the World Championships in the summer by moving them back a few weeks to allow the NHL to compete.
John F. - Well, Derek, hockey's not the only sport that does that. Soccer generally stops play for international dates and the WCs; but most leagues build their season schedule around that every year. (MLS is an exception, though they'll fix that)
Dirk H. - Derek brings up a good point about the schedule. They should really look at eliminating a couple preseason games during Olympic years, to give them at least a little more time.
John F. - True. The season could start in the end of September instead of October to spread out the season a little more for 2014. Brandon, I think for team sports, we're way past that in other sports. Basketball and soccer feature pro players (though soccer is a U-23 with 3 exceptions) and the action is far and away better for it.
Joe F. - While I do love the Olympics, and how could I not I watched Lundqvist win the gold. It should also be noted that the Olympics sucked most of the momentum from the Rangers season in 2006, which hurt them for the playoffs. So it's bittersweet.
Cassie M. - Frankly, I think that the NHL ought to limit the number of players that participate and let the national teams fill out the rest of their rosters with amateurs. Make it a mixed squad of both. And then play through the Olympics without creating a break in the schedule.
Brandon W. - Historically the Olympics are about presenting the best amateur athletes in the world. Are we just past that in today's sports landscape, and would Olympic hockey suffer because of it?
Joe F. - No I don't think that Olympic hockey would suffer from more amature athletes. I mean look at the U-20 Championship, everyone was going crazy for those kids; and they are in their teens. I think people would still go crazy for the Olympics if it was amateur athletes.
Cassie M. - I think Olympic hockey would suffer if it were to return to solely amateur status. As a friend once put it, isn't that what World Juniors are for? But that doesn't mean the entire roster has to be entirely professionals, either.
Derek Z. - I think that taking the amateurs out of the Olympics has been a boon to the IIHF and the NCAA. The World Juniors Championship and the NCAA Playoffs have grown in stature. But I don't think it matters much for the Olympics anymore. Every athlete is either a professional (Soccer, Hockey, Basketball, Figure Skating, Water Polo, Volleyball) or they are completely sponsored by their country or some donor. The notion that amateurs compete anymore is a bit naive.
Brandon W. - So, you're suggesting limiting the NHL players per team?
Joe F. - I have to agree Derek, moving a center to wing isn't always easy. Trust me I know with the Brandon Dubinsky Chris Drury swap I see almost every game.
John F. - This way if someone does breakout, they will be eligible.
Cassie M. - I think everyone's underestimating the American squad.
John F. - The beauty of this year's Olympics is that it's conceivable that 3-5 teams can win it all but there's only one favorite and as discussed here, Canada isn't invincible. Cassie raises a good point. They were monsters in the WJCs but they got beat by an actual team (thanks to John Carlson's end to end rush)
Cassie M. - The problem with American teams, though, is that they rarely play as a team. They tend to play like an All-Star team - as individuals. So it'll come down to coaching in that respect, I think. Which comes back to Wilson and crew.
Dirk H. - It's always happened, albeit rarely.
Joe F. - I just have to say that I am dissapointed in the NHL.
Joe F. - Well Derek I will admit that I don't know much about him. I was just making a general assumption about a hockey player not wanting to draw bad press. So I guess I can see it because John is right he did have no evidence.
Part Two will go up tomorrow, as our bloggers discuss illegal hits and the NHL's "wheel of justice", as well as dive into some trade deadline talk.