The men’s ice hockey tournament at the 2014 Sochi Games is expected to be the most thrilling and popular even at the Olympics. We’re breaking down all 12 teams until the tournament begins on Wednesday, Feb. 12.
Switzerland competes in Group C in the 2014 Winter Olympics. Here are five reasons why they could totally medal in Sochi:
1. Jonas Hiller Time
Simply put, Hiller gives the Swiss a chance to win any game. He has a 2.34 GAA and a .917 save percentage in going 25-9-4 with the Anaheim Ducks this season. He had a 2-3 record with a 2.47 GAA and a .918 save percentage in five games for the Swiss in the 2010 Vancouver Games, including a shootout loss to the Canadians. He can win games on his own.
2. Keeping It Simple
The Swiss are a pain in the rump to play against. They outwork opponents; they play physically and keep things rather simple to cut down mistakes. They won’t outgun you; they might not outrun you; but they’ll make you pay if you underestimate them.
3. El Nino Warning?
Prepare for another confounding appearance from Nino Niederreiter in an international tournament. The winger has 13 goals in 123 NHL games between the New York Islanders and Minnesota Wild. He has 10 goals in 28 games in international play for the Swiss, including five goals in their silver medal win in the 2013 IIHF worlds. For whatever reason, the international spotlight triggers his Beast Mode.
4. The NHL Influence
As more and more Swiss players make the NHL, more and more NHL players are on the Swiss National Team. Yannick Weber (Vancouver Canucks), Mark Streit (Philadelphia Flyers), Raphael Diaz (Vancouver Canucks), Roman Josi (Nashville Predators) are on defense; Simon Moser (AHL, Milwaukee), Damien Brunner (New Jersey Devils) and Niederreiter are up front; Hiller and Reto Berra (Calgary Flames) are in goal. Gone are the days when the Swiss team was Martin Gerber, Paul DiPietro and "UH, WHO?!"
5. The Coach
Hey remember Sean Simpson? You probably don’t. He was drafted in the seventh round by the Chicago Blackhawks in 1980. He coached Team Canada in a victory at the 2007 Spengler Cup. But he’s taken Swiss underdogs to strong performances against NHL-laden teams, nearly upsetting Canada in the 2012 worlds and coaching ZSC Zurich to a 2-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks at the Victoria Cup in 2010.
C’mon, Can These Guys Actually Medal?
Totally. The Swiss might be the dark horse team for at least the bronze medal game, given how good Hiller can be and how much talent this roster has gained over the years. No, they're not a tournament favorite. But we wouldn’t want to have to play them.