The Vent: The Olympic effect on NHL teams pursuing the Stanley Cup
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by Tim Rosenthal of Bruins Daily
It's a question asked for teams who send their stars to represent their country every four years: will it come back to haunt them come playoff time when they resume their regular seasons.
That question is no different for the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings, both of whom sent 10 players to Sochi in a quest for the gold.
Hindsight suggests that those teams will have an uphill climb with their mindsets set for their chase of the Stanley Cup. But, as many hockey pundits well know, hindsight isn't always perfect.
Case in point: the 2002 Red Wings. The Original Six franchise sent 11 players to Salt Lake City - the most in the league. When the NHL season later resumed, they would later capture their third Cup in six years.
The case can be made against this, too. In 1998, the Colorado Avalanche sent nine players to Nagano - the first time the league sent players to represent their countries - only to come home and suffer a shocking first round exit to the Edmonton Oilers. Shockingly enough, the Red Wings, who won their second straight Cup that year, only sent three players to Nagano (Steve Yzerman, Brendan Shanahan and Nicklas Lidstrom).
Only five members of the Carolina Hurricanes represented their countries in the 2006 games in Torino. Detroit and Colorado sent 10 players overseas that year only to suffer an early exit during the playoffs.
In 2010 Anaheim, Detroit and San Jose each sent eight players. The Sharks went the furthest among those three as they reached the Western Conference Finals - after defeating the Red Wings in five games - only to fall to the Blackhawks, who sent the second most players to Vancouver (six). Now, here we are in 2014 where the Blackahwks are looking to repeat as Cup champs for the first time since the 1997-98 Red Wings.
History aside, do the two teams think that the Olympics will affect them when play resumes? Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp, a two time Stanley Cup champion and a member of the Canadian gold medal winning team in Sochi, doesn’t think so.
Here’s what Sharp had to say in an interview with 670 The Score after the announcement of the Canadian Olympic team (via Nina Falcone of CSN Chicago):
"I don't expect a burnout just because we have 10 guys going to the Olympics," Sharp said. "I think it's just gonna make us stronger.
"These are players that show up to training camp every season in great shape, we all care about our jobs and want to get better every season. That's all about being a pro. That's why I think the Hawks have been a good team for a long time. We're always trying to get better as an individual, as a team, and that filters through the team."
Unlike years past, the Red Wings are struggling to gain consistency during their first year in the Eastern Conference. But, before they sent their 10 stars, head coach Mike Babcock, who also was Team Canada’s bench boss in Sochi, felt that his Wings will be re-energized when play resumes in “HockeyTown”.
From Ansar Khan of MLive.com after the Red Wings’ last game before the Olympic break in Tampa:
“I think when you go to the Olympics you come back energized,” Babcock said. “I don’t buy into the theory you come back worn out. You get to play with the best players in the world in the most spectacular event that there is in sports.”
Much remains to be seen for the rest of the 2013-14 season, and whether or not the Blackhawks or Red Wings will feel burdened by the Olympics or overjoyed with a summer of Stanley at seasons end. One thing is certain, however, that this argument has both sides to the story covered already.
by Tim Rosenthal of Bruins Daily