Dec 19, 2013; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Ottawa Senators left wing Clarke MacArthur (16) and Florida Panthers center Aleksander Barkov (16) battle for control of the puck in the second period at the Canadian Tire Centre. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

The Panthers and its Olympians

When the best hockey players in the world suit up to represent their respective countries in February for the XXII Olympic Winter Games, Panthers fans will see two of their players skate. This week it was announced that 18 year old rookie Aleksander Barkov will skate for Finland and 31 year old veteran Tomas Kopecky will try to help Slovakia win a medal. This is good news if you are a Panthers fan and you certainly want more of it as well.

Every once and a while you will hear the comments and conversations about how players shouldn’t go to the Olympics because they might get injured or it’s not fair for team owners who pay the players’ salaries and then get to see them play for free and market themselves with nothing in return for the clubs. Both are very valid arguments but as of right now no player is being held back from going. So for the time being this remains the system that both players and teams abide by, the more you send the better it is.

As Harvey Fialkov brings it to us, Dale Tallon said “The more guys we get in, it tells you got a better team.” Nothing could be more spot on. I tried to research to see how many players got the call of duty and from which NHL teams. Let’s take a look at the numbers. A total of 153 players who currently play for teams in the NHL will be flying to Sochi come February. By the time the puck drops this number can change since many players are currently injured or might get injured. So we are working with the latest call up lists. This is how the list looks when we look at how many players will be going per team:

10 – CHI, DET, STL
8 – MTL, VAN
7 – ANA, NYR, PIT, TBL
6 – LAK
5 – BOS, BUF, CBJ, MIN, PHI, PHX
4 – COL, NJD, NYI, SJS, WPG
3 – CAR, DAL, EDM, TOR, WSH
2 – CGY, FLA, NSH, OTT

Coincidence that teams that send the most amount of players to the Olympics are also teams that are sitting high in the standings and are pretty much current powerhouses in the league? Absolutely not. It’s actually one of the best readings you can get on how strong your club is. The Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings and St. Louis Blues are basically almost sending half of their squads to Sochi. I wish the Panthers could send at least 5 much less 10.

In fact the clubs that are currently in a playoff position are responsible for 67% of the NHL players travelling to Sochi. At the end of the day, at least for Panthers fans, it’s in our best interest that the Panthers send as many players as they can to the Olympics. It is a very healthy sign to do so. It means that we are much closer to achieving the Stanley Cup that we all want.

Hopefully by this same time in 2018 the Panthers could be sending more players to the Olympics. If Barky was able to make Finland this year imagine 4 years down the road. And I am looking for Nick Bjugstad, Erik Gudbranson and Jonathan Huberdeau meeting Barky in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Of course Canada’s team is deep and will always be, but if Guddy and Huby don’t make the team next time around we should be at least talking about them being snubs. Hopefully by then their game improves sufficiently to be considerations for making their teams.

I too am concerned with players getting injured and therefore missing games with the Panthers and also owners not liking the fact they are the ones paying for players to wear a different jersey and putting themselves in danger. However I do wish that one day fans from all around the world get excited to see their natives who play for the Panthers to represent their countries in the attempt for a medal. It’s a healthy sign to have our players coveted by their nation’s hockey organizations.

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Tags: Aleksander Barkov Erik Gudbranson Jonathan Huberdeau Nick Bjugstad Tomas Kopecky

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