Though the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia is still 196 days away, the anticipation for the Men’s Ice Hockey has been building. Betting on a single elimination tournament is always a risky venture, especially when so little separates the top teams. Most countries released their preliminary rosters earlier in the week, giving bettors and idea about which teams would be considered the favorites, and which are the longshots.
Russia – 11/5: The Russians are the favorites entering the tournaments, and there is little doubt why. Not only are they playing on home soil, but they boast an incredible stable of offensive talent, including Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Pavel Datsyuk and Ilya Kovalchuk, among others. I would be wary of taking this bet though, for a couple reasons. Russia hasn’t won an Olympic gold since NHLers were permitted to play in the games back in 1998. Secondly, for as much firepower as they have, the defense lacks depth and the goaltending is suspect. They might be able to score their way out of trouble, but do you really want to count on that?
Canada – 9/4: This is a much safer bet. The Canadian team is so deep at all positions that even the players they don’t bring have a chance to win a medal. With the likes of returning Sidney Crosby and first time Olympians John Tavares and Steven Stamkos, the Canadians can score just as well as any team in the tournament. The difference will be the depth on defense, which is likely to include at least two Norris trophy winners. Assuming the goaltending is at least adequate, the Canadians should make the gold medal game once again.
Sweden – 4/1: Coming in just behind Russia and Canada is Sweden, though on paper they have a very formidable team. They may be without long-time forward Daniel Alfredsson during the tournament, but still boast an impressive array of talent in all positions. Daniel and Henrik Sedin, along with Henrik Zetterberg, will carry the load on offense. The defense is a good mix of top end skill and toughness, while Henrik Lundqvuist in goal is simply one of the best in the world. It’s worth it to take a chance on these guys, they could very likely take home the gold.
USA – 6/1: USA hockey has been rebuilding it’s program for quite a few years now, and Sochi may be when they finally see the fruits of their labor. The team is very young (only two players will be over 30 years old when the tournament starts) but also very fast and very skilled. They’ll be led up front by recent Conn Smythe winner Patrick Kane, along with big guns like Phil Kessel and Bobby Ryan. The defense will be big, but hopefully still mobile enough for the international sized ice surface. In a tournament where goaltending often plays a crucial role, the American’s have it in spades, with four potential guys that could vie for the number one spot. If it’s my money, putting it on the Americans would be a smart bet.
Finland – 10/1: The Finns have the 6th best odds to win the gold, but I would hesitate to put them so far below the top teams. They may not boast the same depth, but with guys like Mikko Koivu, Teemu Selanne and Mikael Grandlund, the scoring is there. The defense might be considered too old by some, but experience is never a bad thing in these types of tournaments. Also, remember how important I mentioned goaltending is? They have a plethora of talent in net, including Pekka Rinne, Tuukka Rask and Antti Niemi. When you add in the fast, agressive, team oriented style the Finns usually play, they might just have an outside shot at the gold.
Switzerland – 20/1: In the international hockey world, there is always the “Big Six” nations, and then everybody else. The Swiss, however, have been closing that gap considerably in recent years. The team will lack NHL talent, with the few recognizable names being forwards Nino Neiderreiter and Sven Baertschi, defensemen Rafael Diaz, Mark Streit and Roman Josi, along with Jonas Hiller in net. However, in the recent 2013 IIHF World Championships, the Swiss went on an incredible run, defeating Canada, Sweden, USA and the Czechs twice on their way to a silver medal. If any team with long odds has a chance to get to the gold, it’s the Swiss.
You can find the entire list of odds for the 2014 Olympics over at Bodava. Make sure to follow me on twitter, @CanuckPuckHead for more blog updates.