SAME OLD STORY – SWEDES CHOKE AGAIN.
After yet another failure for the Swedish national team in the World Junior Championships, no major criticism has been directed towards the team, the coach or the players. It seems like Swedes have gotten used to constant failures and constant choking in key-games.
The way I see it, the main reason for this is a lack of emotion from the players. Swedes are always disciplined, and they know how to play a system. They usually have a couple of very skilled players too, but as a team there is not enough heart and emotion. On-ice leadership is a problem too.
Just like stickhandling or skating is a talent, heart and grit is one too. Players can improve it to a certain point, but not all players can be the best skaters, stickhandlers, and not all can have the biggest hearts on the ice either. It seems to me like Sweden has been focusing so much on the defensive side of the game, and downplayed the importance of heart, that not many Swedes show emotion on the ice. The players who defy the system-hockey and show a lot of emotion on the ice are often told to play the system first, and that the emotion is secondary. It should be the other way around. To me, having the desire to win is the single most important quality in a player and when the players with the biggest desire to win are slotted into a role with little room to lead and change momentum of a game, the heart the player will show will suffer.
Another reason that the Swedes again choked when it mattered most is that very few of the players are key-players on their club-teams. Most are from Elite-League teams, and they are either 3rd- or 4th-liners, or they’re playing for Division 1-teams. Some are even playing most of their hockey in the top junior league in Sweden, which is a very soft league. Not many drafted players appear in games there, as they are usually brought up to the senior squads.
How can anyone expect the players to be ready to lead, when they have never tried it before ? I think this can be attirbuted to the fact that Elite-League coaches aren’t taking the chances on kids that they should. The majority of coaches consistently refuse to put out their kids in key-situations.
An exception to this is the Sedin-twins who are playing in all situations in MoDo, and they’re doing a good job there. However in the WJC’s, they combined for one measly assist in the two most important games (against Russia and Canada) the Swedes played during the tournament. The Sedin’s still have a lot to learn, especially in terms of toughness and guts on the ice.
As a hockey-nation, Sweden has to learn to, once and for all, encourage young players with grit and emotion. They exist, but they aren’t encouraged enough and not appreciated enough by coaches in general, and many swedish fans who follow hockey closely.