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.
ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS 10 BRAVE COACHES !
For many swedish NHL-prospects, this season has so far been an endless practice. Yes, they may dress for games and they are almost always included in their respective clubteams squad, but many just dress to sit on the bench for entire games – or possibly serve “too many men on the ice” – penalties on the much shorter bench at the opposite side of the rink.
The NHL teams that drafted them are surely concerned about this, at least to some degree. It would be better if they played, but experience also shows that players mature into regulars on their club teams after serving a couple of years or so learning how to not be a defensive liability and how to best fit into the teams defensive system. To most coaches in Sweden, knowing how to be a good defensive player is the most important quality if you want to be a regular on a team. The second most important quality is discipline. Don’t show any emotion – just obey the defensive system.
YOUNG AIK-DEFENDERS SHOWING PROMISE
AIK has been a pleasant surprise after having played the first half of the Elitserien. They’re currently 6th in a 12-team league, and they’re sporting a 12-12-3 record after 27 games. Most experts thought they would struggle for points, so having a .500-record more than halfway into the season should be thought of as a successful first half of the campaign.
The team as a whole is not the only ones showing promise though. Two NHL-drafted defensemen have also established themsleves in the league. One of them as a star, and the other one is quickly making a name for himself.
The two players I’m thinking of is Dick Tärnström, drafted 272nd overall in 1994 by the New York Islanders and Henrik Tallinder, drafted 48th overall on 1997 by the Buffalo Sabres.
SWEDEN NAMES SQUAD FOR JUNIOR WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
When Team Sweden Head Coach Mats Hallin named his team for the Junior World Championships it was quite clear to everyone what kind of attributes he was looking for in his players;
The smallest defenseman on the team is Edmonton Oilers draftee Jonas Elofsson (6’1, 180), who is a rushing defenseman, who has good offensive instincts, but he is not reliable in his own zone nor with his effort. The smallest forward is Södertälje’s Per Hallin (5’11, 185), who happens to be Coach Mats Hallin’s son.
The biggest player on the team is MoDo’s Henrik Mellinder (6’5, 225), who was also the biggest surprise to be named on the team. Mellinder has played only two Elite League games in his career, and he only got to play because MoDo has been struck hard by injuries to their defensemen. Mellinder seems to like the physical side of the game, and he is by no means a finesse player. He is a slowfooted stay-at-home defenseman with limited skills.
Given the size of the players on the team (average size is 6’2, 194), they shouldn’t be pushed around in any game, and the thinking is that they will be more effective on the North American ice-surface than smaller players.
KARJALA CUP REVIEW
The Swedish top league Elitserien resumed play again yesterday after a shorter break because of the Karjala Cup in Finland, in which the Swedes finished last. The Finns won the tournament. They also had the most interesting team from an NHL viewpoint in the tournament as their team consisted of several good prospects, while the others just had a few.
The four brightest prospects on Finlands team, were in order:
LA Kings prospect Aki Berg who impressed with solid defensive play as well as good play with the puck. He scored 1 goal, was a plus 2, and recorded 8 PIM in three games in the tourament.
Vancouver Canucks rugged winger Jarkko Ruutu who scored 1 goal and 1 assist, and was a plus three in the tournament, with 4 PIM. This should be the last season in Europe for Ruutu, as he is ready to make the jump. The physical tools are there, and he seems to me to be quite consistent and he also has a mean streak which will only help him in Vancouver.
Jere Karalathi, drafted by the LA Kings, who seems to have rebounded from an off-season injury nicely. He scored 1 goal and 1 assist, was a +2, and recorded no penalty minutes.