Thoughts on the European Game

by Peter Westermark
on

The European hockey leagues are anything but conservative. Many changes have
been made to the game over the last couple of years and several has panned
out very well. Granted, there has been ill-advised changes such as the
ridiculous helmet-rule, which states that a player must go for a line change
immediately after losing his helmet. If he doesn’t he will get a minor
penalty for delay of game.

Two changes that has helped to speed up the game has been the removal of the
red line offside and the new face-off rule which reduces the length of
breaks in play substantially. If the NHL are truly serious about opening up
and speeding up the game they should consider making these exact changes.

The traditionalists will probably be against the removal of the two line
offside, but it has done a lot to open up the game in Europe which has been
plagued by the trap even more than the National Hockey League. The trap
originated in Europe and has since been adopted by North American coaches as
it is a good way of giving a team with so called limited talent a chance to
win. But, it is boring to watch, and as much as those in love with the game
or employed by the game hate to admit it, the growth of hockey will be
determined by how entertaining it is to watch. Not many fans will turn away
from the game even if teams continue to practice the trap, but it will
certainly be harder to recruit new fans as long as the “chip it off the
glass”-mentality is a central part of a coach’s way of thinking.

At first, the ever defensive Swedish nation Read more»

Sweden names WJC squad

by Peter Westermark
on
Team Sweden named the team that will compete for the finest honours in junior hockey this week and, unlike last year, a fifth place finish will be satifactory for a squad that lacks star quality and quality 1981-born players. Instead, the tournament that will take place in Moscow, Russia, could be seen as a learning experience for a number of budding stars born in 1982.

There were few surprises in the squad, one mild one is that highly touted power forward Jens Karlsson will be left home as a ”non travelling reserve.” Karlsson was considered a possible top ten overall pick in the 2001 Draft at the start of the season, but his stock may be falling as he has only seen spot duty with Frölunda in the Elitserien. Instead, his younger teammate Fredrik Sjöström has not only skated past Karlsson on the Frölunda depth chart, but also on the Team Sweden depth chart. Sjöström, a winger born in May 1983, is the youngest player on the Swedish entry and he has recorded five points in 26 Elitserien games, which can be compared to zero points in nine games for Karlsson.

Read more»

Young quintet earns chance with Tre Kronor

by Peter Westermark
on
Team Sweden General Manager Anders Hedberg left a few big names off the roster when he named the team that will compete in the Baltica Brewery Cup that is taking place in Russia starting december 17th.

Stars like goaltender Mikael Tellqvist and forwards Jörgen Jönsson and Mikael Renberg will be allowed to start celebrating christmas early as the Team Sweden officials want a long look at five 1980-born rising stars.

That group starts with 20-year-old HV71 goaltender Stefan Liv, a candidate for rookie of the year in Sweden. Liv, along with Johan Asplund in Brynäs, are the youngest number one goaltenders in the Elitserien. The other goalie making the trek to Russia is 25-year-old Andreas Hadelöv from Malmö, a product of the highly-regarded youth hockey system in Kiruna which has produced goalies such as Peter ”Pekka” Lindmark in the past.

Mathias Weinhandl will make his Tre Kronor debut in Moscow. The MoDo winger´s career suffered a major setback last season when he was high-sticked in the eye by Czech bad boy Michal Travnicek during a game with the Swedish National Junior Team. It was not clear immediately after the accident if he could return to hockey as his right eye was badly injured. Vision in the eye has now stabilized at around 10% and it is not known how much it will improve, if at all.

Read more»

Road to WJC´s continue & Sweden names Under-18 squad

by Peter Westermark
on
Sweden has named the national Under-20 team that will participate in the
four nations exhbition tournament in Uddevalla, Sweden, November 10th to
12th.

The Uddevalla tournament is the last exhibition tournament before the start
of the World Junior Championships in late december. The team picked to
participate in Uddevalla will make up the core of the team that will travel
to Russia, so the tournament is a good indication of how high the
expectations should be on the Swedes.

This year´s team lack the flash that last year´s Swedish WJC entry had with
players such as the Sedin-twins and fast rising Red Wings prospect Henrik
Zetterberg. Instead, they will have to rely on a team effort.

The advantage of having more players who are regulars on their club-teams
than Swedish teams have had in previous tournaments should be a factor, and
a better finish than last year´s quarter-final exit is in the cards in spite
of the lack of star quality.

Frölunda´s Henrik Lundqvist enters the tournament as the number one
goaltender. He was drafted by the New York Rangers 205th overall last summer
and has played four games for Frölunda in the Elitserien. Johan Backlund
from Skellefteå will try to unseat him, but has a tough task on his hands.

The defense is somewhat on the small side. Four of the eight defensemen
chosen are six feet tall or shorter. The biggest defenseman is Lars Jonsson,
who is listed at 6´2, 200 pounds. The seventh overall Bruins pick is
expected to be a leader, especially offensively. Jonsson is cur Read more»

Tim Triumphant

by Peter Westermark
on
Goaltender Tim Thomas´ early season performances for AIK in the Swedish Elitserien is leaving hockey people wondering why he isn´t playing in the National Hockey League.

Being no stranger to the European game, the 26-year-old American arrived in Stockholm this summer after spending last season with the Detroit Vipers of the IHL. He had previously starred in the Finnish SM-Liiga for powerhouse HIFK Helsinki.

AIK has started the season remarkably well and a lot of the credit goes to Thomas who has backstopped the team to a placing at the top of the league table after eight games. Looking at the American´s statistics it is easy to understand why he is being hailed as a hero with barely one fifth of the season played.

His numbers are simply Hasek-like.

He is sporting a 94.4 save percentage and a goals against average at 1.72, and that is playing behind a defense that was average at best for the most part of last season. Thomas appears calm and quietly confident in the net, whether it´s cutting angles or aggressively challenging shooters.

”Thomas won the game for us today,” said AIK Head Coach Pär Mårts after a mid-october 4-0 road win over Björklöven in which AIK was outshot 37-19. ”We lacked organization, didn´t win any faceoffs or battles along the boards. I´m thanking Tim for the three points,” Mårts elaborated.

Björklöven´s Head Coach John Slettvoll agreed: ”Tim Thomas was unbelievable today.”
Read more»