Casual Friday: Olympics Links

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The Flames are (mercifully?) off today, so we're taking a look at some of the hockey headlines surrounding the upcoming Olympics in Sochi.

Calgary's had a rough couple of days, losing 5-0 to St. Louis yesterday and 6-0 to Phoenix the day before, so it's probably for the best that we don't have a game to talk about today. Attention for the Sochi Olympics is ramping up fast and furious after the Team Canada roster announcement this week, and an off day is a perfect opportunity to spend some more time on that.

Andrew Berkshire wrote up the latest power rankings for the Olympic hockey teams, putting Canada on top; the Czech Republic (featuring our own Ladislav Smid) is sixth, with Reto Berra and the Swiss at eighth. The most Flames-related piece of news there is still the snubbing of Jiri Hudler, who has 12 goals and 23 assists on the year and leads the team in points. Sven Baertschi's exclusion from the Swiss roster is disappointing, but here's hoping he'll get his chance the next time around.

Elsewhere, Scott Lewis at the Score took a look at Team Canada's roster construction, arguing that the inclusion of Chris Kunitz isn't necessarily a disastrous choice:

Kunitz wasn’t necessarily competing for a roster spot like everyone else. He was in competition for the opportunity to play with Sidney Crosby[...] The selection of Kunitz was the safest play for Hockey Canada. Why risk breaking up a good thing?

He does note that this is a big anomaly in the structure of the team, in that all the other "good things" were still broken up (Keith and Seabrook, Stamkos and St. Louis). The idea of Sidney Crosby needing a familiar player, or that it's difficult to play with him, was examined in detail in December by Ryan Lambert:

Take Kunitz away from elite players, and you have to imagine that point-a-game pace goes away rather quickly. Take Crosby away from Kunitz, and there's likely to be little change in his ability to put up points. It really isn't that difficult for a coach to tell just about any good-sized hockey player, "Go to the front of the net and be ready to tap in rebounds and miracle passes." Said player has to keep his stick on the ice, and that's about as difficult as it is to score with Crosby. Essentially, when you're arguing in favor of Kunitz, you're arguing against a much better player making the roster instead.

Eric T. drew up a chart of players' scoring rates with and without Sidney Crosby in the wake of all this, which is worth a look or two—Chris Kunitz increases 51% when he's playing alongside Sid the Kid.

And finally, here's your Winter Olympics tournament schedule, including groupings by team. Get your flags ready; puck drops on Team Canada's first game at 12pm ET on February 13th.

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