As we start to wind down our previews of the top contenders taking part in the Sochi Olympics, I tackle my toughest task: projecting Team Switzerland.
Switzerland finished 8th in Vancouver and were eliminated by the United States in the quarterfinals. Switzerland’s last medal was a bronze all the way back in 1948. Switzerland is a hockey nation on the rise. They beat Canada and the Czech Republic in the 2006 Olympics. In 2010, it took a shootout for Canada to beat them. In the World Championships this year, the Swiss won the silver medal.
Round Robin Opponents
The Swiss will be competing in group C along with Sweden, the Czech Republic, and Latvia.
The Swiss are young and outmatched up front. Much of the old guard from past Olympics looks to be stepping aside for a new generation of Swiss forwards to take the reins. The bulk of the scoring should fall on a trio of young NHL forwards: Sven Baertschi, Damien Brunner, and Nino Niederreiter. Also leading the charge for the Swiss will be long time national team member Martin Pluss, who will likely be competing in his final Olympics. Former Lightning draft pick Luca Cunti and Preds farm hand Simon Moser also look to be big pieces of the Switzerland attack. The Swiss have a few promising young forwards, but are clearly outgunned against every major contender in the tournament.
Sven Baertschi – Martin Pluss – Damien Brunner
Nino Niederreiter – Luca Cunti – Simon Moser
Denis Hollenstein – Andres Ambuhl – Roman Wick
Morris Trachsler – Julian Walker – Reto Suri
The Swiss back end should be the strength of the team. Led by Flyers rearguard Mark Streit, Switzerland has a decent defence that should fly under the radar when stacked up against the more prominent countries in the tournament. Along with Streit, NHLers Raphael Diaz, Roman Josi, and Luca Sbisa will be locks for the team and should provide the Swiss with a stable top 4 on their back end. The defense is rounded out by a couple of Swiss League stars, Mathias Seger and Severin Blindenbacher.
Raphael Diaz – Roman Josi
Mark Streit – Luca Sbisa
Mathias Seger – Severin Blindenbacher
Patrick Von Gunten
If healthy, Jonas Hiller will be the undisputed number one for team Switzerland, and should keep them competitive. Fighting for the backup job to Hiller will be Flames goalie Reto Berra and former Stars goalie Tobias Stephan. If Hiller is indeed good to go come February, the Swiss have stable goaltending. If he’s not healthy, it could become a bit of a disaster.
Most likely to get snubbed
There are a few long standing members of team Switzerland that look to be passed over this time around, most notably Sandy Jeannin, who was an assistant captain for Switzerland in 2010. Another notable that will likely get left off the team is former NHL netminder Martin Gerber.
The Swiss are always surprisingly competitive, and that will not change in Sochi. They still, however, lack the talent to be a medal threat. They will ultimately surprise one of the top contenders by making them play a game closer than it should be, or even by winning, and that will be a victory in and of itself for the Swiss.
Follow Tyler Wilde on Twitter @WildeCanucks