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THN.com Blog: Mining for gold

Where Sweden, the defending Olympic champions, will finish in this year's Games was a point of debate in the THN office. (Getty Images)

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Where Sweden, the defending Olympic champions, will finish in this year's Games was a point of debate in the THN office. (Getty Images)

Staff meetings are sometimes like dental appointments. You sit and endure the pain and pray that it ends as swiftly as possible.

Unless, of course, laughing gas is used.

At The Hockey News, nitrous oxide comes in the form of predictions. The gatherings we hold to determine our projections are always lively, robust in attendance and participation.

So it went this week with our Olympic prognostications. All our deep thinkers had theories and were passionate about them. But there was also a realization this tournament is so tough to call, with so many variables, that any one of four or five teams could win gold. To wit, in alphabetical order:

Canada – the case for: is there a hole to be found? How can we not pick them with a lineup unparalleled in depth? The case against: the scrutiny will be so intense, the pressure to win it all so immense, it will result in cracks.

Finland – the case for: the hot goalie theory. Miikka Kiprusoff is proving this season he can again be that guy. Or it could be Niklas Backstrom or Antero Niittymaki. Plus, the silver medalists from Turin feel they have unfinished business. The case against: depth is a concern and their long-time leaders, Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu, are past their primes.

Russia – the case for: in Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and Ilya Kovalchuk, Russia may have the three most dynamic forwards in the game. Goaltending, with Evgeni Nabokov, Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Bryzgalov, is also a strong suit. The case against: the defense features some high-end talent, but it’s not iron-clad. And will Andrei Markov and Sergei Gonchar be healthy enough to contribute at the top of their games?

Sweden – the case for: Henrik Zetterberg and Nick Lidstrom are champions and know how to win when it counts. In addition, when he’s on, Henrik Lundqvist can be the best goalie in the game. The case against: The defending champs have lost some of their upper-end mojo. Mats Sundin has retired and, even if Peter Forsberg is healthy enough to play, what kind of impact can the 36-year-old be expected to make?

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USA – the case for: It starts in goal with Ryan Miller and, should he not have his ‘A’ game, Tim Thomas. Either is capable of carrying this team a very long way and if the young forwards and blueliners step up, gold isn’t out of the question. The case against: experience and depth are concerns. On paper, the Americans are a dark horse, but games aren’t played on paper.

The Czechs and Slovaks didn’t get as much love from our group because both nations have stubbed their toes in developing players, but nobody is willing to count them out.

Why? Because the Olympics are a sprint, a short tournament in which a bad bounce or a super-hot netminder can be the difference between winning and losing a one-game showdown.

So how do we see it playing out? That would be telling. You’ll have to wait a few weeks and purchase our Olympics preview magazine. Or ask to sit in on our next editorial meeting.

Jason Kay is the editor in chief of The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Fridays.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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