Three weeks ago, I was in San Jose for a Ducks-Sharks game and remember thinking half the players on the ice might be possible Olympians.
I certainly wasn't far off since the Sharks and Ducks are sending a combined 15 players from their NHL rosters, and San Jose leads all 30 teams with eight NHL players heading to Vancouver. The Ducks are tied for second with Detroit and Vancouver, sending seven NHLers to the Olympics.
Joe Pavelski (USA), Joe Thornton (Canada), Patrick Marleau (Canada), Dany Heatley (Canada), Douglas Murray (Sweden), Thomas Greiss (Germany), Evgeni Nabokov (Russia) and Dan Boyle (Canada) represent the Sharks' Olympic crew.
The question, of course, is whether a Stanley Cup contender like the Sharks wants to have that many core players at the Olympics, given the possible wear and tear, or even injury. But the answer from the Sharks' organization is unequivocally, yes, it's very much worth it.
"The positives far outweigh the negatives," Sharks GM Doug Wilson told ESPN.com this week.
The debate is an interesting one, and you get different answers from different people around the game. It's been a conversation largely triggered by the 2005-06 Detroit Red Wings, a powerhouse team that was knocked out in the first round of the playoffs by underdog Edmonton. Looking back, many people wondered if having their Swedish contingent win it all at the 2006 Torino Games in any way wore them out in the second half. Wings GM Ken Holland still doesn't buy it.
"I'm watching the game Monday night here, and there's eight Sharks and six Kings going to the Olympics," Holland told ESPN.com this week. "A lot of NHL teams will have from five to eight players going. It's not like one team is sending a batch and nobody else is. My point is that it won't have an effect because every team is going through it."
As for 2006, let's be honest, goalie Manny Legace had a series to forget against the Oilers, and that's the biggest reason for Detroit's loss. But because the Wings lost and had all those Swedes in Torino, it's a story that's been given legs in recent years, especially with the next Olympics around the corner. But the Sharks, unlike the Wings in 2006, won't have their star players traveling from halfway around the world.
"It's in our same time zone," Wilson said of the Vancouver Olympics. "The negatives I think are fairly easily addressed by knowing in advance what the schedule is, and you can have a work-to-rest ratio and the rest of the things we need to do. [Sharks coach] Todd [McLellan] is very well aware of that. That's already been addressed in Todd's thought process."
Another plus right now is the Sharks' schedule. Starting with last Saturday's game against visiting Edmonton, the Sharks are in the middle of stretch which sees them play 12 of 15 games at home from Jan. 2-Feb. 2 and the three road games are a pair in Los Angeles and one in Phoenix. While it's true the team has a six-game road trip Feb. 4-13 heading into the Olympic break, it commences the post-Olympic stretch with a five-game homestand.
All in all, it shouldn't be nearly as taxing as what contending NHL teams dealt with four years in Torino.
The Sharks are again challenging for first overall in the NHL and thrilled to see their team so well represented on the biggest stage on earth.
"Our entire organization is really proud of them," said Wilson. "They represent our organization every day, but it's the players that truly deserve the credit. Because every one of them, to a man, had to earn their spot on their respective teams, and they earned that merit on the ice. It reveals not only their play, but also their character. I personally am a huge believer in athletes wanting to compete against the best in the best environment. I'm happy for them and I think it adds to their game."
The Edmonton Oilers will miss the playoffs again this season, that much is clear. My colleague Dan Barnes of The Edmonton Journal gives us an excellent take on the whole thing today, New Year's Eve controversy and all.