The St. Louis Blues will be sending out 10 of their players to the Sochi 2014 Olympics to represent six different countries. This makes them tied for the most Olympians with the Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks.
This is quite a change from the three players they sent during the last Olympics. This large jump brings up the question of how they managed to increase the amount of players so rapidly.
TJ Oshie, David Backes, and Kevin Shattenkirk have been chosen to represent the United States. Other Olympians are Alexander Steen and Patrik Berglund (Sweden), Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester (Canada), Vladimir Tarasenko (Russia), Jaroslav Halak (Slovakia), and Vladimir Sobotka (Czech Republic).
“It’s a bit of a United Nations,” joked head coach Ken Hitchcock, who will be joining team Canada as the assistant coach. General Manager Doug Armstrong will also join Hitchcock in Sochi as Canada’s associate director for player personnel.
With the amount of Olympians selected, there is a lot of talent coming from the Blues. Some of the most notable achievements within the franchise are Steen’s lead in goals and points scored (24 goals, 38 points); Oshie leads the team in assists (29); at 22, Tarasenko is the youngest Olympian on the team this year; and Halak is the main starting goalie with 29 games started, a .911 save percentage, and a 2.31 goals against average.
Halak, Bouwmeester, and Backes will be the only returning Olympians from the Blues, the others will be making their debut. Backes was on the U.S. team that won silver in 2010. Halak played in 2010 for Team Slovakia, which lost to Finland in the bronze medal game. Bouwmeester previously played for Canada in the 2006 Winter Olympics when the Canadians lost to Russia in the quarterfinals.
Backes is the only returning Olympian that was a member of the Blues when he was sent to both the 2010 Olympics and 2014. In 2010, the Blues only had three Olympians. In other words, that means that the St. Louis Blues have acquired nine Olympians in that four year period. That is quite an improvement, and it shows when looking at their statistics.
A possible reason for the increase in Olympians is that the team continually looks at younger players to add to their NHL roster. Such additions include Tarasenko, Magnus Paajarvi, Alex Pietrangelo, and Jaden Schwartz. These young players have become increasingly significant in the games by becoming the main playmakers or point-scorers in their lines. The younger talent also reinvigorates their line mates by forcing them to keep up with the more agile young players.
The fact that the Blues will have six forwards, three defensemen, one goaltender, and two members of management is Sochi shows how well-rounded the team is. It is perhaps this well-roundedness that allowed them to achieve their 32-8-5 record.
Perhaps the most surprising omission from the roster is defenseman Roman Polak, who was on the 2010 Czech team but not on the current one. The probable reason for this omission is his lower-body injury that has taken him off of the Blues’ roster since December 21. He is, however, expected to make a full recovery by February, so he will most likely be the 1st defensive back-up for the Czech Olympic team.
Regardless of the omission, with 10 out of their 23 players going to the Olympics, the St. Louis Blues have a lot to look forward to this February in Sochi.