We knew this was coming, but Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, and in a bit of a surprise, Brent Seabrook will don the Maple Leaf in Vancouver. First off, a hearty congrats to them, there is no higher calling is sports than to represent your country, and the chance to do so in your country only comes around once a generation.
We've all panicked over what the Olympics will do to our Cup chances, but maybe we've overdone it. It's only 6-8 more games, and none of these guys are over 26. One would think they could handle it. Marlboro 72 would look to be the 2nd pairing for Canada behind Niedermayer and Pronger. Unlikely either will see any power play time, though, so that might keep their minutes down. And in the early rounds, it's hard to imagine Canada spending too much time on the kill.
Same goes for Toews. He looks to be no more than a 3rd line center here, or maybe he shifts to wing with Bergeron at center. The top two lines will take care of the PP, though Toews will assuredly see some PK time. Looking at the forwards, I would think Richards is your extra taxi-man, but it remains to be seen.
I fully expect both Buff and Kane to be announced for the US on Friday, but looking around at other teams, the Hawks won't have that many more Olympians. Detroit has 8 or 9, and they're older. Vancouver is around six to eight. Calgary is only going to have about four, so if you're afraid of any team because of that, there's one. The Sharks have seven Olympians. I just don't see where this will make it any harder to get out of the West.
But in the other conference, the Caps have four,and one is Varlymov who probably won't play. The Pens have four or five. But if you've gotten to the Finals, you're probably good enough to win them too.
Update: I think this thing is even more overblown looking at the format for the tournament. You can find the official page here. But, to sum up, the 12 teams are in three groups of four, and you play everyone in your group once. The top four teams after group play get a bye into the quarters. So Canada, unless the US jumps up and bites them (and wouldn't that be hilarious) in group play is going to play a max of six games. Two of those are against Switzerland and Norway. Not exactly blue suede shoe shaking. They could very well catch a quarterfinal against Belarus or Germany. So we could be talking about as little as two high-pressure, intensity to the max games, or basically one week. Sure, the pressure of playing for Canada in Canada could be overbearing, and lead to mental fatigue. But the physical? I'm not convinced.
As for Buff and Kane, it's not unreasonable to think they could nab the last bye seed if Ryan Miller keeps up his style of play. Canada, Russia, and Sweden are almost locks for the top 3, but it's not totally out of the question that the US could jump past Finland or the Czechs for that last spot. But we'll go over this more when the tourney rolls around.