We could begin our preview of Team Sweden with a list of who will be playing, but it might be more appropriate to begin with who will not be playing. Henrik Sedin, he of the recently ended 679-game ironman streak, was forced to withdraw from Olympic competition last week.
Now, before any of you Team Sweden bandwagon jumpers get too distraught, let's not forget that the Swedish roster is stacked. The entire squad is made up of NHLers, and some pretty decent ones at that. Hang on. Did I say the entire squad? I take that back. Jimmie Ericsson, who captains Skellefteå AIK of the Swedish Hockey League, will be appearing alongside his brother Jonathan, of the Detroit Red Wings. Jimmie was named the SHL's player of the year last season though, as well as leading his team to the title, so suffice to say his non-NHL-ness does not a drop off in quality make.
Forget the Ericsson's though, you want a run down of the more notable names? Or the familiar ones at least? We'll begin with Henrik Lundqvist, who will be backstopping Team Sweden in the Olympics for the third time, having led them to gold in 2006. Four other players from that gold-medal winning team will be returning: Niklas Kronwall, Daniel Sedin, Daniel Alfredsson and Henrik Zetterberg. Alfredsson will actually be competing in his 5th Olympics, and in so doing will become the first Swedish player to reach that mark.
A sizable veteran presence, but Sweden will be balancing that with a good infusion of youth. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Erik Karlsson, Gabriel Landeskog, and Carl Hagelin will all be making their first appearances for Sweden in the Olympics. In fact, that mix of veteran leadership and young blood could be one of the strongest things the Swedes have going for them. That and a stacked blueline: Erik Karlsson, Ekman-Larsson, Kronwall, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Alex Edler, Johnny Oduya, Jonathan Ericsson and Henrik Tallinder.
Sigh... why don't the Stars have any Swedish defensemen?
The injuries are notable however. Aside from Henrik Sedin, Johan Franzen is also sidelined, and two players who will be playing in Sochi, Alex Steen and Loui Eriksson, have both missed significant time this season due to injury and seen drops in their production after their respective returns.
Regardless, Sweden slot in to the third spot according to oddsmakers, behind defending champion Canada, of course, and host Russia, of course, and just ahead of the USA. Of course? Familiarity with the larger European ice surface could give them an edge over Canada and the United States, and they won't be facing the intense pressure that Russia will be surrounded by. A medal is a strong possibility, but will it be gold?
In closing, a little Swedish pop music, for what preview of the Swedish Olympic team would be complete without that?