NHL Week in Review (April 26-May 2)

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The second round of the playoffs is underway but in big parts of the world a much more important tournament just got underway.

As North America focuses on one of the most thrilling and gritty playoff races in the major sports the rest of the hockey world looks to Czech Republic.

That is the home of the World Championship this year and despite most NHL fans ignoring it, the World Championship is the yearly battle to find the best hockey country.

The Olympics serve as the ultimate test of international hockey, although NHL players may not be going in 2018, but the World Championship is a test every year.

The biggest issue for this championship is that some of the biggest hockey markets, USA and Canada, don’t care.

They are focused on their teams in the NHL playing for the Stanley Cup. After all it is generally accepted that the best players in the world go to North America to play hockey.

The NHL is the ultimate challenge of a player’s ability and the best players from around the world get their shot with the biggest league in the world.

Although the KHL challenged the NHL for a few years the recent money issues of many teams have shown again that there is nowhere like the NHL for the top talent.

With the best of the best in North America many times the best players from every country are leading their teams deep into the playoffs.

That makes them unavailable to play in the World Championship for their country. Not only that but many of the top players that are not in the playoffs want to take a short time off after a long season before they get back to work for another year.

With only a few months between the end of the regular season and the beginning of summer training programs these players like to take some time to get away.

They also take some time to get healthy from the bumps and bruises of the season or go under the knife to repair some bigger issues.hockey-sidebar

All of this makes it tough for players to commit to their national team despite their desire to do so.

For many it is a decision between taking care of themselves to extend their careers in the long run or travelling to represent their country.

With so many players not attending the World Championship many North Americans consider the World Championship a false crowing of the best team in the world.

After all Canada and USA are always in the fight in the Olympics but are never guaranteed to medal in the World Championships because their best players don’t show.

Still in terms of the IIHF this is the championship that involves every nation, including nations in lower division who have already gone through much of their tournaments, and determines the best team in the world.

So Canada and USA send their best available players while some top players from other countries miss their chance to play in the tournament.

This year that was true of Alexander Ovechkin, Carey Price, Vladimir Taresenko, and Latvia’s Olympic all-star Kristers Gudlevskis.

All of these players are either playing or deciding not to go after just being eliminated. That leaves some massive holes for many teams but it also makes an interesting tournament.

It may not be the best against the best but it does show depth in a national team’s roster. For a country’s system to truly be great they should have a deep pool of talent.

The fact that the best players in Canada and USA may not play should mean little to teams that are supposed to be the best in the world.

This year the tournament once again takes a backseat in North America but with Sidney Crosby deciding to play for Canada, Jake Eichel leading the Americans, and Jaromir Jagr coming out of retirement from international hockey to play at home there is a bit more buzz surrounding the tournament.

It won’t take over the headlines from the playoffs but it will gain a little extra attention as the rest of the world look to see who can be named the best country in the world for another year.

Overtime
(Extra Thoughts on this week in hockey)

Babcock Bidding War Begins
With the Detroit Red Wings being eliminated early in the first round the focus in Hockey Town is whether or not head coach Mike Babcock returns to the Red Wings or takes more money to take on a new challenge in Edmonton or Toronto

Officiating Concerns
The officials once again come under more scrutiny with fewer games to watch and in Game 1 of the Tampa Bay-Montreal series that focus came again as an overtime goal was disallowed on an interference call but the winning goal was allowed despite an offside

Seattle Arena Coming
Seattle has proven to be a great sport city but they only have one team and if it is up to some developers that will change as a new plan for an arena has been proposed to the city that could bring an NBA and NHL franchise to USA’s Northwest

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