Top Line: Sochi Olympic hockey roster talk; Amazing kid Sabres; more links
An annotated guide to this morning's must-read hockey stories:
• Team Canada hopeful Logan Couture needs surgery on his hand and could miss 3-to-4 weeks of action. Will that be enough to cost him his spot on the team? Possibly, but it's a better bet that he'll be named this morning and then pulled if he's not quite ready to go.
• James Mirtle makes the case for Jonathan Bernier to serve as Team Canada's third goaltender. It's an interesting position, but one that probably won't be shared by the Canadian staff.
• Biz Nasty has a suggestion for a multi-purpose fourth liner for Canada.
• Elliotte Friedman's always excellent 30 Thoughts column is heavy on Team Canada talk, but also delves into a surprise frontrunner for the Sabres' GM position, the lack of appreciation for Matt Moulson, and some hot trade rumors.
• Meet Finland's Olympic team. Looks like the best goaltending trio in the tournament (no surprise there), but a pretty sketchy blueline (no obvious top pairing). Saku Koivu pulled himself from the lineup, so the only really notable omission appears to be Sean Bergenheim, who likely will be the first draw in case of injury. Probably not a gold medal contender, but as the World Juniors proved, great goaltending and a disciplined team effort can go a long way in a short tournament.
• The naming of the Norwegian Olympic team provides a nice boost for the Central Hockey League. The lower-tier pro circuit will be represented in Sochi by Missouri Mavericks defenseman Henrik Ødegaard. The only NHLer on the roster: Mats Zuccarello of the Rangers.
• Mark Streit says that the Swiss team gained a lot of confidence from winning silver at the 2013 World Championship and won't be an easy mark in Sochi.
• Did the World Junior Championship tournament hint at a brighter future for any NHL franchise more than it did for Buffalo? Rasmus Ristolainen is a national hero, Nikita Zadorov was a monster, and Mikhail Grigorenko was ... well, a work-in-progress.
• Ristolainen may be returning to the Sabres rather than to AHL Rochester after Tyler Myers was suspended on Monday for three games.
• Roy MacGregor has a great take on the opportunity to change hockey development in Canada in the wake of the national team's fourth-place finish at the World Juniors. As a hockey parent, I'm right there with him on the need to emphasize practice and skills over games, but I'm guessing that I'm in the minority.
• According to one metric, the NHL is surpassing the NBA in attendance. Not sure these are the most telling numbers but, hey, a win is a win, right?
• A midway point assessment of the Flames reveals a team that's doing better than expected, thanks in large part to the culture that is being created by coach Bob Hartley. He's not likely to get a lot of Adams Award consideration at the end of the season, but he's done a terrific job to this point.Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff isn't trying to trade Dustin Byfuglien, he isn't trying to improve his team.