The Spengler Cup doesn’t generally get a lot of attention from Canadian hockey fans. The annual invitational tournament in Davos, Switzerland features some of the best teams in Europe, as well as a team representing Canada that is generally devoid of legitimate national team talent. The tournament normally has to battle for attention not only with the NHL, but also the World Junior Championship, with both tournaments starting on Boxing Day.
This time around, however, the Spengler Cup is well worth watching, with a bevy of locked out NHLers playing for almost every team in the tournament, including a stacked Team Canada. Add in the awkward scheduling of the World Junior Championship that has led to most Team Canada games being played in the middle of the night, and the Spengler Cup starts to look even more appealing.
Last year, the highest profile player on Team Canada at the Spengler Cup was Marty Turco, continuing his European vacation after going unsigned in free agency. His teammates included a few former NHLers, such as Glen Metropolit, Stacy Roest, and Byron Ritchie, as well as a couple young(ish) NHL prospects or “prospects”: St. Louis Blues goaltender Jake Allen and Canucks defenceman Ryan Parent.
Coached, appropriately, by former NHL coach Marc Crawford, Team Canada wasn’t exactly a powerhouse in the 2011 tournament, winning just one of their three games, including an ugly 8-1 loss to the host, HC Davos, in which they gave up 6 goals in the third period.
The 2012 team looks completely different, though several European-based players return from last year. Team Canada at the Spengler Cup is benefiting in a big way from the NHL lockout, with big name stars like John Tavares, Jason Spezza, and Captain Canada himself, Ryan Smyth.
Altogether, Team Canada boasts 11 locked out NHLers – 12 if you count Cam Barker – to go with a couple players that left for Europe during free agency, like Jason Williams and Marc-Antoine Pouliot.
In net, Canada will have the tandem of Devan Dubnyk and Jonathan Bernier, an improvement over end-of-career Marty Turco. On defence, the Sharks’ Jason Demers and the Red Wings’ Carlo Colaiacovo will lead the way. The bulk of the 8-man defence corps is drawn from Europe, possible because they are better prepared for the larger ice surface.
It’s at forward that Canada is truly stacked. Along with the aforementioned Tavares, Spezza, and Smyth, Canada will have young stars Matt Duchene, Sam Gagner, and Tyler Seguin, as well as Olympian and 2005 World Junior star Patrice Bergeron. Compared to past teams to represent Canada at the Spengler Cup, this is truly an astounding amount of talent.
Tavares, Spezza, Duchene, Gagner, Seguin, and Bergeron are a potent top-six, with Smyth providing leadership and a scoring presence on the third line. Canada hasn’t won the tournament since 2007, but will have a strong chance with this powerhouse team.
They’re not the only team taking advantage of the lockout. Switzerland’s HC Davos already has Joe Thornton and Rick Nash on the roster, though Nash will likely miss the tournament while rehabbing his recent injury. They are adding Patrick Kane, who is currently playing for EHC Biel in Switzerland and Damien Brunner, who is currently leading the Swiss NLA in scoring with 53 points in 30 games and signed with the Detroit Red Wings during the off-season.
The other Swiss team in the tournament, HC Fribourg-Gottéron, has also loaded up, adding Cory Schneider in net and forwards Maxime Talbot, Patric Hörnqvist, and Bruno Gervais to David Desharnais who is already in the lineup.
Germany’s Adler Mannheim already has Marcel Goc, Jason Pominville, Jochen Hecht, and Dennis Seidenberg on their roster and are adding Luca Sbisa and Nick Bonino.
Only two teams have no NHLers on their rosters. The Czech Republic’s HC Vitkovice Steel have Roman Polak and Filip Kuba on their regular roster, but not on their roster for the Spengler Cup. They do have former NHLer Marek Malik, however, just in case a game goes to a shootout.
Russia’s Salavat Yulaev Ufa is bringing an all-KHL lineup to the tournament despite the lockout, though they do have Nikita Filatov. Remember him? It seems like the team might be trying to make a statement about the quality of the KHL in not adding any NHL players to their roster for the tournament.
There is a wealth of NHL talent playing in the Spengler Cup this year, making it a must-watch for fans missing NHL action. The only issue is that not every game is being televised in Canada. TSN has a few of the games, mainly aiming to air each game from Team Canada. The first game for Canada will be at 2:15 pm EST against Adler Mannheim, which should be a good one. The game will air live on TSN2 and will be replayed at 6:00 pm EST.