The Olympics and the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Part I

The Winter Olympics present an interesting problem for the NHL. The players are all for participation in the Winter Games every four years, a chance for the best to represent their countries and compete for arguably hockey's biggest prize. Olympians will play more games than non-Olympian teammates and general logic would suggest Olympians playing for NHL squads would tire towards the end of the season and in the postseason. After the jump, I look at whether or not there is a correlation between good or poor play in the Stanley Cup playoffs and Olympic participation in that same year.


I've looked NHL player participation at the Winter Games for six countries: Canada, Sweden, Finland, the Czech Republic, the United States, and Russia.


First, looking at the 1998 Games in Nagano, Japan, the first time the NHL officially suspended its season for the Winter Olympics. I listed the teams' NHL players and their teams for the 1997-1998 season.


Gold: Czech Republic

11 NHLers:

  • Petr Svoboda (Philadelphia/Tampa Bay)
  • Josef Beranek (Pittsburgh)
  • Martin Straka (Pittsburgh)
  • Richard Smehlik (Buffalo)
  • Jiri Slegr (Pittsburgh)
  • Martin Ruchinsky (Montreal)
  • Robert Reichel (New York Islanders)
  • Robert Lang (Boston/Pittsburgh)
  • Jaromir Jagr (Pittsburgh)
  • Dominik Hasek (Buffalo)
  • Roman Hamrlik (Tampa Bay/Edmonton)

Silver: Russia

21 NHLers:

  • Sergei Krivokrasov (Chicago)
  • Mikhail Shtalenkov (Edmonton)
  • Andrei Trefilov (Chicago)
  • Darius Kasparitis (Pittsburgh)
  • Alexei Zhitnik (Buffalo)
  • Igor Kravchuk (Ottawa)
  • Boris Mironov (Edmonton)
  • Dmitri Mironov (Anaheim/Detroit)
  • Dmitri Yushkevich (Toronto)
  • Pavel Bure (Vancouver)
  • Sergei Fedorov (Detroit)
  • Alexei Yashin (Ottawa)
  • Alexei Zhamnov (Chicago)
  • Andrei Kovalenko (Edmonton)
  • Alexei Gusarov (Colorado)
  • Valeri Zelepukin (Edmonton)
  • Valeri Kamensky (Colorado)
  • Valeri Bure (Montreal/Calgary)
  • Aleksey Morosov (Pittsburgh)
  • Sergei Nemchinov (New York Islanders)
  • German Titov (Calgary)

Bronze: Finland

14 NHLers:

  • Juha Ylonen (Phoenix)
  • Aki Berg (Los Angeles)
  • Jyrki Lumme (Vancouver)
  • Tuomas Gronman (Pittsburgh)
  • Janne Niinimaa (Edmonton)
  • Teppo Numminen (Phoenix)
  • Sami Kapanen (Carolina)
  • Saku Koivu (Montreal)
  • Jari Jurri (Anaheim)
  • Jere Lehtinen (Dallas)
  • Juha Lind (Dallas)
  • Teemu Selanne (Anaheim)
  • Esa Tikkanen (Florida/Washington)
  • Janne Laukkanen (Ottawa)

4th: Canada

24 NHLers:

  • Joel Otto (Philadelphia)
  • Trevor Linden (Vancouver/New York Islanders)
  • Martin Brodeur (New Jersey)
  • Patrick Roy (Colorado)
  • Curtis Joseph (Edmonton)
  • Ray Bourque (Boston)
  • Al MacInnis (St. Louis)
  • Rob Blake (Los Angeles)
  • Adam Foote (Colorado)
  • Eric Desjardins (Philadelphia)
  • Chris Pronger (St. Louis)
  • Scott Stevens (New Jersey)
  • Eric Lindros (Philadelphia)
  • Joe Nieuwendyk (Dallas)
  • Theoren Fleury (Calgary)
  • Wayne Gretzky (New York Rangers)
  • Keith Primeau (Carolina)
  • Joe Sakic (Colorado)
  • Rod Brind'Amour (Philadelphia)
  • Brendan Shanahan (Detroit)
  • Shayne Corson (Montreal)
  • Steve Yzerman (Detroit)
  • Mark Recchi (Montreal)
  • Rob Zamuner (Tampa Bay)

  • 5th: Sweden
    18 NHLers:
  • Niklas Sundstrom (New York Rangers)
  • Tommy Salo (New York Islanders)
  • Tommy Albelin (Calgary)
  • Calle Johansson (Washington)
  • Nicklas Lidstrom (Detroit)
  • Mattias Norstrom (Los Angeles)
  • Marcus Ragnarsson (San Jose)
  • Ulf Samuelsson (New York Rangers)
  • Mattias Ohlund (Vancouver)
  • Daniel Alfredsson (Ottawa)
  • Mikael Andersson (Tampa Bay)
  • Peter Forsberg (Colorado)
  • Andreas Johansson (Pittsburgh)
  • Michael Nylander (Calgary)
  • Mikael Renberg (Tampa Bay)
  • Tomas Sandstrom (Anaheim)
  • Mats Sundin (Toronto)
  • Mats Lindgren (Edmonton)

6th: USA

22 NHLers:

Totals per team (only counting the team the player finished the season with), highest to lowest:

Pittsburgh: 11

Edmonton: 11

Colorado: 8

Chicago: 7

Dallas: 7

Philadelphia: 6

Phoenix: 6

New York Rangers: 6

Detroit: 6

Calgary: 6

New York Islanders: 5

Montreal: 5

Ottawa: 5

Tampa Bay: 5

Anaheim: 5

Toronto: 4

St. Louis: 4

Vancouver: 4

Los Angeles: 4

Buffalo: 3

New Jersey: 3

Washington: 2

Carolina: 2

Florida: 2

Boston: 2

San Jose: 2


And a quick recap of that year's postseason:

Lost in Conf Quarterfinals: New Jersey, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, San Jose, Colorado, Phoenix, Los Angeles

Lost in Conf Semifinals: Ottawa, Montreal, Edmonton, St. Louis

Lost in Conf Finals: Buffalo, Dallas

Lost in Stanley Cup Finals: Washington

Stanley Cup Champion: Detroit


While having many Olympians is an indicator of the quality depth of a team, some teams with many Olympians like Pittsburgh--upset in 6 games as the 2 seed--and Philadelphia--the 3 seed upset in 5--did not fare well, while Dallas and Detroit did. Washington, with only two Olympians, managed to make the Stanley Cup Finals for the first (and only) time in franchise history that year. Freshness seems to be play an important role come playoffs, but not one that cannot be offset with enough youth and talent.


 I'll cover the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics in Part II.

If this FanPost is written by someone other than one of the blog's editors, the opinions expressed in it do not necessarily reflect those of this blog or SB Nation.

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