If there's one player who you wouldn't want to trade places with for the 2004 World Cup of Hockey -- it might be Olaf Kolzig.
The German goalie will have his work cut out for him trying to keep his team in the game on most nights, and even though he's one of the best in the game today, he won't have much help when the puck drops.
Kolzig is going to feel like Denis Lemieux of the Charlestown Chiefs after most games, and may have a case to sue his defence corps for lack of support.
Granted, that's a bit harsh, but when you pick apart this roster, there aren't a whole lot of players who can compete with the rest of the best in the world. In fact, only six players on the German roster finished this past season playing in the NHL. The team with the next lowest total? The Finns have 22.
If the Germans are going to surprise anyone at this tournament, it will fall squarely on the shoulders of Denis Seidenberg and Olaf Kolzig to keep the puck out and Marco Sturm and Jochen Hecht to put the puck in.
Kolzig was born in Johannesburg, South Africa and moved around a lot as a child but does hold German citizenship, hence the reason he's eligible to play for Team Germany.
| Olaf Kolzig will be leaned on heavily by his German squad. |
It may have taken longer than he had hoped, but Kolzig has established himself as one of the best in the game at his position. A first-round pick in '89 by the Caps, Kolzig didn't play more that 20 games in a season until '96-'97 when he went 8-15-4 with a 2.59 goals against for Washington. He hasn't played less than 63 games in a season since, and over that seven-year stretch has won 30 or more games five times, twice has hit double-digits in shutouts, and never had a goals against average higher than 2.89.
Despite playing 53 games for the Flyers two years ago, Denis Seidenberg saw action in just five games this past season, collecting no points. The previous year, he scored four goals, and picked up nine assists for 13 points and was a +8. Seidenberg's job though will be to inform the other German defencemen about certain tendencies of the opposing NHL forwards, and help them with the idiosyncrasies of playing on the smaller ice surface.
Offensively for the Germans, Marco Sturm and Jochen Hecht will be counted on heavily to carry most of the load. Sturm was the Sharks first-round pick in 1996 and began his career in record fashion when he became just the 5th player in NHL history who's first three goals in the league were game winners.
He has scored at least 10 goals in each of his seven years in the NHL, and has hit the 20 goal mark in each of the last three seasons. In fact, this past season he scored 21 times, and led the Sharks in powerplay goals with 10, and finished 2nd in game winners with six.
The only other player up front for Germany with any significant NHL experience is Jochen Hecht who has also scored in double-digits in each of his five full seasons in the NHL.
After 138 games over three years in St. Louis, Hecht moved on to Edmonton where he played all 82 games for the first time in his career and scored 16 goals, including three game winners. He's spent the last two years in Buffalo scoring 10 and 15 goals respectively and this past season collected a career high 52 points and was a +17.
What bodes well for Team Germany though is his ability to pick it up when it matters most -- the playoffs. In 27 career playoff games, Hecht has eight goals and 18 points for a points-per-game average almost 10% higher than his regular season average.
If the Germans get locked in any tight games they'll need clutch goals wherever they can get them.
Let's face it, Team Germany is not going to surprise anyone and here's why. The unfortunate reality for German fans is their current level of hockey development just isn't as good as the rest of the countries in this tournament. Yes, they have produced a number of talented NHL players over the years, but when perennial powerhouses like Canada, the U.S. and Russia have enough NHL players to ice TWO teams, the Germans don't have a chance.
Kolzig might steal one for them, but the drama ends there.