|"We are in the Olympics to win, but we know how good the other teams are too," Schubert said. "We have to play very solid defensively and take advantage of our scoring chances. It's a good challenge for us."|
by Karl Samuelson | NHL.com correspondent
Feb. 16, 2006
There is no shortage of tough defensemen in the NHL. If a rearguard isn't tough both physically and mentally, he won't have an address in the League for very long. But among the defensive fraternity there are some who are absolutely relentless in their aggression. Whether it involves the pursuit of the puck or initiating physical confrontation, these guys are always up to the task.
"It's a tremendous asset for a team to have that kind of toughness on defense," says New York Rangers assistant coach Perry Pearn. "The opposition has to battle through those guys every night. Some nights you might want to pay the price against them but the way those warriors battle, to pay the price against them every night is a real challenge. That's what gives the edge to those teams that have that kind of defensemen."
And it's not about fighting. A tough defenseman is one who comes to the rink and plays hurt and hard, every night. Defense is his passion and he isn't afraid to put his body on the line.
That's Christoph Schubert of Team Germany.
"'Schubie' is a tough kid," says Czech Republic goalie Dominik Hasek, one of Schubert's teammate with the Ottawa Senators. "He is one of the best players for Team Germany. They have a good team and they can surprise you."
The 6-foot-3, 230-pound native of Munich finds himself on the lower end of the depth chart in Ottawa, but Schubert performs as a leader for the German squad while logging loads of minutes and playing a relentlessly aggressive game. He understands that his teammates look to him as a linchpin in Team Germany's hopes to advance in Olympic play.
"I want to play solid defensively and bring leadership," says the versatile 24 year-old who ranked third among all American Hockey League defensemen last season in plus/minus (+24). "It's important to stay positive on and off the ice and have a good attitude. We must work hard and that's one thing that we all have to do, especially the players on our team from the NHL. We are in the Olympics to win, but we know how good the other teams are too. We have to play very solid defensively and take advantage of our scoring chances. It's a good challenge for us."
Schubert is hardly a novice when it comes to meeting challenges. No player has worked harder on his game than Schubert, who through sheer determination and strength of will has emerged as one of the most complete players for Team Germany.
"That sums it all up," says teammate Chris Neil. "Schubert worked hard to get to the NHL. He went down to the AHL and played for the Ottawa organization down there and worked his way up. It's great that he got the opportunity to go to the Olympics because he deserves it. It's a different role for him because he is one of their leaders. I think his confidence level from playing last year in the AHL and this year in the NHL has increased so much and he'll be unbelievable for Team Germany."
When you go into the corners with Schubert you know you're in for a battle and you're going to get bumped and rubbed. He is hard-nosed all the time. He digs, he'll check you, battle for every square inch of ice and he won't spare anything within the rules to do what it takes to win. Schubert can also play on the power play and score some big goals, as evidenced by the fact that only one AHL defenseman topped his five game-winning tallies last season.
"'Schubie' is a tough kid ... He is one of the best players for Team Germany. They have a good team and they can surprise you." -- Czech Republic/Senators goaltender Dominik Hasek
"Schubert is real solid," says Team Canada defenseman Wade Redden, another Ottawa teammate. "He is a good defenseman and had a great year last season in the American Hockey League. He has experience at these tournaments so he is used to playing at the international level. Schubert is a big man and he can skate. He's been played forward with the Senators this year and you can see how well he skates. Skating and shooting are two of his biggest assets plus he is a big, strong guy. It's going to be interesting. They're a hard-working bunch, the Germans, and are never easy to play against."
Defense is the foundation of Team Germany's success and Schubert is custom-made for the style of his team. Like the rest of the club, Schubert irritates opponents by his effort. He always finishes his checks and you have to be aware of him every time he's on the ice because he can hurt you both defensively and offensively.
"Christoph is my roommate and was my partner in the minors," says Ottawa defenseman Brian Pothier. "We've played together for four years and I think he is awesome. He is a really strong player and can overpower guys with his strength. For a guy that big, he moves especially well because he is such a powerful and smooth skater. Christoph also has a great shot and he sees the ice pretty well. I can tell you that they're doing something right over in Germany because I see more Germans coming over to the NHL as complete players -- Schubert, Ehrhoff, Goc, Sturm, Hecht. Team Germany is solid and I think they're going to give some teams a scare in the preliminary rounds."
Nothing would surprise hockey legend Bobby Orr. The Hall of Fame superstar is so impressed with the number of strong teams that he feels the gold medal is completely up for grabs.
"I think there are a lot of good teams in the Olympics," says Orr. "The Czechs, Slovaks, Swedes, Finns, USA, Canada, Russia and the list goes on. They're all strong teams and it's going to be tough tournament. I was at the World Junior Championships and there were a lot of good players on the German team. There were a lot of good players on the Swiss team. Those countries are developing very good hockey players now. It's not like it used to be when it was all Canada, the USA and Russia. This is going to shape up to be a real tough tournament with a lot of good teams. So pick one."