After missing the 2018 tournament, the NHL will return to the Olympics in 2022 for the tournament in Beijing. That's good news for fans who like high-quality, high-stakes hockey, but is it good news for the Capitals?
As a high-skill team, the Caps will have several players in contention to play for their national teams. Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, John Carlson and Dmitry Orlov all look like locks. Denmark's qualification likely means Lars Eller will be a selection as well. T.J. Oshie, Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek are also players likely to receive some consideration.
That's eight players from the projected roster, six of whom are over the age of 30.
I love the Olympics and am thrilled to see the NHL returning, but that does not mean there are not risks involved in playing a tournament in the middle of the regular season. For a team like the Caps that is one of the oldest in the NHL, seeing a number of its top players depart for the other side of the world in the middle of the regular season really is not ideal. This tournament will take a toll on all involved and that will hurt Washington more than most as these players really are not at an age in which they can recover as quickly as they used to.
Ovechkin sat out the all-star games in 2019 and 2020 in order to rest for the second half of the season.
"My body needs a rest," Ovechkin said in 2019.
In 2022, however, a 36-year-old Ovechkin, as well as five other Caps veterans, is likely to play in a two-week tournament in China right in the middle of the regular season.
I get it. I would want to represent my country too if given the chance. Anyone who has that opportunity absolutely should take advantage, but if they do, we have to ask the question just how much gas will be left in the tank for the second half of the season?
Adding a two-week tournament on the other side of the world in the middle of the regular season is going to have an impact for everyone who plays, but especially for the veterans 30 and older and that could potentially be bad news for Washington.