Swedish national coach, Bengt-Åke Gustafsson announced his Tre Kronor team for the upcoming home & away exhibition match with Finland.
The friendlies are not being well received by clubs active in pre-season tournaments. Specifically, these two games conflict with the finals of the prestigious Nordic Trophy. The ten team, Swedish-Finnish tournament entices with significant prize money to the winning team. Adding meaning to pre-season with such competitions represents a growing trend emerging throughout European hockey.(*)
As a compromise to Swedish teams, Bengt-Åke chose a wide variety of players for all Elite Series (and two Allsvenska) teams. Those clubs involved in the Nordic Trophy had at maximum one representative chosen.
Bjurling, known in some circles as BBKing, has just returned from his BB Goalie Camp that is held annually in Norway.
This will be Bjurling's second call-up to the national team. In 2003-04 he was named though did not appear in any matches. With the departure of phenom Jhonas Enroth to the Buffalo Sabres of the NHL, Bjurling is by all accounts the clear number 1 goalie for Södertälje this coming season.
Former Oiler Dick "Bleep" Tärnström, now with AIK, was also selected.
A RANDOM VIDEO MEMORY: Canada wins vs. Sweden in 2008 World Juniors final.
UPDATE: It seems the Nordic Trophy may very well represent a precursor to a Nordic League. This article on Eurohockey.net suggests that it may be only a matter of time before Sweden and Finland's big teams join forces under the banner of a single league.
(*)As a final footnote, there are a number of tournaments or "Cups" up for grabs in the European preseason. Most are by invitation only and often are nothing more than tune-ups matches billed as a tournament. To name a few, there is the Lada Cup, the Belarus Cup, or that in which Oilers draft William Quist's Nybro Vikings participated, the Fredriksstad Cup.
The European Champions Cup (akin to football's Champions League) and the Continental Cup (akin to the UEFA cup) are sanctioned events by the IIHF that will begin play later this fall.
Young William's Nybro Vikings were up against the Norwegian Elite Series team Stjernen in a preseason match up. According to this article, Quist was one of the key "young'ens" that were stellar in their 3-2 triumph. He got prime penalty killing minutes and as coach Lenny Eriksson philosophy for his young'ens was to, "throw them right into the shit" (seriously - that's a direct translation!)
Luleå has played a series of matches in Finland (arranged by Kuopio Kalpa) among them, a 3-1 win against Belorussian KHL team, Dinamo Minsk.
Omark assisted in the match setting-up line mate Mats Lavander. No word on whether or not former-Oiler dreamboat Igor Ulanov was playing for Minsk.
Luleå's off-ice training regime was highlighted by something that might make Oilers' fitness coach Chad Moreau take notice.
On a hill called Måttsund, cross-country skiing coach Sven-Erik Pajala put Luleå hockey and basketball pros through a gruelling challenge: the King of the Hill fitness training - 3 gruelling laps up and down Måttsund ski hill. The reporter who wrote the piece actually passed Omark and posed the thought:
I wonder what the Edmonton Oilers would have thought of Omark's result?
Sven-Erik Pajala had his thoughts.
"I am of the belief that football (soccer), ice hockey and basketball players were much better shape 15-20 years ago. Today they likely have more strength, but if they don't have the conditioning to show up on this hill, it will not lead to any personal development. A hockey player's last 15 seconds on ice are very important and they have to have that stamina."
Former Springfield Falcon, Jonas Almtorp is on a try-out contract with Luleå. His performance thus far is much like the Almtorp of last year: "Offensively he was invisible throughout the match. Defensively he did his job, not more."
This year sees a new team in the Swedish Elite Series, namely Rögle BK from the town of Ängelholm. I've been toying with the idea of adopting them as my own, for no other reason than they have a sweet looking logo.
Mattias Tjärnqvist (brother to former Oiler Daniel) has signed to play with the club. As for preseason, they seem to be in the recording studio preparing a new fight song.
Tonight, at BMO Field in Toronto, begins the third leg of four in the CONCACAF road to South Africa 2010. Jamaica will take to the artificial pitch in Toronto to face the Canadian Men’s National Team (MNT) and, what is hoped to be, a pro-Canadian home crowd.
The so-called Golden Generation of Canadian football is now. It has been a long time since Canada has known a team with such strength at all positions - most especially in the midfield - and tactics other than dump-and-chase.
The Voyageurs fan club, among others, has made sure that tonight will be a home field match. There should be a spectacular atmosphere at the match and I can only hope that the players respond in kind. The Voyageurs song book, with such hits as Dwayne De Rosario (to the tune of Pet Shop Boys Go West) or Radzinski (to the tune of Boney M’s Rasputin), will get a good workout from the Voyageur faithful.
Hope and Faith was not just some crummy American sitcom featuring Kelly Ripa, it is becoming the unofficial themes of Canadian football fans. They will sing at the top of their lungs and cheer for their boys because they are full of hope and believe that Canada can reach a World Cup again. We’ve been trusting in this faith and hope every four years when WCQ comes around.
A win in game 1 versus Jamaica will be step one. Otherwise, hope that springs eternal may be replaced by "hope burps ephemeral" or "pessimism whiplashes like a car crash". (I'll work on making that sound more eloquent, should need arise.)
HOPE COUNTER: 9x
For more on the match up, I refer thy faithful to the following:
- Sportsnet's Gerry Dobson
- National Post: Home crowd should give Canada a boost
- Canadian Soccer Association - although this link features this disturbing quote from head coach Dale Mitchell:
"I think it is coming together," said Mitchell of his preparations. "It is strange week because it is a short week. Guys are traveling different places and in different states of physical condition. That is a little bit of a concern, but we have done our best to get as well organized as we can. We have the better part of a day and a half now to further rest up and to get to as close to 100% as we can be."
SWEDEN: Since this blog is known as Scouting Sweden, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that also tonight the Swedish Men’s team takes on France in a friendly match at Ullevi in Gothenburg. World Cup Qualifying for Sweden and UEFA Group 1 begins in early September against Albania and Hungary.
And thus thy went forth to the podium and bequeath to the masses that it shall be Motin and Motin it shall be.
Although I am nearly two months overdue, I hereby wish to take this opportunity to thank the Edmonton Oilers scouting staff, in particular Kent Nilsson, for giving this blog a new prospect, focal point, and target for the coming years.
Frankly, I had written off the idea of the Oilers going Swede this year, especially considering how few picks (5) they had at their disposal in the NHL Entry Draft.
Selected 103 overall, Johan Motin joins the likes of William Quist, Linus Omark and Björn Bjurling as active Oiler draft picks from, and playing in, Sweden.
The Oilers development system seems to have burgeoned in the past couple years. The direct emergence of young talents like Sam Gagner & Andrew Cogliano along with a gain of depth in all positions allowed Kevin Lowe and entourage to follow a simple draft day strategy. At approximately 5:07 of this clip, Kevin Lowe mentions having seen Motin a couple years ago at the Under 18 World Hockey Tournament. At that time, scouts were projecting Motin as a top 10 pick and yet there he was, still available to the Oilers in the 4th round.
What changed? Well, not so much one realises after having scoured the internet via a Google News (in Swedish) search.
MOTIN: A GOOGLE NEWS SEARCH (SWEDISH VERSION)
- TELEVISION: SVT reported March 5, 2007 about the poise Johan Motin has shown since his call-up to the bright lights of the Elite Series. His size and stability are noted as having been advantageous in handling the big league and when asked what he will work on most in the near future, Motin says primarily his shot.
- PRINT: NWT - Sept 19, 2007. Season preview of Färjestad's team and their young talent Johan Motin. He is studying public/society economics at Tingvalla high school. Motin got prime ice-time last season with Czech veteran Robert Kantor. His first big league fight was with scrappy Finn Sami Torkki, which he claims to have won by "falldown". Motin takes the bus to school and says that he tries to be a normal teen because "one must have one's feet on the ground. I want to finish school in the best way possible, because there will come a life after hockey."
- WEBSITE Kanon wrote about Motin's loan to Allsvenska club Bofors on Nov 21, 2007. Färjestad fired coach Roger Melin and new bench boss (Tommy Samuelsson) played primarily with only 6 D-men. With development and increased ice-time in mind, Färjestad loaned Motin to Bofors, in his home town of Karlskoga. More ice-time was vital given the forthcoming World Junior Championships that was to occur later in 2007 in the Czech Republic. He went on to appear in 15 matches with Bofors IK.
- BLOGS: Scouting report HockeyMagasinet 2007-09-03
"his mature and unafraid play impressed the Färjestad executive that offered him a 3 year contract in March 2007... his strong play in the U18 tournament (Sweden won bronze) garnered him the award for best Swedish player and he recorded 3 assists in 5 matches. He is a proven winner, having hardware from having won TV Pucken (Swedish rep. team tournament), the Swedish J18 league (junior) championship and a bronze a the U18 Worlds".
Why Johan Motin was drafted in round 4, as compared to Sept 2007 round 1 estimates, is likely due to two factors. Firstly, his move to Bofors looks bad on paper - like a demotion. The reality is that his new coach came under intense pressure to get Färjestad back into winning form and that meant veterans on defense. Motin's youth and development were recognized and he needed more playing time. The second factor, hypothesized by Kevin Lowe, was that his stay-at-home defensive style might also have lead to his drop in draft status. Stay-at-home defensemen do not score a lot of points, nor do they appear often in the spotlight. Lowe too was a stay-at-home D-man in his playing day, although Lowe managed to get drafted 21st overall in 1979 (perhaps stay-at-home defense was sexier back then).
In either case, Johan Motin remains a player with a promising pedigree and has already been a winner on a couple of big stages. His asset was deemed valuable by the Oiler executive and this writer certainly hopes Motin will be in Oilers silks in the future.
Final items from the 2008 NHL Entry Draft: when it came to Swedes, Ottawa managed to win the "Pick The Most Swedes" contest. Thanks in part to having former Swedish National Junior coach Anders Forsberg on their scouting payroll, the Senators selected 3 Swedes in front of their home crowd at the Scotiabank Arena. HockeyMagazinet put out this blog report and also summarized all Swedes selected.
LAST WORD: The Women's Olympic Soccer (hereafter known as football) quarter final between Canada and the USA is being played as I type. Canada has always had problems winning football matches against their female counterparts to the South, especially in major competitions. According to FIFA, they have met 42 times with the USA having been victorious 36 times (85%) and 3 ties. Canada's only victories have been friendly-matches.
After a promising performance against Sweden, the Canadian women have shown that they can match the best. The trend of losing to the Yanks must be broken and it must be today! I hope...
August 12 in Beijing, China. Women's Olympic Soccer (hereafter known as football).
Nr. 9 ranked Canada faces nr. 3 ranked Sweden in Olympic competition.
Previews: FIFA has done one and also here. CBC preview (by former Canadian national team defender Jason De Vos).
In red will be a generation of girls who have together grown to become Canada's Women's National team (WNT). In blue/yellow, a routine laden bunch of tactical and talented Swedes.
It is the likes of youngster Kara Lang - who has been on the national team since she was 15, goal machine Christine Sinclair - now 93 goals in 124 games for the WNT! (Sinclair's Olympic blog is here), and 2007 player of the year Rhian Wilkinson complements a full cast of hard working young women. Most have gone (or are going) to American universities and/or ply their trade at the National Soccer Academy in Vancouver.
This is the profile of the women going up against seasoned pros from what is likely the best women's league in the world, the Damallsvenska. Led by Viktoria Svensson, Lotta Schelin and anchored by goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl.
Swedish media, such as here, have looked past Canada from the very beginning. Most news outlets chose China and Sweden to advance, even though China is ranked 14th by FIFA. Perhaps drawing on China's second place finish at World Cup 1999, or that they host this Olympiad, many have heightened expectations for the PRC. When Sweden came out flat against the Chinese in the first game and lost 2-0, it further elevated China and put question marks in the minds of many a Swede.
Yet along came the 'dump and chase' style of Canada, who mysteriously proceeded to dominate versus China. In fact, Canada should have won Saturday's 1-1 match in Tianjin considering the amount of shots, and percentage of play they found.
So what is in store on Tuesday. It is not comparable to any Sweden vs. Canada ice hockey match-up. In this case, Sweden holds the upper-hand in experience and respect. Yet two very different team have shown up based on expectations. Sweden has under-achieved and Canada has been surprisingly dominant. The real test will be tomorrow.
Odds are it will be a phenomenal chance for Canada to prove its footie-value on the world's stage. Unfortunately, this writer believes their dump and chase strategy will be their downfall against the tactically sound Swedes. As much as I hope for a breakthrough for Canadian footie, it requires a stronger back line, a smarter tactic versus a European style, and a patience in ball possession that would flow throughout the whole team, and not just a lone few.
My prediction: Sweden 2 - Canada 1 (Sweden scoring in the 91st minute - injury time - after a defensive lapse by Canada).