February 12 2014 08:04PM
The 2014 Winter Olympics are well underway in Sochi, and today integrated what's arguably it's highest profile event - Men's Ice Hockey. Dozens of players have the opportunity to pull their country's sweater over their shoulders, in pursuit of the only championship that realistically competes with the Stanley Cup. The Leafs are represented by two Americans and a Russian. This is what I'd like to see come out of the tournament...
Nikolai Kulemin (Russia)
- To Nikolai: If you're going to return to having insufferable chemistry with Evgeni Malkin, please send Ray Shero your game footage now instead of on the morning of July 1st
- No, but seriously, it would be really cool if Kulemin were to catch fire with somebody and rekindle his offensive game. His shot has seemed to come back this season, but if there's any way to further improve via a confidence boost, there's nothing but benefit for the Leafs.
- To Phil: You're going to be mocked for your infamous photo shoot a lot, but just as many find you legitimately attractive. Have fun in the athletes village, but please don't get into any more dog custody battles.
- My actual concern for these two is the fact that they might still be playing through nagging injuries. If I were them, I know I'd be playing at about 500% for my country, so I wouldn't bet against one of them being "that guy" who gets hurt at the Olympics.
- That said, I'm really excited to see these two on big ice and with a different centre. Joe Pavelski isn't exactly an elite #1 either, but he's probably better than anybody that Kessel has played with post-Boston.
- Have fun, but please don't come back with Gold Medals on your necks. That's Canada's job, thanks. In fact, if you face Canada, just start firing pucks at your own goalie. Your teammates will be unamused, but Leafs Nation has been known to gather tens of thousands of people when necessary if you need someone to watch your back.
- Convince Leo Komarov to come back at all costs. That selfie is a good start. If you can both shut him down so other NHL teams aren't as interested, while telling him how much you guys miss him, that would be awesome. Worst case, throw him in an equipment bag on the way back and try to pass him off as Carter Ashton, or something.
- Watch these games with the utmost of intensity. For some of you, this could be your tournament in four years. Scout these games for what players do to reach this level. Keep an eye on things you can do to neutralize and dominate them when they get back. Build an internal jealousy. Worst case scenario, even if you'll never make it, play like you want to be there and you'll be a better NHL player for it.
- Norway, Austria, and Latvia are going to lose a lot, so don't look at the shot count and say "Hey, just like us! They can do this!" It's just not worth your time.
- Get healthy. This goes for someone like David Bolland above all else, but if you have a nagging injury, this is the perfect time to work on it, whether that's done via rehabilitation or relaxation.
- At the same time, be ready. Don't be complacent. You have a break, but storming out of the gate when you get back will all but ensure a second consecutive playoff appearance. Make it count.
- Screw everything I said about the Leafs, please win again, 2010 was really fun.
- If the goaltending takes a turn for the worse and Jonathan Bernier is sitting on his couch eating Ketchup Lays, I will be judging you.
- I repeat, Gold please. Anything else is going to be seen as a participants ribbon.