Colorado Avalanche: Should Players have Begged out of World Cup?

Sep 7, 2016; Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Team North America forward Nathan MacKinnon (29) plays the puck and teammate Dylan Larkin (71) defends during practice for the World Cup of Hockey at the Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 7, 2016; Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Team North America forward Nathan MacKinnon (29) plays the puck and teammate Dylan Larkin (71) defends during practice for the World Cup of Hockey at the Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports /

The risks of Colorado Avalanche players participating in the World Cup of Hockey far outweigh the rewards. Maybe they should have bowed out.

The World Cup of Hockey starts in a week-and-a-half, and as Colorado Avalanche fans, we’re supposed to rejoice. After all, it means hockey starts five days early. (Preseason last year started September 22 — and, hey, that’s hockey, too.)

Six Avalanche players are representing their countries/continents in these exhibition games:

  • Matt Duchene, Canada
  • Nathan MacKinnon, North America
  • Gabriel Landeskog, Sweden
  • Carl Soderberg, Sweden
  • Erik Johnson, USA
  • Semyon Varlamov, Russia

People such as Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks and Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars will miss the tournament — ostensibly because they’re rehabilitating. A spate of other players have recently bowed out due to injury, too:

  • Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings
  • Niklas Kronwall, Detroit Red Wings
  • Sean Monahan, Calgary Flames
  • Jeff Carter, LA Kings
  • Tomas Hertl, San Jose Sharks
  • Radko Gudas, Philadelphia Flyers
  • David Krejci, Boston Bruins

Every Colorado Avalanche player who was asked to participate accepted. Yet every single player could cite a recurring injury — usually knee, but also Varlamov’s groin — to keep him out of the World Cup. Should some or all of them chosen to do that?

Tournament Schedule

The World Cup of Hockey runs from September 17 to October 1.

  • September 17-22: Preliminary Round
  • September 24-25: Semifinals
  • September 29- October 1: Finals

Training camp for the Colorado Avalanche starts around September 20, with the Burgundy and White game on September 25. The first preseason game is September 27 against the Minnesota Wild.

As you can see, there’s overlap. The very soonest any of those players can return to the Colorado Avalanche is after September 22, meaning they’ll miss all of training camp. Well, training camp for Colorado — all six of the players are currently participating in training camp for their respective world teams.

Another player or two may miss training camp and the Burgundy and White game but be available for the first preseason game.

It’s highly likely at least two of those players will miss the first three preseason games, too. Those run from September 27 to 30. Team Canada is the heavy favorite to win gold again, and that means Duchene. It’s thought they’ll be playing against Sweden, and that means Landeskog and Soderberg.

Could be Russia, meaning Varlamov. Outlier USA (Johnson) or North America (MacKinnon) could make it all the way. Our best hope is a Final of Team Europe vs Finland. Yeah, probably not.

Training Camp and Burgundy & White

Training camp is a valuable time for players and coaches alike. There are always new players joining a team, and this is when they start learning the systems.

The six Colorado Avalanche players attending the World Cup are already familiar with the basic systems. However, they’re also the leaders of the team. New players, such as Joe Colborne and Patrick Wiercioch, coming in won’t have the natural leaders to turn to.

Training camp is also the time for players to start building chemistry. Granted the forward lines tend to get mixed up throughout the year. However, defensive pairings usually stay consistent.

It’s hard to know who Erik Johnson’s defensive partner is supposed to be. Perhaps he’ll stay paired with (aging) veteran Francois Beauchemin. However, this season would be a prime time for Johnson to step into a veteran role with a youngster such as Nikita Zadorov or Chris Bigras at his side.

These chemistry experiments and learned systems culminate in the annual Burgundy and White game. Granted the exhibition game is largely for the fans to see their players for the first time that season. However, it’s a game-scenario scrimmage that allows players to solidify their place in the team.

Injury and Fatigue

You don’t get to the NHL without being an inveterate competitor. The six Colorado Avalanche players aren’t going to play the World Cup games half-assed — none of the players are.

This means injuries could occur. Heck, players get injured training for hockey — it’s a rough and tumble sport.

During the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, New York Islanders captain Jonathan Tavares went down with a knee injury that ended his season. That’s the always-possible worst-case scenario for these exhibition games.

It could very well happen that one of the Colorado Avalanche players gives his all while representing his country and ends up with an injury. At the very least such an injury could further shorten his preseason training. It could very well cut into the regular season as well.

Even if the players escape injury, they’re going to be playing intense, competitive games. While coming into preseason with a sharp competitive edge can be a boon at first, it can eventually wear on them. They could end up fatigued, which leads to injury — and we start the above conversation again.

I am aware the above sounds like fretting. However, you’ve got to think those were exactly the kinds of thoughts going through the minds of Duncan Keith, et. al. All NHL players have suffered some kind of injury — and said injuries can get aggravated during games. Why risk that for games that mean nothing?

You could make the same argument for preseason and even the Burgundy and White game. After all, Jesse Winchester’s career was ended with a preseason concussion. However, those games carry more reward than risk — chemistry, systems and a chance to make the team for some players.

The World Cup of Hockey is just a series of meaningless exhibition games. Players who win get a little bragging right — nothing like the Olympics, though.

And certainly nothing like the Stanley Cup.

Next: Will Compher Make the Team?

It would have been less-than-honorable for Colorado Avalanche players to “pull a hamstring” and bow out of the World Cup. I can’t help but wish that some of them did, though.