Canada, remember when you would check your rear-view mirrors and you would see the rest of the world well behind? Well check again because they're not there anymore, I would check beside you in your blind spots because they all caught up.
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Canada loves to boast about its superior hockey talent, and historically it has been just that. The NHL over history has been dominated by Canadian talent, but something has changed and I'm not sure everybody realizes it. I mean we're are stunned to see Canada walk away from a hockey tournament with anything less than gold, but when they don't, it's because some of our best players weren't playing right? But they were, don't tell me having a roster with Spezza, Heatley and Nash is secondary talent, no that's right up there.
So did Russia really just get lucky? or is the rest of the world finally catching up to Canada in terms of skill?
* Canada has only won one of the last four IIHF World Hockey Championships
* At the 2006 Winter Olympics, Canada didn't even get past the Quarter-Finals
Is Canadian talent slipping? Not a chance, but the rest of the world is getting better, much better.
Look at the NHL itself, it is no longer dominated by Canadian players alone. Looking at the stats for the 2007-2008 regular season, the top ten players in points featured 4 Canadians, 4 Russians and 2 Swedes.
It is not limited to offense either, this gust of international talent is sweeping the goaltender nation as well. Only half of the current NHL teams have a Canadian goaltender as their starter, while 3 are American and the rest are international.
But Canada, at least we still have the leadership in the bag right? I mean true leadership can only come from the heart of a Canadian right? wrong, Only half of the current NHL captains are Canadian, while 3 are American and the rest are international. And don't look now, but Niklas Lidstrom could be the first European Captain to lead his team to a Stanley Cup.
Then again captain Crosby and his Canadian blood will prevent Lidstrom and Canada will reign forever.....well not so fast. Pittsburgh is made up of more than just Canadian talent; Malkin, Hossa, Sykora and Gonchar have all played significant roles as members of the Penguin's roster. Last time I checked, Crosby wasn't nominated for the Hart Trophy, but Malkin is, and he's Russian.
Is it time for Canada to be worried? Not at all, this is something that cannot be prevented. The rest of the world is getting better, which is good for the NHL and the IIHF.
And don't look now, but here come the Americans as well. Sure they had a disappointing tournament, but looking at the youth that have either just entered the NHL or are preparing for their debut, and the Americans could be scary good by the time 2014 comes around. Patrick Kane has already made the jump and has done nothing but impress. I look down at this year's upcoming draft and I see great American talent; Bogosian, Myers, Wilson, Carlson, Gardiner, Ness, Fienhage, Kristo and many others.
Hockey's future is bright to say the least, and it will feature more than just Canada.
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