If anyone out there is shocked that the U.S. is playing the best hockey of any team in the Winter Olympic tournament and Russia is out, let us put it in perspective for you: American hockey players have become more productive over the last 10 NHL seasons, while Russian production has steadily declined. While Canadians, who make up over 50% of the National Hockey League, have dominated with consistency over the same time period, the American presence in the NHL has seen a jump from 15% to 25% over the last ten years. Russia, on the other hand, has produced 5% fewer North American pros since 2001-02, when they made up over 9% of the league.
In terms of goal scoring — Russia’s achilles in the 2014 Olympics — the drop off in production couldn’t be more obvious.
What does this tell us? Well, for starters, more Russians are staying home to play KHL (like former New Jersey Devil Ilya Kovalchuk). This explains a lot of their slip over here and the surge in American production, as more fringe domestic players are getting into the league and thus scoring more goals. Still, a larger presence in the best league on Earth is a an undeniable contributing factor to the success of our national team over the last year. Moreover, Americans are playing/enjoying hockey more than usual, which is evident by the dramatic increase in ticket sales/popularity the league has experienced. So don’t be too surprised if the Americans end up wearing Gold in Sochi — they’ve got just about as good a shot at winning as they’ve ever had.
Info via Quant Hockey