Calm before the Sturm
Calm before the Sturm
Germany follows a new direction
After finishing an impressive fourth at the 2010 World Championships, Germany has not reached those heights since. A tenth place finish in the Czech Republic has brought changes, including a new coach. It is now former national team stalwart Marco Sturm to get Germany back on the right path. There are still plenty of familiar faces in the lineup, along with a few reinforcements from the NHL.
Germany goaltending is decidedly young. All three goaltenders are in their early to mid-twenties. Mathias Niederberger enjoyed a fine season with Dusseldorfer EG. This is his first time being named to the men’s team. He was named best goaltender at the 2012 U20 World Championships Division I. Felix Bruckmann is also a first timer to the national team at the senior level. Timo Pielmeier is the only member of the group with any experience at this level. He saw action in three games, all without a win, in 2015. Pielmeier was the DEL’s 2014 rookie of the year.
At the 2015 World Championship, the Germans did not get much production from its blue line. The entire defence corps did not score a goal and contributed six assists over seven games. Germany will be without the services of Justin Krueger, who has a broken finger. However, 33-year-old Christian Erhoff will add some skill and generate puck movement up the ice. Fresh off the NHL playoffs with the Chicago Blackhawks, Erhoff’s experience should upgrade the German power play and offer stability where it is needed on the blue line. When last he played for the national team at the 2013 World Championships, Erhoff led the way with three goals and five points in seven games. Korbinian Holzer, who saw action in 29 games for the Anaheim Ducks, returns after a five-year international absence. National team returnees include Torsten Ankert, Moritz Muller, Sinan Akdag and Denis Reul.
Germany will be without their leading goal scorer from last year's tournament, Michael Wolf. With that in mind, the slack needs to be picked up but other highly skilled players pm the team. Germany is carrying two NHL forwards, and both could make a difference. Leon Draisaitl showed this season why he was the highest German player ever drafted in the NHL. Draisaitl was Edmonton’s second leading scorer with 51 points. In his World Championship debut in 2014, Draisaitl scored a goal and four points. Tobias Rieder joined the team once his NHL season ended with the Phoenix Coyotes. He improved his production in 2015-16 with 14 goals and 37 points. Patrick Reimer was second in scoring and goals for his team last spring in the Czech Republic. After a two-year absence, Phillip Gogulla returns. Gogulla is fresh off an impressive DEL playoff campaign where he led Kolner Haie with 9 goals in 15 games. They reached the semi-finals before losing to eventual champion EHC Red Bull Munich.
It’s Marco Sturm’s time to lead. After years representing Germany as a player, he now moves behind the bench. His time on the ice should serve him well to understand and communicate with players. It will also help build trust among these players who have skated with Sturm or have looked up to him. Sturm spent over a decade in the NHL, mostly with the San Jose Sharks and Boston Bruins. The Dingolfing native has a lot of work to do. Germany’s power play was not particularly strong in 2015 and their scoring efficiency left much to be desired. Equally, they gave up 24 goals. All of these areas need improvement.
Germany has little shot at a medal. Making the playoffs would be a big improvement but an uphill battle given the clear competition in St. Petersburg.
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