Five European teams will challenge the defending champion Canada at this year’s 91st Spengler Cup. The following is an analysis to determine the present form of the participating teams with just 2 weeks remaining before the tournament begins.
The Cup newbie, HPK, has been unable to equal their strong performance from last season in the Finnish league. The team is presently placed 12th in the standings and recently suffered a 3-game losing streak. With 12 points out of the last playoff spot, there is still hope. Perhaps their participation in the Spengler Cup will provide the team with the self-confidence and spirit they need.
The Russian KHL has already completed 40 rounds. Dynamo Riga is still suffering from their miserable season start and continues to be placed last in the standings with no chance to secure a playoff spot. However, their recent game results have been better and better. In the last few weeks, the team from Latvia has had 2 wins against Minsk and Bratislava while only losing against CSKA Moscow 0:1. Riga will certainly give their all to save their season with a Spengler Cup triumph.
Mountfield’s season is completely different. After 32 rounds in the Czech extra-league, Mountfield HK has been able to maintain their second place in the standings, only 3 points behind the leader Pilsen against whom the team won 6:0(!) last Sunday. Their direct playoff qualification is with 20 points ahead of the 7th placed team practically assured. Mountfield will travel to Davos with much confidence and even more ambition.
Team Canada is always a tournament favorite no matter where they play. However, they could not fulfill the expectations – or the pressure they put upon themselves – at the demanding Karjala Cup this past November. With losses against Russia and Sweden as well as a close win against Switzerland 3:2, these results were well below the expectations of the North Americans who are used to success. We are all eager to see the response Team Canada will give at the Spengler Cup. Should you still wager that the Canadians will reach the final, you may just win that bet.
The Swiss National Team is greatly looking forward to their participation in the traditional tournament. Swiss Ice Hockey also wants to secure their future before the Spengler Cup begins. As published in the media, Patrick Fischer is close to signing a 2-year extension to his contract as National Team Head Coach. It is not a surprise that Swiss Ice Hockey wishes to hold on to Fischer. Fischer took over the team almost exactly 2 years ago. After a slow start at the World Championships, the team under Fischer’s leadership made it to the quarter finals in Paris this past Spring. A strong performance at the Spengler Cup in front of a large Swiss audience will set the groundwork to obtaining a top spot at the Olympic Winter Games.
Following last weekend, the host Davos is placed 3rd in the National League standings. With wins against Fribourg and Biel, the team achieved their second 6-point weekend this season. But this excellent ranking is deceptive. Their 10-point lead to the first playoff spot (9th place) is not huge and shows how compact the Swiss top league teams stand. “In this league, anyone can beat anyone – there are no weak opponents”, candidly stated the HCD Captain, Andres Ambühl.