A couple of weeks ago, the IIHF posted an interesting list asking the 10 most pressing questions of this Olympic hockey tournament. What are your thoughts and opinions on these questions and answers after just 4 games ? 1. Can Canada repeat as champions? IIHF: The coaching staff is pretty much the same as Salt Lake City, but the on-ice talent has changed radically in the 4 years since Canada won its gold. The biggest question will be whether Joe Sakic and Jarome Iginla will be able to assume the leadership roles filled by Mario Lemieux and Steve Yzerman in 2002. The Tampa Bay trio of Vincent Lecavalier-Brad Richards-Martin St. Louis, so dominant in 2003-04 when the Lightning won the Stanley Cup, and in the World Cup, have had an average season so far in this current NHL campaign. They will need to get back to their level of 2 years ago as well. And then there are the newcomers and young guns such as Rick Nash and Bryan McCabe. Will they be able to contribute? 2. Can the Russians make a greater team out of a group of great individuals? IIHF: There are more players from Dynamo Moscow on the Russian team than from any single NHL club, but will GM Pavel Bure be able to mold 23 talented individuals into a group that is motivated and focused on one goal? The Russians have not won gold at the World Championship since 1993 (and, in fact, have only a silver in 2002 between '93 and today), and have not struck Olympic gold since 1992 as the Commonwealth of Independent States. They came close in 1998 (silver) and 2002 (bronze), but team chemistry is what has been the downfall in recent times. Well question #3 has certainly been answered: 3. How will Coach Alois Hadamczik handle the goaltending in his Czech crease? IIHF: Coach Hadamczik has Dominik Hasek (if he stays healthy) and Tomas Vokoun as his goaltenders. Hasek led the Czechs to gold in '98, and even though he recently celebrated his 41st birthday, he's having a great year in Ottawa. Yet, Vokoun led his country to gold at last year's Worlds and has made it clear he expects to be given a fair chance to be the number-one man. Can the Czechs use two great goalies to their advantage, or will friction between the padded players hurt their chances of gold? 4. Is morale too low for Finland to expect a medal? IIHF: Finland has plenty of talent to do well, but the team had its top two goalies pull out, leaving Antero Niittymaki, Fredrik Norrena and Niklas Backstrom as their men in the blue ice. Will the skaters come into the dressing room and rally around their young goalies, or will team chemistry and optimism suffer because they know that, of the Big Seven, theirs is likely the weakest tandem in the crease?? They have the firepower and skill to score, but do they have the heart to play inspired hockey at the big show? 5. How will USA coach Peter Laviolette take a series of negatives and turn them into positives? IIHF: Coach Laviolette has taken his Carolina Hurricanes to first place in the NHL, thanks in large part to his star players playing like star players but thanks also to his own successful methods. He'll need all his powers in Torino. The USA is captained by 44-year-old Chris Chelios. The team lacks experience in goal and has too many young players to be a serious contender, but just maybe Laviolette will find a way to turn these negatives into positives and surprise the many critics who see his team not going very far in the tournament. 6. Can Tre Kronor put Belarus out of their minds? IIHF: It will be up to goaltender Henrik Lundqvist as the starter to exorcise the demons cast into the team's psyche by Tommy Salo in 2002 when he allowed Vladimir Kopat's long shot to bounce off his mask and into the net for the winning goal in the quarter-finals. The Swedish press has a long memory and will not let the team forget 2002 easily. Mental strength will be as important as any pad save for the one who hopes to carry the team to gold. 7. Does Slovakia have what it takes to come up with a performance like the 2002 World Championship? IIHF: Slovakia was unable to send all of its best players to Salt Lake in 2002, but just a few months later it proved its worth on the international stage by winning gold at the Worlds. Only 10 players remain from 2002 but will the new group of Slovakian stars be able to follow in the legendary footsteps of that gold-medal team? Their defence is a good blend of youth and experience, but their forwards must get goals and leadership from Peter Bondra and Pavol Demitra if they are to advance beyond the crucial quarter-final crossover games. 8. Will refereeing play a major role in Turin? IIHF: Fans can expect different officiating in Turin than what they saw at Salt Lake. At the NHL level, the referees have been cracking down on obstruction fouls (hooking, holding, etc.) in an effort to open the game up and create more scoring chances and more exciting hockey. Similarly, the IIHF has committed to stricter rule enforcement to open up the game for the best players. Which teams will play within the rules most effectively? We can expect to see more power plays than previously, so teams who thrive with the man advantage can also expect greater success. 9. Will all the players pee be clean of peformance-enhancing drugs? IIHF: Dick Pound, speaking in his senior role with World Anti-Doping Agency, sketched a wild scenario last fall when he suggested a third of NHL players were using performance-enhancing drugs. Yet all pre-Olympic and current testing to date has turned up exactly one culprit. The skilled players of the NHL are the least likely to use drugs of any sort, and those at Torino, who are well aware of the doping tests and the penalties for a positive result, are surely not going to take anything that might come back tainted. But, until all the urine tests are completed, the world watches in the hopes that all will be well and Pound proved emphatically incorrect in his prediction. 10. How will the NHL's shootout rule affect games in Torino? IIHF: While the IIHF has used the shootout for more than a decade, the game-winning shot concept is new to the NHL this season. Previously, it might be argued, this was a contest that favoured the Europeans because they have become more familiar with the format, but now that North Americans are following suit, will that mean a different outcome in Torino? Certainly, there will be fewer surprises. NHL players in Turin have almost to a man (certainly among the forwards) taken several shootout shots this season, and leading the way is Jussi Jokinen of Dallas who is a perfect 8-for-8. If Finland plays a shootout, it's clear he'll be a shooter, but he'll likely face a goalie who has experienced or studied his moves from the NHL. Advantage goalie? Furthermore, Canadian and American shooters have all had the chance to practice the shootout many times, giving them experience they lacked in the past. Advantage shooter? Statistics say that anywhere, anytime the goalie has the upper hand more often, but at least in Turin the shooters will not be stopped because of inexperience or lack of practice.