International Ice Hockey Federation

Swiss silver fading

Swiss silver fading

Challenging farewell for coach Simpson

Published 09.05.2014 15:38 GMT+3 | Author Martin Merk
Swiss silver fading
Among the 11 returning players from last year’s silver-medal winning team is 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship MVP Roman Josi. Photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
Although Sweden won the gold medal game, Switzerland’s silver-medal run was the big story in last year’s Worlds. But recent events have dampened expectations.

Switzerland failed to reach the quarter-finals at the Sochi Olympics – as it did at the Worlds in 2011 and 2012. A few days later it became known that head coach Sean Simpson’s contract would not be extended due to differing views about the national coach’s job profile and little compromise on the role. A successor is yet to be found while Simpson has signed with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl.

The change itself wouldn’t be a problem competing at the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship were it not for the fact that over half of last year’s silver medallists are missing from this year’s roster. Instead of assembling the big names of Swiss hockey and trying to capitalize on the big nations’ absences, this team in Minsk has a significant number of second-choice players. Only 11 silver medallists will be in Minsk and only 12 played in Sochi. Nine players are World Championship rookies. Can the young team silence the critics like last years?


Usually goaltending is one of Switzerland’s big strengths. The first Swiss who had their breakthrough in the NHL were goalkeepers, and that’s not without reason.

Reto Berra returns from last year’s silver team while Martin Gerber doesn’t due to injury. The country’s best goalkeeper, Jonas Hiller, is busy in the NHL playoffs with the Anaheim Ducks. Switzerland will need Berra in good shape like last year. But after transferring to the NHL and a mediocre season, Berra comes to Minsk with the desire of playing games. Berra was traded by the Calgary Flames to the Colorado Avalanche to become the future number two goalkeeper replacing Jean-Sebastien Giguere, but has seen only little ice time this season. In neither of his two games with the Avalanche or in Switzerland’s 4-0 exhibition game loss to Canada did Berra turn in a convincing performance.

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Not all Swiss league goalkeepers were available for Simpson. So he turns to Leonardo Genoni, a two-time Swiss champion who played two World Championship games in 2011; as well as AHL goalkeeper Robert Mayer, who hasn’t represented Switzerland since the 2008 World Juniors.

Simpson will start with Genoni in the game against Russia while Berra will be the starter in the second game.


The Swiss defence doesn’t have the depth it used to have in the last big tournaments but it does contain notable names. Roman Josi, last year’s World Championship MVP and a top-two defenceman with the Nashville Predators, is back with the Swiss team that also includes a second NHLer with Vancouver’s Yannick Weber.

Today Mathias Seger can become the lone record holder in World Championship participations. Prior to the opening day in Minsk, Seger shares the record of 15 Worlds with Finland’s Petteri Nummelin. Since his debut on home ice in Zurich and Basel in 1998, the 36-year-old has only missed one World Championship when he was cut following a bad season in 2007.

Eric Blum, highly touted in the Swiss league until signing with SC Bern recently, and Robin Grossmann will be the most experienced defenceman on the roster behind the trio, playing in their... second World Championship. Dean Kukan, Tim Ramholt and Dominik Schlumpf will play their first big event with the senior national team.


Swiss offence was one of the biggest mysteries of the last two years. Usually known as hard-working but not tough enough and inefficient, a different Swiss team seemed to work it out in Stockholm last year. Suddenly the Swiss were more present where it hurts in front of the net, and were able to score many “ugly” goals on rebounds and ended up being one of the most efficient teams in scoring in the stats.

Go forward to February 2014 and you saw the old problems of the Swiss team. With only three goals in four games the Swiss had a 2-2 record thanks to two 1-0 wins but didn’t make it to the quarter-finals with a 3-1 qualification playoff loss against Latvia.

Will it be better in Minsk? The exhibition games didn’t unveil any changes. With Nino Niederreiter they’re missing one of the most important forwards from last year’s silver-winning team. Martin Pluss the best Swiss centre absent and Roman Wick, the best scorer of the Swiss league, won’t be in Minsk due to injuries. But there are still players to watch like the New Jersey Devils’ Damien Brunner, probably the most skilled Swiss forward. Simon Moser and Reto Suri were among the top performers in last year’s Worlds campaign. 2011 first-round draft pick Sven Bartschi will play his first big tournament with the senior national team following a second season in the Calgary Flames organization that saw him play most games in the AHL.

The Pluss family will be represented by Martin’s younger brother Benjamin and among notable potential rookies on the team is Kevin Fiala, a 17-year-old first-round candidate for the next draft who could become the first player in 11 years to play the World Championship, the World Junior Championship and the U18 World Championship in the same year.


Sean Simpson will leave after the Worlds and doesn’t have the same pressure like in the previous years. Unfortunately, the commitment of some players also went down following the news of his impending departure. That will make it difficult to unfold the full offensive potential that made Switzerland a medal contender one year ago.

In his fifth World Championship Simpson will aim for entertaining hockey that doesn’t focus too much on underdog-style defence first and adapting to opponents, but instead trying to dictate the play themselves. He succeeded with it in Stockholm 2013 but not in the two years before, nor recently in Sochi. In the end he will need high-performing players, strong goaltending and successful presence in front of the net to make the game plan succeed; and currently there are question marks in all areas.

Projected Result

Despite coming with fewer stars and more rookies than usual, Switzerland is a team with potential but competition will be high and like Sochi little details can decide whether the Swiss will make the quarter-finals or contenders vying for the playoff spot like Germany, Latvia or host Belarus.

The first games against higher seeded Russia and Team USA, followed by clashes with underdogs Belarus and Germany will set the path. The Swiss can win and lose any of these games and like last year it can be all about gaining momentum. If the Swiss start successfully, a top-four placement can be possible again otherwise even a battle against relegation wouldn’t be unthinkable.


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