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The Odds of Canada winning the Gold Medal

Jon Willis has a nice discussion of how the outcome of the Olympics will be viewed if Canada wins or loses. It's important to keep in mind that even if Canada is the best team in the world, the odds of them winning any one game are not as high as you'd think. We can see this by looking at past performance.

With Slovakia's two games against Russia and the Czechs, I wanted to update the W-L table for the world's best teams in games between each other since 1996:

Team W L GF GA Pyth%
Canada 15 8 69 58 0.586
USA 10 12 74 63 0.580
Sweden 9 6 45 42 0.534
Russia 11 12 65 64 0.508
Czech 7 12 45 50 0.448
Finland 9 10 51 57 0.445
Slovakia 4 9 26 47 0.234

This table includes four Olympics plus two World Cups - the only top international competitions over the last 14 years. Canada is 15-8; if we assume that their Pythagorean winning percentage [GF^2/(GF^2+GA^2)] accurately reflects their true talent, they probably should have won 14 games against this crew. In other words, there's no way that people should expect a gold medal - Canada's the favorite, and they probably have a 20% shot at winning (it would have been 25% if they had beaten Switzerland in regulation).

But because anything less than a gold medal is considered a failure, here are how Steve Yzerman and Mike Babcock will be viewed after the games:

- Gold Medal = Geniuses (20%)

- Silver Medal = Failures (15%)

- Bronze Medal = Major Failures (15%)

- Not in the Medals = Withdrawal of Citizenship (50%)

Canada is simply not going to beat the Russians more than six times out of ten, which makes the odds of beating three national all-star teams very low - even for the absolute best team in the tournament. Whether the Canadian team is the best at this year's Olympics will be completely obscured by the luck they encounter in their games.