As long as they continue to hold the World Championships every year, the gap should decrease. If women's hockey is removed, the onus will be on the women to get it back. The impetus will then be the black eye the sport receives for being eliminated.
First we need to see what the Russians do over the next 4 years as they prepare to host Sochi. They'll want to medal on home ice and they are far from that right now.
Second, Sweden and Finland need to increase exposure in their own countries. Both countries generally keep Canada and the US to single digits (and in past World and Olympic tournaments have been tough to play against) but the lack of turnover in their national programs has these two teams as the oldest in the tournament.
I have hope that those three countries will get their act together and by 2014 Canada/America will have suffered a 2nd loss to a country other than themselves.
Because men and women's hockey can be played on the same arena, the IOC has decided to wait until after 2014 to make a decision on 2018 (otherwise they would need to make a decision by the fall of 2011 when the 2018 games are awarded). That gives the IIHF and women's hockey 4 years to get their act together. I expect Canada and America to dominate in the meantime, but one (or more) of those other countries will need to step forward by being competitive in EVERY game against Canada and America, not just once every couple of years. Finding an "Angela Jamesson" or a "Cammi Granatova" would go a long way in helping those countries compete long term.
Another thing that I don't know to be true............in North America, girls grow up playing on boys teams until they're 12/13 (and sometimes later) and I think that helps them out in the long run. IF they don't do that in Europe, maybe they should.
As we saw with Ski Jumping, there are enough lobby groups out there to keep the IOC on their toes when it comes to gender equality at the games, so if Women's hockey does come out after 2014, you can be sure that there will be hubbub about it and action behind the scenes to get it back in.
Meerkat - softball (and baseball) was removed from the Olympic program because it was not played in enough countries to continue. They were given 10 years to increase international exposure (particularly in Europe) and the huge amount of empty seats for both baseball and softball in Athens in 2004 was the final straw. Over the 4 Olympics, the US women lost games to China, Australia, and Japan so there was competitive balance. Women's hockey is played by more than enough countries (24 required by the IOC as of 2004) but there is no competitive balance when two countries beat up on one another...but no one else can beat them.