It’s another huge disappointment for a hockey program that hasn’t won an international men’s tournament in 20 years. But on a day where some people seem to look for things to put in the obituary of American hockey, I’d say the patient is probably fine. Maybe the premature exit from the World Cup of Hockey was just what the doctor ordered?
Team USA were sent packing this evening, not necessarily because they lost to a Team Canada that looks like a lock to win the whole thing. Problem was, they lost an uninspired opener to a well coached Team Europe and as a result, they will now have to live with the humiliation and bore of playing an exhibition game against Czech Republic in front of a not-so-packed crowd of various nationalities.
It’s obviously not the way the players, their coaching staff or even the people who organize this event had envisioned things to fold out. But the verdict of the general state of American hockey tended to be more doom and gloom than I’d say is necessary.
Right after the game, Phil Kessel tweeted:
”Just sitting around the house tonight with my dog. Felt like I should be doing something important, but couldn’t put my finger on it.”
No one dared to bring the words ”Phil” and ”Kessel” up until two hours after the game, when an unknown member of the media staff called out ”Phil Kessel at pod 9” to much amuse in the press room. At that point, John Tortorella had long since left the building. But while on the hot seat, he was still facing the prospect of being roasted about some other roster decisions.
Fair enough. In hindsight, dressing Kyle Palmieri to play roughly eight minutes while leaving pesky Brandon Dubinsky off the team for a game that we all knew would be chirpy and tense was probably a bad call. Inserting Dustin Byfuglien in a matchup that would require few or no risky plays in their own D-zone sure could be seen as poor judgement, given the fact that Byfuglien was on the ice for two not so pretty goals against.
– There were some self inflicted wounds. We gave them some freebies and you can’t do that, said Tortorella when asked to give his two cents on the breakdowns that in a matter of 14 seconds spoiled what had started out as a pretty promising display of everything his team had lacked on Saturday.
Still, he wouldn’t attribute any of it to the way his roster was managed. His answer to that question was about as concise as they come.
The same answer could probably be given to the question of whether John Tortorella was a wise choice to coach this group of players in a short tournament. Superstars such as Patrick Kane and Joe Pavelski could not be inspired to carry this team on their shoulders, and few if any players excelled or even came close to their full potential. Grit over skill has always been his motto and this time, it didn’t work out at all. No doubt, that’s on the coach, it’s part of the job at this level and Tortorella knows that.
A more relevant question is, would someone else have done it better?
Maybe, maybe not. Betting is easy when you know the score.
– We were the worst team in the NHL last year, so I was the worst coach in the league, remember?
Those are not the words of Team USA coach John Tortorella, but the words of Mike Babcock. I think they illustrate pretty well how a tournament like this really shouldn’t be overestimated as means for measuring much at all.
OK, so they probably picked the wrong coach. But what about the overall state of Team USA, which was being thoroughly questioned on social media as tonight’s game went out of their hands? They have now played two World Cups, five Olympic tournaments and some twenty World Championships since they last won a gold medal. That’s gotta suck.
But while the performance of Team USA left us disappointed, we also need to appreciate the fact that they were the team most hurt by the tournament format. We knew beforehand, but it became very obvious once the tournament started.
Add Auston Matthews, Jack Eichel, Johnny Gaudreau, Seth Jones, Dylan Larkin and even Brandon Saad to the mix and you’d have a team that could have beaten Team Canada tonight as well as in a best of three finals, even one that would have included Connor McDavid, RNH and Nathan MacKinnon.
Team USA made some bad decisions, but I’d say the future is still very bright.