Well what is there to say after that? As I said on twitter, a lot of the fingers are being pointed every which way. Didn’t play as a team, too many passengers, awful D, awful goaltending, awful coaching. The fact of the matter is that if a puck doesn’t bobble on Haydn Fleury in the dying seconds of the 1st period, Canada goes to the room with a 2-0 lead over the Fins after a perfect period of hockey. That is a completely different game, and I’m very likely not writing this piece.
But that did happen, and Mackenzie Blackwood let in…not a bad goal, but a puck that probably should be stopped off the stick of potential top 5 pick Patrik Laine. The momentum after a brilliant 19:45 of play by Canada is completely with the Fins and their fans going into the 1st intermission.
Before I get into it all, let’s point out a few more things. 1, Joe Hicketts penalty that led to the 5 on 3 and led to the goal, that’s as shitty of luck as a guy and a team can have. And really, it should be an exception to that rule. If that happens 5 on 5…and I’m being honest here….in a no touch icing world that should be called icing before it’s called for a penalty because the puck has already gone over the goal line, shouldn’t it? I’m honestly asking, but I would think that should be the case.
Add to this, the spirit of the rule is to stop players from simply dumping it into the crowd when they are in trouble in their own zone. If a player is in trouble in his own zone, the last thing he is ever going to have time to do is to shoot it 200 feet into the crowd. I would just simply adjust the rule to say, if the puck makes it past the opposing goal line and clears the glass, it isn’t a penalty, however it is treated like an icing in that the team cannot change. Might sound like sour grapes, but is it not an absurd penalty in that scenario that cost Canada a game?
Here is another one that is already being forgot. Patrik Laine should have been kicked out of the game. And AGAIN, it’ll sound like sour grapes. It’ll sound like I’m Jake Virtanen (true Vancouver Canuck). But I can’t help but think if it’s another player, at another point in the game, he gets tossed for that hit from behind. Granted, Strome was selling it. But it was still a very clear cut hit from behind. When it happened my initial thought was “that’s 5”. Not outraged, but I’ve seen enough international games by now to know what is often called in that scenario. Because it’s late and because it’s Laine, it’s 2.
Let me make it perfectly clear though, unlike some of the kids have come out and said. Canada didn’t lose that game because of officiating. I’m just pointing out that maybe we shouldn’t lose our minds about how this all went down because the bounces didn’t go our way.
Now, having said all this….for the 6th time in 7 years we are left dissecting what has gone wrong for Canada at the WJC. I wouldn’t put 2010, 11, or 12 in the same group as 13,14, or 16 though. You can easily chalk those first 3 up to a bad bounce or 2. These last 3 of 4 years though, it’s not pretty. And you can say that the rest of the world has caught up to us, but you would have said the same thing from 98-01, or 04 depending on how pessimistic you are.
1 thing we can all likely agree on is that this is no longer an aberration that Canada’s goaltending is weak. We have a big problem in this country producing goaltending right now that needs to be fixed. Even the kids like Subban and Blackwood who are higher picks are viewed as projects on draft day. Fucale and Comrie have been exceptions to the rule (unfortunately for Canadians they came along at the same time). We just simply are not producing goaltenders, especially young ones.
So what is the answer? I truly don’t know. Finding ways to make goaltending more appealing and affordable would be a start. Also another maybe small thing to consider is that when I was growing up (get off my lawn!) goaltenders had personality and were fun to watch. Roy, Belfour, Hasek, Potvin, Cujo, Richter, Ranford, Moog, all these guys were fun to watch play. They had unique masks (well, Hasek’s was unique in that it was awful), and gear that made them appealing to kids. It’s just not the same any more. Not to say that THIS is the problem, but I really do believe it plays a part.
But isn’t it weird that goaltending shows up on weaker rosters…is the roster weak because of bad goaltending, or does the goaltending get exposed because of a weak roster?
This team had FAR too many passengers. Brayden Point….like I hate to say this about a 19 year old kid, but he might go down as one of the worst captains in Canadian history at this event. I do wonder if Dave Lowry felt he couldn’t name Hicketts as his captain just because of the look (being his head coach in Victoria). But no doubt Hicketts was the leader of this team and Point was a passenger. Jake Virtanen, wow. All I can say is that Craig Button warned us all in 2014 that Virtanen didn’t have the hockey sense. Button had Virtanen 43rd in that draft while the rest of the hockey world was looking at him sideways. He more than any other skater cost Canada today.
They weren’t the only 19 year olds. Perlini, Fleury, Quenneville, I can’t think of a 2014 drafted kid that played well other than Roland McKewon (remember, Hicketts wasn’t drafted). I don’t know what’s happend to Michael Dal Colle, but is he REALLY worse than Brendan Perlini? When they were drafted, viewed as pretty similar guys except Perlini was extremely soft, that hasn’t changed.
Something also brought up today that shouldn’t be ignored, I believe it was Bob Stauffer who pointed it out on twitter. Dave Lowry coaches the most penalized team in the WHL in Victoria. So we really shouldn’t be surprised that Team Canada lacked discipline. And that is on coaching. Tougher to emphasis in a short tournament with a new team, but it can be done.
When Canada rattled off 5 straight, coaching was a much bigger deal. Brent Sutter got appointed the head coach before the 2005 WJC, and when he was appointed he was going to be THE guy moving forward. Once he stepped down, it became Craig Hartsburg who had been his right hand man and he led Canada to back to back golds. Finally, Pat Quinn was the perfect coach for the 09 team. If the tournament had not been on North American ice, would probably be better served going another direction. But Quinn was perfect that time.
The big ice factor cannot be overstated. It hurts our kids more than most. Only the U.S. might be effected as much, but they draw from a lot more NCAA kids than Canada does. We are so used to playing along the wall because it’s a must on our ice. European teams know to avoid the wall and use the extra room to their advantage, we don’t. That Team Canada we saw today didn’t look much different from the one in 2013 and 14 who had the same issues. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, Canada’s best move when putting together WJC teams when the tournament is on European ice might be to get a coach from one of the European teams. Ralph Kruger? Guy Boucher? Marc Crawford? Doug Shedden? Lots of good candidates. It would still be an adjustment, but Brent Sutter, Steve Spott, Dave Lowry, they aren’t used to coaching or playing on the big ice. Might not hurt to have someone behind the bench who is.
As for next year’s group, it is always difficult to tell who might be there. I would guess Matt Barzal will be the catalyst up front. Travis Konecny will be the captain should he return, but Philly is going to have a tough time keeping him off the team. Beauvillier, Chabot, Gauthier depending on who drafts him all should be back. I would guess though that Strome, Marner and Crouse are all in the NHL. Nick Merkley should be a lock (I’m guessing his skating kept him off more than anything this time around, next year on North American ice it isn’t AS big of a deal), Nolan Patrick is likely a lock and should be one of Canada’s most vital forwards. Again though, at least at this point, goaltending looks bleak, and the D doesn’t look much better although Chabot with Jakob Chychrun would give them a few studs that they lacked this year.
Once again, it sucks. 3 of the last 4 WJC Canada has come home without a medal. Then again, if Canada won every year what would be the point in watching? A little adversity isn’t a bad thing to face in the long run, but there hasn’t been this poor of a medal run since Canada went 3 straight years (79-81) without a medal. Still not a case where we should lose our minds, or have say have a summit….
But Hockey Canada needs to start coming up with answers to these questions. Shit will happen here and there, but 3 out of 4 years with no medals, not by coincidence on European ice, something needs to change.
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