4 years in a row now. It was by far the worst 60 minute performance Team Canada has had at the World Junior’s since at least 2001. There was sheer outrage on twitter while watching the game. The account “@TJ_Soups” in particular wouldn’t shutup and quit bitching about it. That guy is a moron. Sure he is handsome, well liked, famous, high IQ, but he is a moron….So the question has become what can Hockey Canada do to fix this as this is the 2nd year in a row we will play for the Bronze.
I will start at the top. Since former Edmonton Oilers head scout Kevin Pendergast took over as head scout for Hockey Canada the selection process has become very questionable. The last 2 years I have been left scratching my head at some of the decisions. The first one that stands out for me is that he stated neither Zachary Fucale or Eric Comrie were invited to the try out camp because “they aren’t very strong physically at this point”. Weird, I could have sworn goaltending is about stopping the puck. KP is always trying to out think the room.
Mark McNeill got on the team because he was 19 years old over Sean Monahan who is the better player. When Charles Hudon went down it should have been Monahan and not McNeill getting the call. Monahan brings similar tools to the table as McNeill, but is a much better skater and better offensively. From everything I heard about the selection camp, Monahan was the far better player of the 2. I’m a Mark McNeill fan too, but he just hasn’t progressed since the 2011 U18’s and didn’t have the speed they should have been looking for.
But McNeill is far from the worst decision. No thought was given to the fact that they would be playing on the big ice surface in this tourny. You need speed! Canada got drastically out skated by Team USA in both games. This was NOT the tourny to be taking a kid like Anthony Camara or Brett Ritchie over Hunter Shinkaruk. PK specialist Tyler Wotherspoon wasn’t needed over his Portland teammate Derrick Pouliot who has been pretty even with Morgan Rielly in terms of play this season. Frank Corrado being cut shocked people that were in the know and without a doubt should have been on the team ahead of Wotherspoon and Murphy. Again, trying to out think the room.
They refused to simply take the best team. I had talked about this with some knowledgeable hockey people before the selection camp. Bob McKenzie kept saying all 3 of Drouin, MacKinnon and Shinkaruk wouldn’t be on the team because there wouldn’t be enough top 6 spots. When you start limiting the talent you take, you’re in trouble. They had enough talent to take 3 scoring lines, and 1 grinder line. Brent Sutter in 2005 wasn’t looking to keep guys like Nigel Dawes off the team because he wouldn’t be playing in the top 6 and Sutter is as big of a fan of grinders as there is!
Now allow me to rip apart Ryan Murphy. A friend of mine who knows the CHL inside and out told me prior to the 2011 draft that Ryan Murphy doesn’t know how to use his teammates and is a selfish player. I think we all could see that by the time the semi final game was done. Murphy has the talent, but he is awful. I said a couple times that I don’t believe Jacob Trouba will be that great at the next level because he doesn’t come off as a very smart kid, well Murphy’s play alone makes him look like an idiot.
The only reason he got on the team was because of Steve Spott being the coach. To make matters worse, Spott wouldn’t stop playing him on the 1st unit PP or in the top 4. I know Morgan Rielly was underwhelming, but he is head and shoulders above what Murphy is. Murphy has that “Kobe Bryant/Michael Jordan” attitude towards the game in that it’s his puck and he is going to go 1 on 5 and take over the game….problem is that, this is hockey. This kid will never play at the next level if he doesn’t learn to be a team guy out there. I’ve honestly never seen anything like it at this level of hockey, just awful.
But let’s go back to Spott for a second or a lot more….this was one of the worst coaching jobs I’ve seen in the last 10 years by a Team Canada head coach. Murphy being on the team and being over played was a big factor in that, but it was more than that. His bench management was terrible. He took Jonathan Huberdeau off the top line after the first USA game and I’m still asking what the reason was for that. The top line had been playing great together, Jonathan Drouin had been playing fine, there was absolutely zero reason to do so.
Canada was completely unprepared for the semi final game. Then when things started off so poorly he couldn’t settle the guys down. At the start of the 3rd period I mentioned on twitter that Spott looked more defeated than anyone else on the bench. What kind of leader is that?! He had a huge pout on his face. You’re down 4-0 but there is 18 minutes left and you have a more talented team…MAN UP!!! That bench needed a leader and Spott failed miserably.
1 thing I won’t kill Spott for though is Malcom Subban. I seen people killing him on social media. Why? You’re talking about a kid who has been the best goaltender in the OHL now for a year and a half. He was better than John Gibson in the first game between USA and Canada. He had been getting better and better as the tournament went on. Most people wanting Binnington have no idea how good or poor Binnington is. He is a good goaltender, he played in the 2011 Memorial Cup so he has experience. But he isn’t as good as Subban and anyone who follows the OHL would tell you the same thing.
Subban had ZERO chance on the first 2 goals because Team Canada had no composure in their own zone which resulted in 4 guys running to the front of the net to block shots in desperation and in turn screen Subban. On the 3rd goal my good buddy Ryan Murphy got toe dragged like he was the 6th d-man on a beer league team. Then the 4th goal was the only one you MIGHT say Subban should have had, but again it was much more piss poor defending than it was Subban letting in a bad goal. None of them were bad goals, and he made some tough saves to keep it as flattering as it was.
Hockey Canada needs to take a serious look at this process and clean up it’s act. We aren’t going to win every year, but when it’s all hands on deck and Canada gets schooled by a team that has a ton of guys that will never be NHL regulars it’s pretty bad. I don’t mean that to spit on Team USA, they played great as a unit. But Canada is a lot better than what they showed. John Gibson is great, but he didn’t have to steal that game and he frankly should have had to for Team USA to knock off Team Canada.
I mentioned before that the big ice surface needs to be taken very seriously. If you go back and look at my piece on the potential 2014 Canadian Olympic team I harp on that a ton! I’m a huge Ryan Getzlaf guy and said I wouldn’t take him on that team simply because I want as much speed as possible on the team. Olympic hockey is played at another level and you can’t afford to have many guys that can’t fly. Same thing should go for the under 20 team.
Something that Bob Stauffer mentioned on his show today was that the under 17’s should go down from 5 teams to at least 3 and I completely agree. West, Ontario, and East is what it should be. I can’t understand why Hockey Canada believes we need 5 teams in that tournament. 3 teams would do the trick and more guys would be able to play with each other at that younger age and develop some chemistry.
Another thing for me is that we have completely got away from taking the best head coach again. When Brent Sutter was brought in it was because Hockey Canada wanted to have the best coach possible coaching their team. But in the last 3 or 4 years it has got back to just taking a coach with a decent track record. I didn’t like Don Hay being head coach, and I didn’t like Steve Spott being head coach. Get the best guy you can! And something else Stauffer brought up today was when it is played on the big ice surface we need to have coaches on the staff that are familiar with that style of game.
Finally for me in light of the Spott/Murphy disaster the coach needs to be removed from the decision when it comes to selecting his own guys. That was a flat out disgrace and it’s not like Murphy just played poorly at the tournament. Craig Button said on the record that Murphy was the worst player at the selection camp. Why is it that so many guys get cut or taken based on what happens in those 3 days yet he gets taken??? The politics going on in selecting this team are getting absurd, it’s not just Spott taking Murphy. At least they seem to have gotten away from the ridiculous theory of taking guys just because they play on a good line no names mentioned Greg Nemisz.
Having broke this all down and ripped on a lot of guys….like Murphy and Spott….this isn’t like when Canada went 7 years without gold. They’ve had the best team in the round robin in 3 of the last 4 years and the other year they lost to Sweden in a shootout otherwise they may have been that year too. But tweaks to how we are doing things should get the team over the hump.
Again next year we will be loaded with talent and be among the favorites to bring home gold. I could see no returnees on next years team, which actually might work to Canada’s advantage. Goaltending shouldn’t be a big issue next year (not that I thought it was this year) with both Zachary Fucale and Eric Comrie likely being ready to take over in net for the next 2 tournaments.
The blueline still could be great. Griffin Reinhart to me is the top candidate to be back as I believe he needs another year of seasoning in the WHL. Matthew Dumba may finally get his shot to be on the team, as could Derrick Pouliot and Slater Koekkoek of the Peterbourgh Petes. Ryan Pulock should be on the team but he could end up being rushed like any of these guys. As long as Canada can pick from 4 of these 5 d-men I really like how the blueline could look.
Up front we could have Connor McDavid making his World Junior debut as a 16 year old. This kid has tore up the OHL this season and I would guess will be a lot better a year from now. He could be joined by Curtis Lazar, Max Domi, Bo Hovart, MAYBE Hunter Shinkaruk, maybe a talented yet undersized kid like Brendan Leipsic or Nicolas Petan (both of the Portland Winterhawks 2nd and 3rd in WHL scoring this season), and probably some guys that can grind like Lukas Sutter, Tom Wilson (although he might be too physical to go over which of course Canada had problems with this year) or Scott Kosmachuk. But we have a long way to go before we start debating Team Canada’s 4th line again.
But more important than who is on next year’s team is that Hockey Canada cleans up it’s act again. They’ve gotten sloppy and while an overhaul isn’t needed to the way they’re doing things, it is clear that tweaks need to be made. Let’s hope they don’t drag their feet on this and be in denial. Own your mistakes and fix them so Canada can get back to expecting gold rather than waiting for the bottom to fall out.
Follow me on twitter @TJ_Soups