Well that sucked. Not the game, the game was incredible. Quite literally one of the best hockey games we’ll ever see. And from a growing the game or growing the World Juniors aspect, it was a perfect outcome. And if we want this tournament to mean something, we can’t win all the time (we also can’t give it to the same area three times in four seasons IIHF…) We have to go through stretches where we only win gold once in eight years. But that pesky outcome, as a Canadian, that was a pretty good kick in the balls.
And yes, I was wrong. I puffed my Canadian chest out and declared Canada would win and win decidedly yesterday. Meh. I’ve been wrong a TON on here, and I’ll be wrong a TON moving forward. Canada was just as good as I suspected they would be, but full credit to the Americans for having tremendous resiliency. I in no way believe they were a better team, but they weren’t a worse team, and there were a few times (4-2 specifically) where they could have easily folded their tent and gone home. Nobody would have said shit to them. They didn’t, and now they’ve won three World Juniors in the last eight years…to Canada’s one.
Ironically now, we’re on basically the same eight year run as we were from 1997-2004. One gold in eight years, four silvers (we’ve only got three silvers in this stretch), one horrible finish (8th in 98, this time around it was the 6th last year), and two bronze medals (this might be the most troubling for people this time around, as we’ve only got one bronze in three trips to the bronze medal game).
It seems like I’ve been writing this every year now since I’ve started this blog, but it feels like the reminder always needs to be there. We’re still pumping out much more talent than anyone else, but for whatever reason with the World Juniors our country just goes through these stretches where we get away from doing things right. And I really do believe a lot of it is mental. When the pressure is off some of these teams, they’re unbeatable. You can point to goaltending, and that is the main thing for sure, but it wasn’t last night, and last night you could always tell with the Americans that they weren’t fearful of the situation. Zero pressure on the States, all the pressure on Canada. The States have been getting the best of Canada lately too, so even though these are completely different teams then in years past, it still plays a factor just like it does with the Swedes never winning elimination games, yet dominating the round robin. In 09, the States had a pretty similar team in terms of talent as they did this year, yet when they played Canada on New Years Eve and jumped out to a 3-0 lead, you had zero doubt Canada was going to comeback.
So once again, we’re left looking forward to next year.
It’s always so difficult to project. You just never know who’ll end up making their NHL club. But I would guess that seven of the nine potential returnees will be back. I’d say Carter Hart, Dillon Dube, Taylor Raddysh, Michael McLeod, Jake Bean, Kale Clague, and Dante Fabbro are close to locks to being back with this club. The two who I believe are unlikely yet eligible would be Tyson Jost and Pierre-Luc Dubois. Dubois wouldn’t disappoint anyone if he wasn’t back, he was very underwhelming in this tournament. Jost, who as you know by now I’m a massive fan of, started off amazing and really cooled off as the tournament went on. He is your captain in 2018 should he be back, I guarantee that.
The key there though is a 19 year old Carter Hart. That COULD be the difference, though in 2004 I remember thinking there was no way goaltending would be a problem with Marc-Andre Fleury coming back after nearly carrying Canada to gold by himself in 03. Anyway, Carter Hart and then I’m guessing at this point Mike DiPietro of the Windsor Spitfires looks like he would be the backup, but it’s still way too early to project other players on the team. If you want some names who appear to be safe bets for next seasons team….Brett Howden, Sam Steel, Cliff Pu, Dennis Cholowski, Jordan Kyrou, Owen Tippett, Cale Makar, and Maxime Comtois. But again, who in the freaking hell knows at this point what’ll happen. In 2013 I guessed Max Domi, Tom Wilson, and Ryan Pulock would all be on the 2014 team….very wrong, though Domi definitely should have been!
I don’t like writing this piece. I like the one I did two years ago talking about how that may have been the best team Canada ever in a non lockout year. Man, I’ve done every type of piece on Canada losing the World Juniors now you can imagine. In 2012 it was how we just had a few bad bounces. 2013 it was how many things needed to change (which they have thankfully). 2014 I talked about how more than anything the losing had become mental both for other teams believing they could beat Canada, and Canada not believing in themselves. Last year I think I spoke about how things weren’t near as bad as they seemed as they were a bad bounce away from possibly knocking off the Fins who went on to win it all.
So forgive me if this piece is a little all over the place, but I’ve wrote about all the other reasons before. Nothing really left to be said. Hats off to our boys. This is one of the few years that we had a damn good team, and just lost to another damn good team. A shame that it wasn’t decided in a better way, but in fairness:
Max Pacioretty: I didn't hear so many people complaining about the (world junior) shootout when Price and Toews won.
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) January 6, 2017
He’s right…that was pretty sweet. Let’s close with that video, and hope more fun like this is on the way for Canadian hockey fans.
NOTE: Steve Downie misses the opening shot. I’m certain this was Don Cherry’s fault for not showing enough shootouts on Rock’em Sock’em videos…
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