They Gave me Nothing to Bitch About This Year!
So I always write a postmortem on the World Juniors. And since I started doing this in 2012, I’ve had a lot of negative shit to chew on with Team Canada! That year I basically said they were still the best even though they lost. In 2013 I destroyed the job Steve Spott did coaching a super team as the two previous super teams (lockout year teams) had obliterated the tournament and they ended up finishing 4th. In 2014 my theory became that they had lost their mental edge and that other countries were now confident they could beat Canada while Canada wasn’t confident they could win anymore. 2015 it was finally a gold and I discussed whether or not it was the best non lockout team ever. 2016 it was more so about how the team wasn’t nearly as bad as they got made out to be (lost on a 5 on 3 PP goal caused by a fluke penalty to the Fins who went on to win it all). And finally last year I talked about how it really wasn’t much of a loss, just sucked that they had to lose a great game and it had to be to the Americans. So I had a main topic to chew on all of those years. This year, I’m lost! I don’t know what one thing to hit on, so instead I’ll cover a bunch of different things, not just from Canada, but from some of the other countries too. So if you’ve stayed with me thus far, you’re a true friend because both the title and that opening were pretty terrible!
I’m actually going to start with the performance of the Americans. Is it just me or are the Americans actually not that great, but rather just play way over their heads when they play Canada? Because you watch any of their non Canada games, and if they happen to win, they seem to just barely scrape by most of the time. It wasn’t just this year, last year they had trouble with the Swiss and the Russians. Of course this year they lost to the Slovaks, nearly blew the game against an overrated Finnish team, even against the Russians they had trouble before they bowed out to the Swedes. They’re developing a lot of damn good talent, but it’s very much so like winning the tournament is 2nd for them to beating Canada. As long as they beat Canada, that’s the main thing. Gold would be cool too, but beating Canada is the real victory. It’s odd.
That’s not the Swedes deal, and despite losing that heart breaker had nothing to hang their heads…or toss their medals away…about. Great team, would have been full value for a win in that game also. But the big takeaway from the tournament is just how special Rasmus Dahlin is. I wrote this back in October:
The initial reaction with Dahlin is to go nuts with this comparison (Drew Doughty). It’s so rare we see a defenceman who can excite you at both ends of the ice like Dahlin can. And remember, he’s playing against men. He can play either side of the ice, tremendous wheels, loves to play physical, great vision, I wouldn’t say he has a bomb but he has a very good shot, he’s just got elite/number one defenceman written all over him. I know some are gun shy on taking D-men high in the draft, and history proves that it’s risky, but this kids the exception to that rule. I believe that because he’s a D-man that some have been slow to realize just how special this kid is, but I believe by late June he’ll be the clear cut top pick and a franchise changer for whichever team is lucky enough to land him.
I got one right. Well, I write a lot of shit, so I get a few right, but if you check out my Saturday picks I get a lot more wrong! I think I’m even higher on Dahlin now than I was at that time. There were people who actually thought Andrei Svechnikov was a better prospect. A one dimensional winger over one of the best defence prospects we’ve ever seen. The kid does it all, and while he’s not in the McDavid class, he’s going to have a tremendous impact on whichever team drafts him (please Edmonton if they’re going to be this bad, it feels like they never win the top pick…)
As for the other big story from the Swedish end of things, I go back and forth about Lias Andersson chucking his medal in the stands. On one hand, I don’t know if I like the gesture of tossing it in the stands like he did. But listening to his post game interview, it’s simple that the kid doesn’t want silver, and what’s wrong with that?! When Canada gets silver, most of the country wants to rip the silver medals off our kids and I’m sure a lot of people take issue with nobody doing something like that. But then when someone from another country does it we should piss on it? Again, maybe don’t toss it in the stands as it made a spectacle of it, but as a guy who can’t stand losing and is labelled as over emotional, I totally get it.
How about the re-emergence of the Czech’s!? For an old guy like me, it seems like just yesterday the Czech’s were the gold standard for the dead puck era, perhaps the worst era hockey’s ever seen. Back to back golds in 2000 and 2001. But it’s been a long ass time since they were relevant in this tournament. This was just their second 4th place finish since 01, and that’s the highest they’ve finished since. They’ve obviously still got a ways to go to get back in there with the Swedes, Russians, Finns, Americans and of course Canada.
Ok, Canada. What a win! That was the best final game that Canada has won since the 2008 final. Canada never wins those! 17, 11, 10, 04, 02, 99, we always lose the heart breaker….except if we get the Swedes apparently. And who better to get the winner than Tyler Steenbergen?! A team where nobody really stood out, just extremely solid everywhere, and it’s the 13th forward who snipes the winner. Just awesome! It was the exact Team Canada win that I expected when first writing about the team back in November. Great goaltending, best blueline in the tournament (though I didn’t see that coming from Conor Timmins! And I was higher on him than most going into the draft last year, but I had no clue he was even on their radar!), and very balanced up front. No doubt they caught a break with the Czech’s upsetting the Finns, and not seeing the States again was likely a good thing because as I talked about earlier they seem to be hell bent on beating Canada, but this was the best team in the tournament.
As always, I take a look ahead at who could be on the team next season. And much like on Rasmus Dahlin, I have to do a bit of bragging. I had no idea I wrote all this last year at this time, but I guess did ok at predicting 2018, so maybe 2019 will go the same?
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.
For the record, DiPietro being left at home for Point was a complete joke and Canada is damn lucky that decision didn’t severely bite them in the ass, and also Maxime Comtois I felt the whole way through probably shouldn’t have been on the team over a kid like Nick Suzuki, Cody Glass or Owen Tippett. Not like he played bad, but probably shouldn’t have been on the team. ANYWAY…2019…
It’s actually ironic that this tourney will be back in Vancouver, because if you recall the team which won in Vancouver in 06, this team could be built a lot like that team was. Less skill, more grinders, talented but young blueline, great goaltending.
Robert Thomas is the captain should he be back. He’s tracking like he could play in the show next season, but the Blues have a deep organization. Jordan Kyrou was good enough to make the show this season and was sent back because the Blues were too deep. So I’m thinking Thomas will be back and the 1st line centre/star of the team. Joining him as returnees will be Comtois, and I believe Alex Formenton. I know Formenton came close to making the Sens out of camp, but he’s not ready to make the jump and there is no need to rush him. The aforementioned Suzuki and Glass will likely be in Vancouver as well. No need for Vegas to rush them having the success they’re having. Owen Tippett I believe is a toss up at this point. He nearly stuck with the Panthers, so we’ll see. Gabe Vilardi, Michael Rasmussen, Morgan Frost, Shane Bowers, and Jaret Anderson-Dolan are kids who at least at this point and time I would say are good bets up front.
The blueline is likely going to be pretty young with no returnees and the highest picked kid from the 17 draft likely being Pierre-Olivier Joseph. Ty Smith, Evan Bouchard, Noah Dobson and Jared McIssac are all probably locks. And again, so much can change, but those four actually all fit real well together, and this 18 draft is defence rich.
At the moment, it doesn’t look like Canada will have near the team they were able to ice this year. But for me, the big key is going to be starting goaltending, I’m calling it now, it’ll be Michael DiPietro. He should have been on this years team, a part of me believes he was left at home so there couldn’t be a goaltending controversy because I believe DiPietro was that good currently where he could have stole the job even with how good Carter Hart was. This team will have a punchers chance against what’ll be very talented American and Swedish teams, not to mention the Finns and Russians always being solid. DiPietro is the type of goaltender who can steal a tournament for a team.
For all the talk of the Americans passing Canada which the Canadian media just seems so horny to write about, Canada is a shootout loss away from winning the tournament in three of the last four years. The Americans have passed Canada in shootouts, I’m not sure they’ve passed us in any other way. As one of my good friends used to say “they can f***ing have it”. We’ll enjoy the gold which was won by scoring in a hockey game. (hell yes that was a petty cheap shot at the Americans winning in the skills competition last year!)
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