I was watching TSN do their top 40 list (that they released yesterday morning….don’t know if that’s the best way to get ratings, I don’t see networks tweeting out spoilers for their shows) and like the sucker I am I made sure I was home from work in time to watch it. I don’t know why, I’m a loser apparently. I had the PVR set for it, there was no need to get back right at 5:30 MST. But I’m a sucker for lists, and it got me thinking of doing a few more lists about past World Junior teams.
You won’t ever see this list on TSN I can tell you that. It isn’t exactly a flag waving list! But I think it’s interesting to look back at some of these teams that basically have been forgotten….for good reason! Now before I begin, this list is pretty much from 1990 on. The program of excellence didn’t begin until 1982, and I wasn’t born until 1983, and while I have a ridiculous memory I have yet to master remembering things that I never seen….YET….
5) 2011 – I think I had to put this team on the list even though it was really only 1 awful period of hockey, but we had never seen anything like it by Team Canada at this tournament. Going into the tournament the big worry was “how will they get by the Americans?” I couldn’t really understand that because while the Americans had 8 returning kids, led by Braydon Schenn and Ryan Ellis Canada had 15 kids that were 1st round picks, no other country even came close to that. But as usual it got totally lost on pundits that Canada was still icing a great roster.
Just like the 1998 Olympics where we feared the Americans, Canada came out and curb stomped them. Also just like the 98 Olympics, the country then had a feeling of being able to breeze to a gold medal. We really had that feeling after the 2nd period of the gold medal game, up 3-0. Then I’m sure you all recall what happened in the 3rd. Silver is never anything to be ashamed of, but this team should have won gold despite the poor goaltending.
4) 2001 – If I counted right, I believe I counted 8 returning kids from the 2000 bronze medal team. That is a very high number! Yet, this team did no better than the previous year, and actually it could be argued that they were a bit worse. They ended up 3rd in their pool, and barely snuck by the Americans in the quarters before being disposed of by the Fins in the semi’s. Being fair, this was the dead puck era and things were just flat out bizarre in hockey. But you can’t have 8 returnee’s (1 being starting goaltender from 2000 and 1999 1st round pick Maxime Ouellet), 2 top 5 picks from the previous draft (Heatley and Torres), Nick Schultz who had made the Minnesota Wild that season, 2 more 1st round picks from the previous draft and only get bronze.
I know we are talking about the era in which Hockey Canada was at an all time low (and people made fun of the hockey summits that were held in the late 90’s to fix how we were developing players), but this team still should have done better than 3rd place in their group and a bronze. It’s not like this was a roster full of guys that never went anywhere, 11 of the kids are NHL regulars today.
3) 2012 – didn’t have to look far to find 5 or 3 on this list. Something didn’t feel right about this team right from the get go last year. Tyler Bunz was probably the best goaltender of the 4 invited to camp and got left off the team because he didn’t have a great camp. I’m not real sure how 3 days has THAT big of an impact. They had very little bite in the lineup, a kid like Brad Ross was one of the final cuts in favor of a kid like Tanner Pearson, and sure enough when Devante Smith-Pelly went down in the first game they had nobody to step into that role. I recall going into the semi-final people were sky high about this team. They had dominated their pool.
The problem with that was their pool was awful! And much like 2011, they really only had the 1 game where things went wrong, but man alive did they go wrong! I know, they came back hard in the 3rd and made it a game. But to dig that deep of a hole was inexcusable and I’m sure some of you watched the replay of the game on TSN a few nights back, it was humilating. What made it horrible was the fact that it wasn’t the Russians beating us, it was Kuznetsov and Yakupov beating us. Kuznetsov was the top player in that tournament without a doubt, but could Don Hay really not figure out that putting Murray and Hamilton out there against Kuznetsov wasn’t working?! This team for me gets the nod for 3rd over the 01 team because they were on home ice. You could say that can hurt you with so much pressure, but this was the only time in the “program of excellence era” that Canada has lost on home soil.
2) 1998 – this wasn’t an amazing team, but I think the country expected a better finish than 8th. They lost the 7th place game to KAZAKHSTAN! Somwhere Borat was smiling. It is just mind blowing to think that this ACTUALLY HAPPENED….but it did! It’s almost funny looking back, but it wasn’t at the time. This kicked off the streak of 7 years without a gold, and talk about a way to kick it off. I won’t even bother running down what happened game to game because they were terrible throughout the tournament. It definitely was one of Canada’s worse rosters ever sent to a World Juniors, so had this team come in 2nd or 3rd then they wouldn’t be on this list.
Only 1 forward on this roster that was over 17 (Lecavalier and Tanguay were on the team but both were draft eligible) could actually score in the NHL and that was J.P. Dumont. The other forwards that have had careers have all been grinders….or dirtbags in the case of Matt Cooke. But they had Luongo and Mathieu Garon in net. That alone should have got them 4th!!! I recall there was a ton of controversy with the way Real Paiement picked this roster, mainly that he took as many kids from the Q as he could. Tough to argue that he did a pretty awful job in hindsight. They lost a 7th place game to KAZAKHSTAN, did I mention that yet?!?
1) 1992 – has to be 92. Believe it or not these players were on the roster. Eric Lindros who was by then 18 and had already played in 2 World Juniors (dominated the 91 tourny). Scott Niedermayer, who was also 18 at this tournament (although this wasn’t his fault, he was still named top defenseman of the tourny). And finally in net was the best goaltending prospect in the world at the time, 19 year old Trevor Kidd who was the starter for the 91 gold medal winning team. Say what you want about Kidd’s career and how hilarious it is that the Flames traded up with the Devils to take him and the Devils took Brodeur with the Flames pick…at the time, Kidd was a stud (and always rocked sweet gear #checkeredpads )
Now, you could argue that other than those 3 and Martin Lapointe they didn’t have much else on the roster. But that is absurd. If you have those 3 pillars to build around then you should probably contend for gold. Like I’m thinking gold 50/50, should get at least silver, bronze is a huge disappointment. Well, this team went well beyond that. Now I’m too young to remember specifics about this tourny, but I’m guessing that barely scraping by Germany 5-4 in the opener didn’t leave people with a lot of confidence. They didn’t exactly boat race the Swiss either in the 2nd game.
They tied the next 2 games against a good Swedish team and probably a tough Fin team. So maybe they were getting things under control? Well, the 5-3 loss to the Americans would have removed all doubt. They then finished strong. They were defeated in their last 2 games to Czecheslovakia and CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States….better known as Russia) by a combined score of 13-3. You definitely read that correct! They finished 6th in the tournament. I don’t think anyone would argue this is easily the biggest disaster for Canada in World Junior history. As hands down as it is that the 2005 WJC team is the best ever, hands down this team was the most disappointing ever….and 2000 might have been the worst team we’ve ever sent, but that’s a story all in itself.
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