Team USA’s exit from the World Cup of Hockey is something I have mixed feelings about.
On one hand, I’m sorry for the players. They did as they were told and as they had been selected to do. They were chosen for grit and for the physical aspects of the game. They played to those guidelines. It wasn’t enough.
So on the other hand, I hope that this will help spur the future Team USA management groups into considering all aspects of the game as opposed to only the physical ones. Coach Quenneville once said something that boiled down to: if a team is focused on hits, that means they don’t have the puck. The self-congratulatory way the Team USA management proclaimed that they had built a team to be gritty failed to take into account a need to score goals.
They decided that skill players could be interchanged for players that liked to play a physical game, and players on the blue line should be big and imposing as opposed to players inclined to moving the puck forward. How did they expect that to go? You can play a physical game all you want, but if the opponent is simply faster than you, how are you going to hit them? How do you catch them to get the puck back?
To me, after looking at the roster, I was skeptical, but it was really the coaching decisions that made me feel like the ending was inevitable. Starting Quick over Bishop? Byfuglien is the healthy scratch? I mean, okay, yeah, maybe, but you have to play smart. You have to make creative plays and you have to move fast. Just playing a gritty game isn’t going to win it for you.
And while Team USA going out is sad, it’s not surprising.
Team North America going out? Now that’s disappointing beyond imagination. This team is something unprecedented.
The amount of raw talent on Team North America is unreal. Not only are they fast, they’re creative. They’re willing to try plays and combinations that some of the more experience players won’t. Chris Chelios rightfully said that they’re willing to try things because they don’t see them as being impossible yet. The talent of this team, the unique blend of speed and skill is something we won’t likely see again. Even if the NHL does a World Cup with another Team North America, and McDavid, and Eichel, and Matthews are all still eligible, it’d be insane for their respective nations to allow them to play for anyone but their own country.
McDavid has already said he wants to play for Team Canada in the next one. And Team Canada would be foolish to not allow it. I would expect similarly with some of the other younger guys. If they even have another Under 24 team for the next World Cup.
Team North America was fascinating to watch. Dynamic, fast, smart, enthusiastic. It’s incredibly disappointing that we won’t get to see them play further.
I hope Team North America understands how much the hockey community appreciated them. The fastest game in sports, and they not only made it faster, but they played it with so much skill and genuine love for the game. This is the future of hockey, and it’s beautiful.
To Team North America: Thank you. It was an absolute pleasure watching you play.
And to Team USA: what did you expect lol