Team USA Eulogy

It’s not a secret that USA hockey failed at the World Cup of Hockey.

Their failure was catastrophic.  It was the first time the Americans have ever gone win less during international play.  That’s pretty bad.

Where did it all go wrong?  The Americans talked their talk but could never walk their walk.  The truth is, they were so bad everywhere that there isn’t one thing to pin point.  If there is, we may never know.

Yes the coaching was bad, but all the players still wouldn’t say a bad thing about Tortorella even after defeat.  The reason they hired Tortorella was to play a style of play to beat Canada.  The reason they picked the players they did was to beat Canada.  The reason the played the way they did is because they just wanted to beat Canada.

The thing is, USA was so set on just beating the Canadians that they did just that.  They ran over the Canadians 4-2 in their first exhibition game.  They did exactly what they said they were going to do; be physical, be in your face, and beat Canada.  The problem was it was for a game that didn’t matter.

So what happened after that?  Maybe team USA wore themselves out.  The very next night they played Canada, with Canada sitting their captain Sidney Crosby, and lost 5-2.  There was even more physical play and penalties, how the Americans wanted and intended to win, but they didn’t.  So they said the right things, said it was an exhibition game and they will get better and move on.

Up next was their final exhibition game against Finland.  We wouldn’t know it at the time but they would ultimately Finnish tied for last with the Fins, who would only score a whopping 1 goal during round robin play.  In this exhibition game, the USA went up 3-0 in the second period and would hold on to win 3-2.  Were they focused for this game? Maybe.  Maybe to fine tune who would score their goals and who would play with who but that’s about it.  Were they focused on Team Europe, who the USA would play in their first game out of three?  A Team Europe team that many were picking to be swept under the rug by everyone largely in part due to an anemic exhibition showing… No the USA was here to beat Canada, not to focus on these lesser games.

Turns out, they should have been focused on beating these lesser teams.  If USA would have said the opposite things, like “Let’s not worry about Canada, they’re really not as good as people think” or “We have to stay focused on our team and the next game” they would have been better off.  They obviously knew Canada was the better team because they are.  It’s not fair how good Canada is but that’s the truth, and if USA shoved them aside from a media stand point, it might have played mind games with the Canadians and not the Americans.  If they just focused on getting things as right as they could in a short tournament, winning the games you’re supposed to and making it to the semi-finals or finals to take on Canada, guess what, there’s your chance to beat Canada again.  Only this time it is for something other then want and 2 points in round robin play.

When the Americans stepped foot on the ice against Team Europe, they weren’t there.  I grew just as disinterested as the Americans looked as they were out played, out skated, and just out smarted by a team that they didn’t want to play.  They wanted to play Canada.  They didn’t want to play this team of misfit hockey players.  Because of that, the Americans got embarrassed 3-0 and now they couldn’t just beat Canada, they had to.

While the Americans got beat by Team Europe, they looked like ghosts.  Everything that they had talked about being wasn’t there.  They wanted to be physical yet Tortorella scratched Dustin Byfuglien.  What?  They still outhit Team Europe 25-19, and even out shot them 35-17, but it didn’t seem like it.  They looked porous, they looked like a team that didn’t care.  That was the worst part of their defeat is they had no passion for the game they were in.  If you want to play the big boys, regardless of what sweater they put on, you have to have passion and pride.  It was imminent early on this team didn’t have these things.  For what reasons, we many never know.  All the Americans knew now is they had to do another 180 and get back to that style, that passion, in order to keep their chances alive.

Against the Canadians, for about 5 minutes, it looked like they were on track.  The Americans came out early and matched Canada’s speed and passion and scored the first goal.  Things were looking up.  Then in the matter of 14 seconds, it was over.  Canada scored two Quick goals and the Americans were defeated.  They never found there game after back to back goals and went on to lose to the only team they came here to beat, 4-2.

Personally, they were still in the game after the second goal until Tortorella used his challenge to review a fluky but good hockey goal.  It was a shock, Quick batted away an easy puck that was shot on him right into a charging Corey Perry who then propelled the puck into the net.  It was a good hockey goal.  The ref was watching it the whole time, it was a good hockey goal.  Tortorella was probably still looking up at the replays from Canada’s first goal and didn’t even see the actual play on the ice and was stunned.  So he challenged.  It was the wrong move.  The players knew it was a goal by the look on their faces and they had to sit there, and not get coached, while the refs confirmed it was a good hockey goal.  Tortorella could have pulled Quick to buy some time, talked to him and tell him to settle down while Bishop finished the first period and then decide who to start the second period with after the first period was over.  Tortorella could have actually called his timeout and coached his players, telling them “Hey, lets start playing these guys the way we we’re supposed to play them, hard and physical.  Set the tone. Put this behind you, we must win this game, and we can win this game.”  Tortorella did none of this.  And after that, his players did none of the things they were sent there to do either.

The Americans still had one game left, a pride game against the Czech Republic, and they even lost that game 4-3.  The funny thing is the Americans finally showed a little bit of why they were there and what they could do with a late rally in the game.  They were banging bodies and controlling the play, but their come back fell short and they finished play with zero points.  But, in an ironic scene to end all of the round robin play, Dustin Byfuglien ended up in a scrum with just about everyone on the ice for the Czechs.

Now that it is all said and done for the American’s, it was a perfect, disastrous storm that doomed their fate.  They played and beat Canada with exactly how they said they would when it didn’t matter.  They faced a Team Europe team that wasn’t supposed to matter in a trap game before Canada.  They hired a coach who was there for one reason and not his ability to out coach anyone or make quick adjustments to stop the bleeding.  They picked players for a role, not a team.  They were there for a task, not a mission.  All of this happening while young Americans are thriving on the young superstar team of North America.

Going forward, all is not lost for American hockey.  But right now, it is a gaping wound that may not be healed for a while, and we have oh so many things to blame it on.  It’s the American way after all.



One thought on “Team USA Eulogy”

  1. I feel like you and USA Hockey are giving Torts too much credit. Guy’s a hot head, too emotional, too knee-jerky, I’ve never liked him as a coach. As soon as I read that he was the guy they picked, my stomach was in knots about the whole tournament. Bad enough that we just don’t have the sort of skill players Canada has (sure, Kane, but really who else? Canada’s stacked with ’em!), add to that a coach who rattles easy and it’s a recipe for failure.

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