I took some time out before writing this piece to really figure out how I wanted to express my opinions on the loss. Not wanting to let emotions and rash decisions fuel the words, but really to reflect on what the product on the ice reflected for Team USA. This roster was constructed to beat one team: Team Canada. The gritty additions to lineup such as Justin Abdelkader and Brandon Dubinsky were to pester, annoy, and mentally disrupt guys like Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, and Jonathan Toews. The problem with this mentality? They’re already used to that. Playing guys like Dubinsky and Abdelkader all year long helps the elite players that they are to cross that bridge and paly their game at this international stage. In order to beat Team Canada, you have to beat them at their own game.
The United States ultimately put themselves behind the eight ball early in their tournament preparation by hiring head coach, John Tortorella. Through if the style of play was to annoy and antagonize the opposition the entire tournament, they certainly got their man. What lessons have we learned from the 2015-16 Stanley Cup Playoffs when the high-flying and speed demon, Pittsburgh Penguins took on the San Jose Sharks? Speed kills. Skill dominates. You can’t hit what you can’t catch.
The United States got the early goal on a gritty rebound from defenseman, Ryan McDonagh as he luckily crashed the net and was at the right place at the right time. The team got what they wanted early on, took the home crowd out of it, and were on the right course to victory. However, after a couple of defensive lapses and skill, Matt Duchene and Corey Perry helped Team Canada to go back up on top 2-1. Team Canada ultimately defeated The United States roster not only on the scoreboard 4-2, but in every aspect of the 60 minute game. While the team was busy preparing to defend against the top rated players on Canada’s roster, their “depth” players were the ones that stole the show.
Can’t help but wonder what the United States would have been capable of doing had they modeled their best player available roster and competed skill against skill. When a goal is needed against Team Europe or Canada to bring life back to the bench, where was Phil Kessel? Tweeting about the United States Team:
“Just sitting around the house tonight (with) my dog. Felt like I should be doing something important, but couldn’t put my finger on it.”
Talent was left off of the United States roster that could very well have been a deciding factor in this tournament. When the top players on your roster fail to convert throughout the game, its your depth that pulls you up. Highly skilled hockey players were left off the roster to make room for grit and tenacity. Players such as: Phil Kessel (PIT), Tyler Johnson (TBL), Paul Stastny (STL), Kyle Okposo (BUF) were all left off of this roster to fill the philosophy that was “grind it out” hockey.
Even leaving the forwards out of the picture. Going with the heavy and two-way style up front could potentially have worked if there were a bigger offensive power on the backend. I still stand by my opinions on Dustin Byfuglien and his offensive talents. He had a bad tournament and was not deployed properly. However, players such as Erik Johnson and Jack Johnson could have been replaced with that of Kevin Shattenkirk (STL), Justin Falk (CAR), and Keith Yandle (FLA). All three of these players have proven themselves to be not only high-powered offensive talent, but highly talented defensemen alone. Team USA could have counted themselves blessed to have any one of these three in their lineup to help quarterback their Power Play or help control the neutral and defensive zones.
At the end of the day, however, the lineup is what the lineup is. And players, coaches, and fans must sit back and watch what the teams of executives come together to put out on the ice. Said coach John Tortorella about his team:
“You guys can beat up the roster all you want. You look at some of those players on our roster, there are some pretty good skilled players and we just simply did not do enough offensively and we self-inflicted quite a bit in two games.”
Offense was needed to beat Team Canada and Europe you say? Offense was needed to win a game? You don’t beat speed and skill with grit. Maybe it was the late Herb Brooks who said and did it best, as I attempt to get this quote as close as possible: “You don’t win by protecting, you attack. You beat them at their own game” when discussing about the powerhouse Soviet Union in the 1980s. To show success again internationally, the United States need show what kind of talent has grown in its own backyard.
Back to the drawing board, boys