Thursday, February 23, 2006

I don't know which national hockey program is in wider disarray the morning after the big disaster.

Team USA immediately began fingerpointing after being eliminated 4-3 by Finland. That score doesn't look too bad considering how well the Finns have played, but the Americans showed all the jump of a John Tesh CD for 48 of the 60 minutes of play.

Mike Modano railed about having to book his own flights to the Olympics. Yes, I'm sure spending five minutes on (or even more likely, that 30-second phone call to your agent) had such a lasting effect that it directly led to your benching in the third period of yesterday's game.

The Americans simply didn't have the talent to win a medal, much less the gold. Who were the Europeans supposed to fear, Eric Cole? Jordan Leopold? When you're relying heavily (pun intended) on Keith Tkachuk, you have serious issues.

North of the border, the Canadians did have the talent -- they simply played the wrong game for the occasion.

With the inclusion of bruisers like Todd Bertuzzi and Shane Doan, the expectation was that Team Canada would bang and bump, wearing down the quicker Europeans over time. Instead, the only big hit in any game was Darius Kasparitis's clean destruction of Simon Gagne with a butt check.

The Canadian offense seemed to be the same replay over and over -- dump the puck in and try to center it in front of the net. Unlike themselves, unfortunately, the opposition had defensemen who could handle the puck, and fans were treated to the sight of Team Canada forwards quickly retreating as the play sailed past them into their own end.

Defensively, head coach Pat Quinn and the team orchestrated one big pilon drill for the opposition forwards, with the Canadians unable to keep the Europeans from going wide and dominating play near the net. The aforementioned inability to skate the puck out also led to both numerous turnovers and calls for Chris Pronger to suddenly develop a groin problem to clear the way for taxi squad member Dan Boyle.

Team Canada general manager Wayne Gretzky will bear much of the blame, and he should. Including Bertuzzi instead of Eric Staal, Jason Spezza or even Sidney Crosby was not only a mistake, but also a political misstep.

But others, including Quinn and his coaching staff, must have had a reasonable amount of say in personnel decisions, and certainly none of them made any major adjustments in Turin. This was simply a poorly constructed roster and gameplan, and hopefully all involved will learn from that in 2010.

Unfortunately, Team Canada might be starting from scratch. Joe Sakic and several other key players may be out of the game by the time Vancouver rolls around, and the exclusion of the youth in this tourney could haunt the Canadians on their home soil.

Hopefully, Staal and the rest of the kids are as quick to gain experience as they are on the ice.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

I don't know if this was a pledge initiation, public drunkenness or just inspired use of cleaning equipment, but someone probably won't be allowed back to the car wash anytime soon.