Thursday, February 23, 2006


Team Canada: Playing the Blame Game

Even though Canada has won a record amount of medals at the Torino Winter Olympics, all that most people can talk about is how poorly our men's hockey team played.

Now that Canada has been bounced from the Olympics, almost everyone is jumping on the bandwagon to cry, piss, moan, and bash Team Canada.

I normally avoid jumping on such bandwagons, but I'm pissed and I'm feeling in a ranting mood. Who the hell do I cheer for now? The Czechs? By default, that's the team I am pulling for. It's basically like cheering for the flu rather than The Clap.

It's important to note that the cliché "If only they played with more heart" is generally quite asinine. Can Canada simply will a victory by sweating bullets and playing hard? No. It's not as if Team Canada was playing against a bunch of schoolgirls. Canada was playing against world-class opposition and was clearly outplayed in all facets of the game. I hear a lot of fans crying because the men didn't display the same heart as the women. That's a fair enough assessment, but that's not the sole reason why Canada didn't play well. Heart and spirit alone do not win hockey games.

Still, what disappoints me the most is that Team Canada didn't play like a Team Canada. What I saw on the ice was a disinterested and disorganized squad that was constantly in a daze and didn't seem to really want to be there. We can normally count on Canadian teams to show heart and passion, but I got none of that from this team.

Where was the hustle? The passion? The drive to the net?

To me, this tournament was much much worse than what happened at Nagano. In 1998, Team Canada was doing great until they ran into Dominik Hasek. In this tournament, Team Canada NEVER looked good at all. Even against the Italians, Canada looked like a bunch of drunken fratboys.

Did you get the feeling that the North Americans was the one group really didn't want to be there? The Europeans love this tournament and you could see how players like Demitra and Selanne played with more feistiness than they normally do. Keith Tkachuk? He looked like he just wanted to get home and take a big bite into a real Krispy Kreme donut.


Who to blame, who to blame? There's lots to go around and I'm not the only hockey freak who is going to look for targets to throw my darts at.

1. Wayne Gretzky - We know he said he'd expect to take the blame if this team tanked. It tanked, and now the reaper has come to collect.

Although Team Canada still looked good on paper, we all know that selections were based on tenure and reputation rather than who's kicking ass in the NHL right about now. The Great Shill had to be rescued from having old men like Steve Yzerman and Mario Lemieux take up roster spots, when it was obvious that they were two steps away from the great pasture known as retirement.

Eric Staal, Sidney Crosby, and Dion Phaneuf all would have been better selections than some of the other 'established' players that Gretzky and his lack-of-brain trust took to the games. This much was obvious before the tournament and it came back to bite them. I bet the young guns would have brought a lot of enthusiasm and hustle that many of the vets seem to lack. Who in their right mind would take Adam Foote after his horrible play this season?

Todd Bertuzzi - It was Gretzky's stubborn attempt to show that he had balls that led to such a poor selection. The rest of the world got to see what we here in Vancouver see all the time; a frustrating floater who takes bad penalties and loafs around on the ice as his linemates to the dirty work. What made Bertuzzi deserving of such an honour? His play? No. His work ethic? No. The Olympics didn't put any sparkle into Bertuzzi's game and he sucked just as much as he has all season. Gretzky deserves all the crap that will be thrown his way for this selection.

2. Pat Quinn - Leafs haters will use this tournament to cry out "See, Quinn sucks as a coach. Always has and always will!"

The hallmarks of a well-coached team include cohesion, systematic play, work ethic and spirit, and on-the-fly adjustments.

Team Canada was disjointed, disinterested, and fell into the trap of being being reactive rather than proactive. Did Pat Quinn strike you as a coach who could adjust as his team will lollygagging through the Round Robin? If anything, Pat Quinn was slow to react or couldn't find the right buttons to push. Quinn showed the same stubbornness as Gretzky and seemed determined to prove that Canada would win 'his way'

3. The Players - In the end, most of the fault lies with the players. I can't feel sorry for most of them as I've rarely seem a Team Canada effort that left me so ashamed to have a team represent our country. Whether it was Chris Pronger's or Todd Bertuzzi's lack of discipline or Jarome Iginla's lack of intensity, the fact is that this group of players simply did not play anywhere near the level that we expect from them. Other than Joe Sakic, Brad Richards, and the goaltenders (who played well), they all need a 5-hour bag skate and a public apology for pretending to care.

4. The Russians - Well, if they didn't play so well, Team Canada would still be in it ;)

5. Injuries - Injuries to the D may have hurt, but every team had to deal with injuries. This is no valid excuse and we can't play the 'what-if' game.

Gretzky needs to step down and take a step back. He has to run the Coyotes (into the ground), film 100 new commercials, and deal with this whole Operation Slapshot crap. I completely understand if he decides to take a break from Team Canada and frankly, we need to see new blood take the reigns for our senior club. Pat Quinn needs to go and never be hired back and we need to have a mentality that you EARN a spot on Team Canada rather than be given the spot because you are part of The Club.

It's that "closed to everybody but Friends of Gretzky" aspect to everything Wayner gets involved in that bugs me most. It's been killing the 'Yotes and it helped kill Team Canada. Team USA should have shelved the grandpas and brought in the new blood as well. Then we wouldn't be listening to Modano bitching seconds after another loss

One thing I noticed about most USA fans is that you guys really didn't expect much from your team and/or even like your team. Even though I'm not a huge fan of some of the players on Team Canada, I expected big things from them and I cheered them on.

Team USA certainly hurt themselves with their old gramps on defense. Mike Madonna ought to shut up and put up. If I were a Team USA fan, I'd rather have some of the younger guys going all-out rather than the retreads who have little to give and don't seem to care.
If only they all played as hard as Jason Blake...
the north americans can not show up and medal due to skill levels anymore. this is a good thing. well good for the olympics, good for the world, good for hockey.

bad for usa and canada

again, neither team usa or team canada played with the intensity (heart? pah. can't always tell were a player is wearing his heart, but you can darn well tell how intense a team's effort is) that deserved a medal, and THANKFULLY they won't get any (thankfully cos they didnt deserve it- qed).

now i've read a lot of crap since (and during) and most local whiners (i.e. middle americans) like the stupid notion of "return the olympics to the amatuer roots" bahahahaa (for usa, its amatuer roots are a wjc team expected to gold who got nada, played almost exactly as pathetic as the pros in italy, and NO ONE WHO WANTS THIS AMATUER REVIVAL BOTHERED TO WATCH oshie and sir k get their one goal each.

here is the fix

a) as stated by jes: management has two jobs, to put together a winning TEAM, and to keep the team motivated and on plan. neither n.a. team's management succeeded. fire em all.

b) the intensity/desire/drive of the players. this may be unfixable, the euros certainly have had a longer dream of gold medal excellance than nhl stanley cup fever, and frankly it shows in BOTH events. however that does not mean uninsipred effort and play should go unpunished in n.a.. fire the players who the next management team feels did not play up to potential in these games

c) play the canada cup. team canada and team usa in particual (although other euro squads are starting to be nhl dominated) simply do not play as a team as much as they should, in fact there really isnt a true team usa/canada during most of the year, and during some entire years. nhlpa can set something up, canada DID set something up. playing italy's powerhouse squad once every four years does not interest make, playing em yearly or more, might. in addition the players who SHOW UP at the "lessers" should get dibs on the "majors"

d) remember, even the upset are generally talking about fixing ROOTING issues and/or PERFORMANCE of their favorite teams, the hockey i saw (darn you italy and your playing at local time !!!) was VERY good hockey. in fact better than nhl games in many major aspects (when was the last time you could say that olypic hockey was hard hitting compared to nhl and not laugh?)

fix number two: have the fans vote on em and all-star game it.

better hockey? nope. more people care about in n.a. and start complaning/chearing about it? yep lol

number three: have the games in canada next time. ooops nevr mind :)
To be honest, and this is coming from a Leafs fan who has been pro-Quinn, the players were not provided the best chance to succeed. The constraints of the system scream "SAFE", which has been a proven base to work from in the NHL and in this tournament. SAFE without calculated risk taking will get you to about .500 over a long season, but it will get you bounced in a short elimination tournament.

And good on you for hailing Brad Richards. If only we had more of him.

What struck me about Russia's play yesterday was how they used the neutral zone not only to advance the puck, but to eliminate defenders. On one particular rush, the puck never moved more than 10 feet east to west, but three players peeled off the puck and took defenders with them. It was like watching pawns move up a chess board, setting up a waiting bishop for the mate.

Basically, I think Canada's game plan was predictable, uninventive, inopportune, and way too SAFE.

Personnel issues are something I couldn't venture a guess on, as the players weren't utilized effectively. But energetic youth would've been a wise asset to have in the vault.
I would have picked Patrick Marleau over Bertuzzi, and even Marleau over Thornton. He has been on fire of late, and remember he had hat tricks in the first and second playoff rounds the last time the NHL had a postseason.

He was named offensive player of the week heading into the Olympics, but what most reporters do not mention is that he is doing it carrying a line with two rookies.

The third period against Russia was brutal. I only had a feed with Russian commentary, but Team Canada looked like they were playing in an allstar game, not in an Olympic game.
Dude! What the hell kind of reefer are you on? I actually thought that Keith Tkachuk was one of the few bright spots on the team USA.

In 2010 I hope we both do a better job of assembling the right team and of instilling more of a sense of national pride than seems to be currently exibited by the North American teams.
I don't think there is a fix for the intensity issue. You can't MAKE someone care about playing in the Olympics, and what if you fire everyone who doesn't care and wind up not sending a team at all?

The ratings on TV are bad (which I will grant you does not mean anything other than people don't like tape delay), but the corporate sponsors look at that, and corporations run the Olympics. Bode Miller and Michelle Kwan were hyped like crazy in the United States before hand, and with them both effectively gone there is no sizzle for marketers. In an article in the New York Times, Joey Cheek was mentioned as a possibility for marketing, and the first thing asked was "has he won anything?"

Unless people in North America in general care about the Olympics more, the players won't either--and if no one else cares, there is no reason for them to. Why bother playing in a tournament which you don't have any emotional attachment to?
I thought Doan played well in the final game. But every single player looked uninspired at varying times throughout the tournament.
Let's hope the Leafs Management looks to Quinn's bad coaching as one more nail in his coffin. This guy has got to go...
I wish to hell they would have marketed Joey Cheek. He's really marketable, too. He's a reasonably good looking guy, a really nice guy, and there's a whole marketing bonanza in the fact that he comes from Greensboro, North Carolina (which happens to be my town). Not exactly a hotbed for speed skating, or ice skating at all for that matter.

I could go on for hours about how the decline of patriotism in the United States may be to blame for the apathy about the Olympics, both from the athletes' side and from the audience side. I'll leave it alone, though.
You're spot on with your analysis of Team Canada, or at least I agree with you which is close enough. As far as Team USA goes, while younger might have been better, I have yet to see anyone name specific players that would have been better other than Ryan Miller and Paul Martin. Can someone tell me who should have gone? And please don't say Ryan Suter, because that kid just isn't ready.
I struggle with the idea that the north american players "didn't care" in these olympics. These guys respect the game every bit as much as the Euros. I think once the puck drops, and a bit of hitting starts, our boys are every bit as invested as them. I saw a lot of pride in the play of Team USA-but significantly more frustration. The frustration led to dumb penalties, missed opportunties, and sloppiness.

In the US, we just don't assign the same level of national prestige to olympic hockey as the Euros or Canada. The Miracle of 1980 just kind of fell into our laps. There are a select few of us die-hard US hockey fans who stew and prognosticate from the obscurity of our little Unibomber shacks about the state of Hockey USA, but the vast majority of our countrymen are, in general, very ADD-very quick to go "whatever," and click on to the next entertainment option.
I can't understand why no one is talking about the number issue. The problems with Team Canada are certainly a result of bad management decisions, but the worst of these was the decision to give Joe Sakic's number to someone who wasn't even on the roster. Of course Steve Yzerman has been a great player for Canada, and deserves to be honored. But what about Sakic? Here's a guy that's being told that he only got the captain's job by default, because there wasn't anyone better, and he isn't even respected enough by the team management to be allowed to wear his own number. Joe has been the captain in Colorado since they first started. His style is to lead by example on the ice, which I think he did very well during the Olympic tournament. But by making him give up his number, the team management came out before the tournament began and told the players that Joe wasn't really important enough to watch. I could make the argument that Joe Sakic has been more important to Canada Hockey than Steve Yzerman. Why not honor Yzerman in a different way, and show respect and support to the current captain. The lack of team cohesion and intensity was a direct result of the gross disrespect showed to Sakic before the tournament even started.
well the southern n.a. team has all the issues and they play off each other, the fans dont care much about the olympics (and honestly many ARE activily wanting minor leaguers back in the games), the players don't care, the management is weak, and you know what? IF the fans cared more, then the players prob would (well a bit more) and consistant and orangizational wide management incompentency (usa is badly handled at pretty much every level, not just olympics and wjc) would not be tolerated, would be consistantly outted in the press etc.

canada a BIT more harder to define, but i will say this, this is THE chance you guys have to make corrections. IF the fans care, and due to the location of the next game, you HAVE to make an impact on those who choose management, and those who do manage. next time this happens the usa will fail for the same old reasons and that may not be an easy fix, but team canada? you guys SHOULD be able to fix it, eh?

of course the location should help some intensity issue for both na teams but we shall see.
Some interesting analysis I agree with some of the points, the coaching was non-existent almost like they thought they had it in the bag. The player selections were made two years ago and it was like it was the old boys club and if you did not know the secret handshake you did not get into the clubhouse. With the next Olympics in Canada it will be a different team possibly from the managment on down. The main difference is the players need to be playing effectively in the NHL before you are assured of a ticket to the games.

It is easy for everyone to criticize the player selections, the coaching selections and the management team when we are comfortable sitting on our couches at home. It is a minefield to be part of the process as Wayne has said it was his team and he would be responsible if things went awry. Well he has stepped up and accepted the responsibility and will decide if wants to try it again in 4 years. My question is a simple one who else do we have and will they do a better job. It is all a throw of the dice.

Changes are necessary what they are I am not sure, I know we all have ideas good or bad. In the end it will be determined by whomever wants to step into this political quagmire and make the hard decisions that the fans will tear apart no matter what happens.
so how bout team sweden and team finland. looks like the scandinavians are doing pretty well for themselves. maybe if the czechs didnt suck so much dick it'd be a different tournament, or if canada could stop losing to teams like switzerland, or if the us didnt tie teams like latvia (wtf??!?). or maybe just if everyone caught up to scandinavia.
One thing that blew my mind was that after the Switzerland game, nobody seemed to even attempt to fix what was wrong ... everybody from Team Canada just kicked back, said "well, we started off slow in Salt Lake, too," and got swept away by a wave of nostalgia while they waited for someone to start the rally.

As for Gretzky coming back to run the team in 2010 ... if Bob Gainey or Darryl Sutter had been in charge of this festering turd of a team, do you think they'd be welcomed back with open arms? Hardly.

Hell, Gretzky couldn't even wash the jerseys without causing problems! (ba-dum-cha!)
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