Team USA: World Cup Thoughts
I’m sitting on my couch watching another episode of bad hockey featuring Team USA. Now, I don’t expect them to fly like Team North America or Team Russia. I don’t expect them to dissect other teams like Team Canada or Team Sweden. I don’t even expect them to win everything. I feel like I came into this tournament with honest expectations for the team. Make it into the semis by the skin of your teeth. Yet, even with those lowered expectations, they’ve let me down.
Honestly, not all Team USA players have been bad. The goalies were and are excellent. They are 3 of the best in the league. Some of the forwards have been good, but a little sluggish (looking at you Kane, Pacioretty). Dubinsky was brought on to bother Crosby and couldn’t succeed at that. Backes is getting old and Palmieri was invisible. Maybe Phil Kessel should’ve been doing something else this week. The forwards weren’t all bad, in fact, some forwards have impressed me with their play. Van Riemsdyk and Parise have done more than I thought they could and have been great additions.
That leads us to defense. (Side note, Team USA just allowed 2 goals in 39secs to Team Czech Republic.) This defense was set up to be “gritty” and to “battle”. But as much as I like a big hit or good fight, there is a reason Steve Ott plays 4th line. Byfuglien and Suter have been a decent pair. McDonagh has been bad on defense but ok on offense. Erik Johnson, although he laid some nice hits, put himself in bad positions and then Jack Johnson and John Carlson were useless. Where are Shattenkirk, Faulk, Okposo, Krug, Martinez, Gardiner, even Leddy? This defensive setup has been bad from the start. They have turned the puck over in the defensive zone and the neutral zone at an insane rate. They haven’t been able to get back or stay in position. They can’t keep clear the puck or up with the better skaters of other teams. I don’t know what management was thinking. They were so bad that forwards were regularly bailing them out because they weren’t getting back.
They say that “defense wins championships” and I hope Team USA management has learned this lesson. We don’t have to sacrifice offense, this isn’t a league team. We can replace a few pieces on the offense and change the defense and become a competitor. We don’t need a team built to “Beat Canada”, we need to form a team that works together. A team with an identity that can win the tournament or at least place. Canada shouldn’t be the goal. Winning should be. Let’s hope the next Olympics in South Korea produces better results…