Wednesday, February 22, 2006


Update from the Homer

For closure's sake (?), I thought Iginla was probably Canada's best forward today (him or Doan). I'm not sure what criteria Bob McKenzie and Kelly Hrudey were using on the tee-vee this evening describing him as disappointing (I heard that callers on Calgary radio were saying the same). Don't care. I watched, and I saw what I saw. He was in some good spots, and had some good chances: he just didn't put it in the net, which matched the performance of 19 other Canadian skaters. I'm not clear on what was lacking.

By the same token, maybe I should call Joe Sakic the best forward. Same deal; he tried like hell, got in good positions, but he didn't score a goal. Maybe he was. But I find it a hair depressing that Sakic has lost the quick trigger. For 15 years, Joe Sakic has been Canada's Russian. Prefers to pass, but has a deadly & quick shot when he lets it go.

Except now. His trigger just isn't there anymore. I've seen it in a half-dozen Avalanche games this year, and now most of 6 Team Canada games. And it's too bad. I love Joe and definitely think that he was the right choice as Captain of this team. But watching the games, it was patently obvious that he's (A) lost some speed, (B) lost some strength, or (C) both A&B, and that's on top of the loss of the quick release.

I hope the Colorado Avalanche maintain a respectable 8th to 10th place standing over the next 2 years, to afford Joe Sakic the dignified retirement tour I think he deserves. Hopefully, the marginal advantage he seems to have lost really is just a Gretzky-style slow decline, and not a Fleury/Lindros-style sharp decline.

Finally, Sacamano is back at the end of the week. I'm pretty sure he's been somewhat secluded, and while he might know the results, that'd be about it.

I'd really like a volunteer to pass on to him the story of the Oiler performances. His email is at the top left of this page. I don't think I have the strength.

Also, Go Russia. When we look back on this in 2 weeks or years, I'd really prefer to have lost to the Gold medallists that the guys in 4th.


Yeah, I'm finding all the usual hand-wringing slightly funny.

Truth is, there's about 4-5 other quality teams in a very short tournament, so expecting Canada to win just because WE'RE CANADA can only last so long as a delusion. Of course, not getting a medal is disappointing - don't get me wrong - but if we have any more worrisome "state of hockey" sports articles (a la Nagano) out of this I'll barf.

It's a crapshoot, but I like our chances in 2010. Whether that team will form this "gel" sports commentators speak of, well that's another story.

I don't see a lot of "band-wringing" going on but rather a mound of criticism going towards the architects of the team. The passion of the players was matched by the enthusiasm of Canadian fans, especially if one considers the mood of 2002, where the attitude was Do or Die. I think it is more than fair to criticize this team but I am not finding many who are absolutely devastated at the upset.

And it was an upset. Canada still has the most depth out of any hockey nation and should have been able to medal. Correct me if I'm wrong, but at least half of NHLers are from north of 49 and, judging the results of recent world junior events, that percentage will likely not change any time soon. There is more parity in the world, but Canada is still considered favorites, no matter what the tournament.

I think Doan and Iggy both played well and earned their spots on the roster during the final game. However, I'd have to go with St-Louis and Lecavalier as being Canada's top forwards. They were tenacious and created plenty of scoring opportunities. Lecavalier, especially, seemed to have his fire on. It's too bad they never pulled it off.

As for Sakic, he has indeed lost his edge and it's sad to see him fall out of the upper tier of hockey players. I do agree that he continued to play hard and was a terrific role model for younger stars during these Olympics. He deserved better but had nothing to be ashamed of. The consumate class act.

I think Ovechkin said it best when he commented early on in the Olympics that growing up in Europe as a hockey player you dream of Olympic gold, but Canadian hockey players grow up dreaming of the Stanley cup. It doesn't help when the games are played in Italy, 8 hours ahead of us, in front of 9 thousand people. In 2010, in Vancouver, in front of 20,000 people, team Canada, led by Heatley, Richards, Crosby, etc, will once again catch the fire of the people, but I just didn't feel it this time.

I will be more upset if the Oilers don't make the playoffs, or if they lose in round 1 than I was yesterday.

But one player who impressed me was Shane Doan, where did that guy come from? He was hands down the best penalty killer that Canada had. You got to love Gretzky for including guys like that on the team, when many people, myself included, questioned the inclusion of Doan.

and Matt, well done on your Iginla loyalty, as undeserved as it is. Hopefully Canadians might show some of that same loyalty to Bertuzzi, but I doubt it.

The decline in Sakic's ability is really beside the point. OK, so he's maybe one of the 40 best players in the world now instead of in the top ten. But given the way he actually did play--complete with scoring chances, hustle, and goalposts--I would have signed him for the team anyway. How many other Team Canada skaters would you say that of? Doan, definitely. Lecavalier--maybe. That'd be about it.

It seems pretty simple to me--we were trying to beat Ovechkin, Malkin, and Datsyuk with a team that couldn't even trade chances with Maxim Afinogenov. There is nothing really bad to be said of our defence, our penalty kill, or our goaltending. Fill in the blanks.

>Correct me if I'm wrong, but at least half of NHLers are from north of 49

Sure. But it's a North American league and I think that their best stack up against our best pretty well. Team Canada should be the contender, but that still means Finland will beat us 3-4 times out of ten games.

But yeah, if you had to point fingers: coaching and some questionable picks (ie. Foote, Draper, Bertuzzi).

While it may be fair game to criticize individual picks, I don't think its right to question Gretzky's choices. I mean, he picked a team. Does putting Sidny Crosby on the team make Thornton and Nash and Bertuzzi play any better? No.

The fact is that you watched Russian players play like their lives depended on it, I mean, Viktor Kozlov was a machine out there, New Jersey will never see him play that well, ever. Any one of those Russian players would have sacrificed his body and the rest of his NHL season in that game, I didn't see that from Team Canada.

We're the best hockey country in the world, we just didn't win the gold this time.

So let me see if I've got this straight: Gretzky fills the team with lumbering "experienced" forwards instead of young skill players, and when we get beaten by a team full of young skill players, it turns out it didn't really matter who we picked, because Canadians can't be expected get motivated for the Olympics anyway. And of course it makes no sense to pick Crosby because he can't make Kris Draper play any better. (But, duh, what if you picked Crosby instead of Kris Draper?)

While it's true that the Russians can beat us anytime, it's certainly not true that getting shut out for 180 consecutive minutes by Switzerland, Finland, and Russia on international ice is a typical or acceptable Canadian performance. It is, strictly speaking, unprecedented. "We're the best hockey country in the world" is not an appropriate response to comprehensive humiliation.

How can anyone be so sure that Crosby, Staal, and Spezza would have made such a big difference?

What about Crosby instead of Draper? Who knows, but I sure don't think Draper was the problem. Draper wasn't on the team to score goals, he was on the team to prevent them. There were plenty of players on the team who should have scored, but didn't.

Getting beat by the Russians isn't humiliation. Losing to Belarus on a shot from the centre line in 2002 is a humiliation.

In order to win, your best players have to be your best players. Its that simple. That doesn't mean that Canada needs to debate who their best players are, it just means that next time their best players should step up. Simple.

I'm not say that Gretzky can never be criticized, I'm just saying lets criticize those who didn't perform first. I truly believe this team could have won gold, but they didn't. That's not Wayne's fault, it's the teams.

We can't be sure that anyone else would have done better. But if we can't consider the possibility, then Gretzky's decisions can never, ever be criticized. And I honestly don't know a lot of people, even here, who feel that way.

The Gretzky criticism thing is going to be interesting. I think that Pat Quinn is going to find it mighty uncomfortable when the choice for who to blame amongst off-ice personnel comes down to the greatest player ever on the one hand and a guy whose greatest NHL moment involved knocking Bobby Orr unconscious.

By the way, did anyone else find Terry Jones column opening today-something along the lines of "Wayne Gretzky looked his mother and grandmother just died" in poor taste, or is that just me?

I'm having a tough time with the villification of Gretz. Do I think he made some mistakes with this year's team. Yeah, I do. But the last few teams he has built have been winners, and I'm not about to throw him out for one dud. Especially since I'm sure this will be a valuable experience to have under your belt when it comes time to build the next team. Note, next time need more speed, need more discipline, need more excitement. Need less griping about "should he go when his salary is paid by X", need fewer distractions immediately before tourney, need less playing for fear of losing.

It's no single person's fault. This team has the talant and ability to win it all, but for a number of reasons they couldn't seem to get the parts to 'gel'.

It seemed to me last time we were expecting to win and felt it was destiny. This time we were expecting to win but coming up with too many reasons why we wouldn't.

Its time to end condemnation, begin evaluation, and anticipate future success.

(I'm more upset by the "let's flog them all" sentiment at a number of sites than the result, and I'm pretty worked up by the result)

How about "Make sure you bring the most talented active player born in your country." I felt like that was an obvious one before the tournament, but hey.

Also, Go Russia. When we look back on this in 2 weeks or years, I'd really prefer to have lost to the Gold medallists that the guys in 4th.

Being a sore loser, I've never bought into this mentality. I always end up with a seething all-encompassing hatred for the team which has beaten my team (even when the other side has objectively played better), and look forward to the day the bastards who've crushed my hopes endure the humiliation they so richly deserve for knocking my team out of the playoffs/tournament/etc and turning my cheery disposition foul and dark. Thus it is for the Russkies in 2006. Go Sweden!

Go banana!

Canada's best players were Shane Doan and Martin Brodeur. Iginla sucked ass.

Did you not see the 2 on 1 (it was really 3 on 1 but who's counting?) where he decided to take the shot? The guy had no room to score anything... what the hell was he thinking?

I give him credit for driving hard to the net in the first 5 minutes early on. After that he should have been benched for all he did.

i'm with cosh. the whole effort from executive-level on down was left wanting.

But Gretzky has always learned from making his own mistakes rather than learning from others. Although this might seem sacriligous (how the the hell do u spell that word), in hindsight we lucked out last olympics. This team would have won gold if we played easier teams in the initial do-or-die playoff matches rather than Russia or similar teams like the Czech.

btw, as a Canucks fan who has followed the team religiously, Bertuzzi has been psyched out from punching out Moore. He isn't the same player that made the Naslund-Morrison-Uzi line dominant a few years ago. He isn't capable of making bryce salvador cry Mama from relentless physical play anymore.

All the gains he made as a player from battling Chelios in the now-forgotten Detroit-Vancouver series has evaporated and now he tiptoes through the tulips even when matched against eric brewer. This leads me to believe that Gretzky was sorry for Bertuzzi and the player he could have been and could still be if he gets his head straight. He was throwing a lifeline to Bert

I think somebody should say this much for Gretzky: one gold and one finish in the toilet are better than, say, two bronzes. We definitely don't want a GM who can keep us in the industrial-grade medals consistently.

I don't think you can characterize the team's performance as anything other than very poor... against other contending teams, Canada went 1-3 with all three losses by shutout and the lone win in a "dead rubber" against the Czechs, who were also pretty disappointing. Put another way, the Canadians played 12 periods of meaningful hockey... they got shut down and shut out in 11 of them.

Shutouts happen, especially against a hot goalie. But Canada could hardly generate any scoring chances, and the contrast with (say) Finland in their respective games against Russia couldn't be more apparent. Canada laid back and tried to soak up the Russian pressure, laying four and five skaters back in the middle of the ice in order to defend against the long Russian passes to the wingers; Finland jumped up aggressively and picked off those long passes, generating odd man rushes (or at least two-on-twos and three-on-threes) the other way. As a result, Canada tried to win the puck back in the corners and played a static, "walk-it-up" offense and their attacks kept coming to naught against a packed-in Russian defense. The Finns played a peppery, high-tempo transition game and worked the Russians to exhaustion.

The relentless criticism by the puckigentsia of The Hateful Trap being played by the Swedes and Finns would be pretty hilarious if it weren't so pathetic... sure, they've been stacking the neutral zone, but doing it has created turnovers and scoring chances.

A properly coached Canadian team, with a staff chosen based on their ability to coach internationally (not an All-Star Coaches Team of NHL coaches with big payrolls) who actually concentrate on, you know, the Olympics, wouldn't have let the players play the way they did. Can we have Darryl Sutter next time, pretty please?

See, I can write about the Canadian team without criticizing Pierre Larouche! I mean, Rick Nash!

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