Monday, January 05, 2009

US Fifth at World Juniors

The United States took a disappointing 5th place finish in this year's World Juniors, and as usual, there's a lot of noise about why the US didn't take home the gold. People can say whatever they want, but there's really only one thing you need to know:

Thomas McCollum vs. Canada: 5 goals allowed on 28 shots
Thomas McCollum vs. Slovakia: 5 goals allowed on 19 shots

Say whatever you will about coaching, or how the team is selected, or any other complaint you can come up with. You can't coach the puck out of your net, and when your goalie only stops 37 out of 47 shots over two games, and forces your team to score 6 goals win, you're going to lose 99 times out of 100. In a short tournament, hot goaltending can take your team a long way, and poor goaltending can kill you. This year, it killed the US.

I'll give the rest of my thoughts in bullet form, since it's easier...

-Some people are also blaming the US defense for playing poorly. They didn't look good against Canada, and I didn't see the Slovakia game, but how bad could they have been if they only gave up 19 shots and McCollum gave up a couple soft goals? That's more than good enough to win.

-Should McCollum have been pulled? In hindsight, yes, because they couldn't have done any worse. I'm not sure I would have pulled him at any point in the Canada game, because bringing a cold goalie into a close game probably wouldn't be wise. Maybe I would have started Unice against Slovakia, but again, that's using hindsight. I can see the argument for starting McCollum again as well.

-Why is it that the people screaming loudest about how not winning the gold is an absolute failure for the US, and the whole system needs to be torn down are the same people that talk about Canada being the greatest hockey nation in the world? Sorry, you can't have both ways. It only proves that these people don't have enough objectivity to make their opinion worthwhile.

-I still don't see how the NTDP-bashing is valid in any way. This year's team took way more CHL players than in the past and look where it got them. Adding a few more plugs like Eric Tangradi, whose biggest contribution to the team was putting his stick in some guys face and getting one of the good players jacked in the face, or Tyler Johnson, who didn't do much of anything, wouldn't have made things any better. One of the big omissions from the roster was John Carlson, and again, using hindsight, he would have been a better choice on D because he couldn't have been any worse, but the seventh defenseman on the US was Blake Kessel, who is not an NTDP alum, so I don't see how that decision is political.

-When trying to wow me with the OHL's goaltending, it's probably not best to cite some kid who needed a career game just to bring his tournament save percentage up to .901. As a general rule, goaltenders peak much later, and it's just hard to be a very good goalie in that age group. That's why you see so many talented young goalies struggle at the college level. I'm not saying some of those CHL goalies might not be great some day, but at 18 or 19, most aren't providing much of a challenge.

-Congrats to Canada on winning another gold medal. I hope the Queen doesn't decide to take it for England when she makes the call on reinstating your parliament later this month.


Anonymous said...

sounds like a sore loser to me

Anonymous said...

very much a sore loser.
15 golds to 1 - that speaks for itself.

Anonymous said...

Meanwhile, they leave a gold medal winning, USHL rookie leading, potentially highest drafted goalie at home. MISTAKE.

Anonymous said...

Can't wait for the 2010 Olympics. When Canada loses gold on home turf in both men's and women's hockey we'll see who the sore losers are.

Anonymous said...

You are a fool.

Blame the Goalie, make excuses.

It is almost comical.

Anonymous said...

Talk about "reading what you want to read"... What exactly did he say that makes him a sore loser?

McCollum was brutal - true

The US took more CHL players and still didn't medal - true

Goaltenders develop later than skaters - true

Doesn't think the NTDP is the problem - opinion, not attacking anyone

If he were to say that the US lost due to officiating so something, that would be false and be whining.

Anonymous said...

Bottom line: this tournament means everything to Canada, while most people in the US haven't even heard of it. No wonder its 15 gold to 1.

Forget about fixing the NTDP. There isn't enough demand for it to begin with. Just piggy back off Canada's junior system if you really want to develop. Then again, if the sport is to succeed at the professional level, Canada needs the U$.

Anonymous said...

Chris, you forgot to add that Unice upon his selection was the second worst goalie (statisticly) in the OHL.
McCollum had given up 5 goals a game in like 2 of 3 games prior to his selection.
Bad selections for the team at a crucial position. I guess the selection committee has forgotten the way to Fargo.

Who exactly picks the team anyway?

Anonymous said...

I think the seeds of US defeat were sewn when the coaching staff failed to get Josh Unice any playing time early on. Whether it was the final 15 minutes vs. Germany after the lead ballooned to 5 goals, or some/all of the Kazakhstan game, Unice should have played. McCollum was not particularly good against Germany (2 goals on 18 shots, and 3 or 4 VERY shaky saves) or the Czechs. Clearly he has the better pedigree than Unice, but Unice has had international success with the U-18s, and he couldn't have been worse than McCollum turned out to be in the first two periods of the Canada game or the Slovakia game. However, by the time it got to the elimination games, it was too late to toss Unice in there completely cold.

Anonymous said...

With apologies to William Shakespeare:

A glorified Holiday tournament, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Anonymous said...

this is all laughable, the draft picks are all still there and will be shuffled a bit. That is really is all the kids want anyways. One game in a torunament is not really reflective of kids overall talent or character. developing to the show is a continual, cumulative process. Brodeur and other canadian goalies never had much success and they are now HOF material.

Anonymous said...

what do u mean sore losers...did u watch any of the us games the u.s goalie was brutal and let in soft goals every game...if canadas goalie let as many soft goals as the u.s. they might not have been where they ended up and u know thats true. obvioulsy the problem was goaltending from watchin all the games...the d and forwards were good

Anonymous said...

The US needs to finish higher than fifth place for the US Developmental program to be considered a success. We can finish fifth without it.

The key to success for the US is defensemen and goaltending. You need 6 defensemen that can play and great goaltending.

It is interesting to watch the World Junior Hockey and then flip the channel to watch Texas play Ohio State in football and you see where all the great athletes in the US are.

How good is the freshman QB at Ohio State right out of High School.

The US is always battling the same problem; it is not the competition from other countries but competition from other sports here in the US for the best athletes.

Remember Canada was 5 seconds away from not getting a medal.

Anonymous said...

Fifth place is not good enough for the US Developmental program, we could finish in fifth without it.

As i was watching the World Junior tournament i switched channels to the Ohio State vs Texas football game. How good of athlete is the freshman QB at Ohio State.

We are not competing against other countries but with other sports here in the US for the best athletes.

Anonymous said...

James.."Clearly he has the better pedigree than Unice."

Unice backstopped an OHL team to the Memorial Cup final last year.Pedigree?
The problem is bad coaching and horrible player selection by the NTDP.For you guys who say the best athletes are playing BBall and football etc speak for your own state or region. Michigan, New York (upstate) and Minnesota have their BEST atletes choosing hockey over girls never mind another sport :). Maybe in Indiana,Texas and most urban areas this is true but have you ever wondered why that backwater Michigan travel team almost always kicks the crap out of your best New York city/Philadelphia team. Yes,they are better hockey players and better athletes.

Anonymous said...

I think the US development program has failed in it's objectives. It doesn't "develop" it's players. It cherry picks the best players across the country, forms teams, and then simply cannot function in a team environment.The players are all first line guys who can't thrive in other roles. Canada can put 4 scoring lines together but choose players that can play PK,agitator,grinder styles so the skilled players can flourish. If the USNTDP wants to add all skill and no heart,they are forgetting what team concept is all about and don't understand the game of hockey.

Anonymous said...

"Why is it that the people screaming loudest about how not winning the gold is an absolute failure for the US, and the whole system needs to be torn down are the same people that talk about Canada being the greatest hockey nation in the world?"

In an earlier discussion/thread on this blog the poison politics of USA Hockey was repeatedly cited - why is the dead horse being beaten once again?

The chronic failure of USA Hockey to gather the best players for a short term tournament such as the WJC is the problem.

"I still don't see how the NTDP-bashing is valid in any way. This year's team took way more CHL players than in the past and look where it got them".

Point taken. However, the NTDP takes an inordinate amount of the USA Hockey resources in its continual attempt to find the next (insert Gretzky, Crosby or now Tavares) which is has failed to do. With as much money, training, etc. as is being provided to these kids they should bring home the Gold or at least be competitive with the elite teams. Not the case.

If USA Hockey was run like an actual business, these repeated failures would have resulted in management being ousted and new blood being brought in to right the ship. Not going to happen with the entrenched bureaucracy at USA Hockey.

Anonymous said...

Forget about fixing the NTDP. There isn't enough demand for it to begin with. Just piggy back off Canada's junior system if you really want to develop. Then again, if the sport is to succeed at the professional level, Canada needs the U$.

Finally someone with some sense! The top producing model for NHL players is in Canada. The US should copy that!

Anonymous said...

Although many of the u20 players did come through the ntdp system, I'm not sure it's fair to base one's opinion of the ntdp on the outcome of a single game where the participants are 2 or more years removed from the program, if they played there at all. The current u18s have a strong showing in tournament play; last year, they did well @ u17 challenge (losing a close gold medal game with less than a full bench); then also took silver @ 5 nations (in a rigged loss to soviets where pp differential was 10-2); then won 4 nations this year. Anon @ 11:16 is closest in analysis of current ntdp, in that they tend to treat players projected as first (and second) round nhl picks as kings who keep favored status no matter how bad their plus/minus is; and the rest of the team has to fight for quality opportunities. Upcoming 5 nations (in Sweden) and especially Fargo will be real tests for them, but lets not write off ntdp model based on anything less than a gold. Other problem with current u18s is that coaches run more of a dump and chase (grinder) system when skill level and depth of talent favors more puck possession and movement. Kind of liking asking thoroughbreds to pull harnesses. Good coaches, in all sports, base their systems on their players, not the other way around.

Anonymous said...

It's ultimately up to the players to decide if they want to pursue the USNTDP program. Once top end players start choosing the junior route(and it's begun) then either the program will make changes or will fail and disban. I believe the junior route prepares you quicker to play pro hockey, and thus in a U20 tournament those players playing, and getting quality ice time against better competition will obviously be further along.

Anonymous said...

There's no question the CHL is the best route to the big show. That's not even debatable.

The USNTDP and NCAA players have proven to be a failure in these high pressure international tournaments. It's NOT the players--it's the systems. Team USA was incredibly talented but unprepared to compete at a high enough level.

I love NCAA hockey, but the fact is these college kids are not living up their potential in these tournaments.

Anonymous said...

Only reason you guys win that bullshit under 18 tournmanet in the spring is because Canada can't send it's best CHL's because they are still in post season.

Also under 17 challenge, past two gold medal winners team ontario, if there was a team Canada under 17 team, it would shit kick their american competitors.