Thursday, June 21, 2018
Sports

Tortorella's Team USA left to ponder its demise

Members of Team USA gathered for a few drinks after they were eliminated from the World Cup of Hockey.

There was a lot to discuss.

The United States was surprised by Team Europe and wasn't good enough against Canada, leading to two losses and a cascade of questions. John Tortorella as coach? Too much grit? Not enough skill? What might change after another all-too-familiar early exit from an international tournament? The pipeline of young talent for next time around?

A few days isn't enough time to answer all those questions, especially for the players.

"I liked our team," winger Zach Parise said Wednesday. "I thought we played hard. It's not a player's job to speculate who should or shouldn't be on the team before or after the tournament."

Phil Kessel took his shot. Left off the team along with scoring forwards Kyle Okposo and the Lightning's Tyler Johnson and defensemen Justin Faulk, Kevin Shattenkirk and Cam Fowler, the Stanley Cup-winning Pittsburgh Penguins winger tweeted after the U.S. loss: "Just sitting around the house tonight (with) my dog. Felt like I should be doing something important, but couldn't put my finger on it."

U.S. management went with a sandpaper style of play that almost resulted in a silver medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics but hasn't worked since. Center David Backes said he believes that style of hockey can still win if executed correctly.

"To come here and flop like we did is extremely disappointing," defenseman Ryan Suter said.

The 0-2 start revealed the Americans brought too much physicality to a skill game. Canada, Russia, Team North America and others have thrived with fast-paced, entertaining hockey. Speed has been king at this international tournament, but Backes noted that the Americans "weren't going to out-skill Canada." With the aim of beating Canada, U.S. general manager Dean Lombardi instead built a big team with an edge in hopes of neutralizing the talent of the top hockey power in the world.

Instead, the World Cup showed that depth of talent is everything. Leaving more skilled players at home was too much to overcome.

Kessel was the Americans' leading scorer and best player at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, but he was left off the roster.

Canada outclassed the U.S. in a 4-2 whacking Tuesday night that wasn't as close as the score.

In the aftermath of the loss, players talked about hitting the post and being close. They also defended their teammates against criticism, even while conceding the results weren't good enough.

Patrick Kane, who did not score a goal in two games after winning the Hart Trophy as the NHL MVP last season, wouldn't blame his coach for this failing.

"Tortorella is just one of the most passionate guys I've ever seen about hockey," Kane said. "I'll never say a bad thing about him. He's just a great coach. We didn't show up for him."

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