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Modano right about holes in USA Hockey

Mike Modano's rant about USA Hockey, while ill-timed, a tad immature and a bit self-serving, should not be dismissed totally as sour grapes from a guy with an ax to grind.

Modano didn't play most of the third period of USA's quarterfinal loss to Finland and then didn't help his cause when he griped about trivial matters such as flights and hotel accommodations for buddies and families. Even he admitted in an interview with the Dallas Morning News that he could have used a few speed bumps between his brain and his mouth.

"I think the timing was bad," Modano said. "I was upset at the outcome and mad at what happened to me and you walk right off the ice into the (media) mix zone, and I just let my emotions start talking."

It should be noted that Modano is a sharp, thoughtful man who cares deeply about USA Hockey. He has played long enough and well enough that he has the right to say whatever he wants. And if you sift through all of his comments, you might find a few that ring true. Most notably, it is time to shake up USA Hockey's leadership. A general lack of discipline has made its way through the U.S. team. There seems to be no real direction. No real pride, either. It has no real leader.

(Oh, how the United States could use the late Herb Brooks, who would be the perfect man to run every aspect of the team with a no-nonsense attitude. Is it just a coincidence that Brooks was the coach for the United States' only two medals after 1972?)

The natural choice to lead USA Hockey in an executive director's role would be Chris Chelios. And Modano could help.

"I would like to be a part of helping USA Hockey, but I'd like to do it more behind the scenes, more privately," Modano said. "I've been a part of this program for 20 years, and it means a lot to me. I don't want to leave it like this."

Here's hoping this isn't how it ends. Modano deserves better for all he has done for American hockey. And USA Hockey might benefit from listening to him instead of brushing him aside as a malcontent.

PETER THE NOT-GO-GREAT: USA coach Peter Laviolette painted himself into a corner with his goaltending. The Lightning's John Grahame started the first game, a tie, then Laviolette went with the Islanders' Rick DiPietro for the next three games. Then came a meaningless game against Russia and this is where Laviolette goofed. He went with the Flyers' Robert Esche. He wanted to give Esche a chance to play in the Olympics. We get that.

But when DiPietro looked shaky against Finland in the quarterfinals and gave up a soft goal early, Laviolette was stuck. He couldn't pull DiPietro for Grahame because Grahame had not played in seven days. His only hope was to stick with DiPietro, who gave up another soft goal in a 4-3 loss.

The Americans had plenty of problems and the blame can't be pinned on DiPietro, who was mostly solid in the tournament. But Laviolette and the United States would have been better off if Grahame had started or even played the third period against the Russians. Then, maybe, he could have relieved DiPietro against Finland.

OH, DON: Not to pile on USA GM Don Waddell, who is a good guy and taking plenty of hits these days, but does anyone still think Derian Hatcher was a better selection on defense than Brian Leetch?

MORE BLUES FOR THE USA: In case you lost track, Keith Tkachuk's Olympic totals: six games, no goals, no assists, minus-5.

WOE, CANADA: If you add up the contracts of all its players, the underachieving Canadians would have had a payroll of $97.9-million. All that money for a team shut out in 11 of its last 12 periods.

But it's hard to point the finger at the Lightning players. Brad Richards led the Canadians with four points and word is Wayne Gretzky considered Richards to be Canada's best player. He had two goals, two assists and was a plus-3. Marty St. Louis had two goals, an assist and was a plus-2. Vinny Lecavalier had three assists and was a plus-2.

St. Louis likely won't play in another Olympics, but it's a good bet Richards and Lecavalier will be back in 2010. That hardly softens the blow of the devastating loss to Russia in the quarterfinals.

After losing to Russia, Gretzky told reporters, "I actually said to Brad Richards and Marty St. Louis after the game, that now they know how the Calgary kids felt after Game 7 (in the 2004 Stanley Cup final)."

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