Yeah this didn’t go well at all. Frankly, I’m not sure what USA Hockey was going for here. If you listen to the brain trust going into the tournament, and the explanation for their, umm, interesting roster decisions, they seemed to have been aiming for a gritty, defense-minded, tough, team. They also seemed to be using the 1996 World Cup team as their model. Similarly, that team had some guys on it who you would not consider to be All-Star offensive players. (Bryan Smolinski, Steve Konowalchuk, etc.) But they had plenty of offensive firepower too. That team had Brett Hull, Mike Modano, Brian Leetch and Phil Housley manning the points, Keith Tkachuk, Doug Weight, and so on.
And, in terms of being able to shut down their opponents, they had Mike Richter playing in front of Chris Chelion, the Hatchers, Leetch, et al.
The 2016 version of Team USA was not this. For firepower it had Patrick Kane, and a bunch of fairly decent NHL scorers, but left home some of the best offensive talent America has to offer. It also had a defense corp that was, well not 1996. And that’s where I wonder what they were thinking. If the idea was to model that 1996 team, all you had to do was look at the defensemen on the roster for both teams.
Obviously, with the defense, 1996 could not have been the game plan. Not with that defense. Look again at the Hall of Fame defenders on that team. The 2016 version had Jack Johnson and Dustin Byfuglien. This was a failure of strategy, and not understanding the talent in front of you.
Personally, I don’t think the US was good enough to do much damage in this tournament anyway, but maybe it wouldn’t have been as embarrassing had they not been saddled with this 1996 strategy, especially because the game isn’t even the same as it was 20 years ago. The entertaining Team North America showed us where hockey is heading, and it’s not back to the days of grinding out a 2-1 win against the likes of what Canada put on the ice.
Luckily for us though, much of that bright talent on display for Team North America are Americans. Let’s hope the brain trust can get out of their way.
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