The United States lost 3-0 to Team Europe in its opening game of the 2016 World Cup of Hockey on Saturday morning. Here are a few headlines from media outlets about the contest:
Team USA comes out flat in stunning loss to Europe — ESPN.com
Halak, Team Europe stun United States in World Cup opener — The Associated Press
Headline: Team USA shut out by Team Europe
Subhead: Jaroslav Halak makes 35 saves for surprising preliminary-round win — NHL.com
Team USA hockey suffers shocking loss to Europe in World Cup opener — Yahoo.com
You get the idea. The United States was not supposed to lose this game, but was it really shocking? The team put together by the United States for this tournament is not good, and while Team Europe isn’t exactly a powerhouse I can’t help but think the Americans’ performance was expected.
Sure, the United States boasts some good players. Joe Pavelski, Ryan Kesler and that dude from the Chicago hockey team are legitimate stars, but the overall roster construction is at best puzzling and at worst inexcusable. That poor decision making is just compounded by the absolutely baffling lineup decisions made by John TOrtorella.
Or, they would be baffling if they were made by any other coach. Dustin Byfuglien was benched while Jack Johnson played, presumably because winning isn’t actually Tortorella’s goal in this tournament. No, the coach is so consumed by a desire to institute a culture of winning that he’s forgotten about trying to, you know, win.
Jonathan Quick started while the Americans’ best netminder, Cory Schneider, sat in the press box. Europe scored three goals on 17 shots against Quick and while the second goal can’t be blamed on the Kings’ goalie, decisions like this compound what’s already a roster that isn’t as good as it should be.
Yes, the United States outshot Team Europe 34-17, but much of that discrepancy came in the third period with the Europeans leading 3-0. The Americans led in even strength shots 14-9 after two periods of play and trailed by three goals before really turning it on in the third (and eight of those shots came on the power play). Score effects are not a sign of improvement, nor are they a reason to be optimistic. This team is not good.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that if the United States gets its butt thoroughly kicked by Team Canada on Tuesday, wholesale changes may be on the way. A serious culture change is needed at USA Hockey, and it’s not the kind that Tortorella wants to bring. The United States is a slow, plodding squad because the Americans decided to leave forwards like Phil Kessel and Tyler Johnson at home.
It’s time for the United States to be held accountable for their repeated failures. This country is not a hockey power because it refuses to evolve and adapt to a changing game. Instead, the Americans prove time and again to be the laughing stock of the hockey world because they ignore the talent they do have and poorly manage the players they pay any mind to.
Team Europe wasn’t supposed to beat the United States, but it’s hardly a surprise that they did. This is the result the Americans deserved and it’s the kind of failure we’ve come to expect. Now we wait, and hope, for change.