Team USA didn’t medal in Sochi, Russia.
That’s right, they didn’t medal. Not only did they fail to capture gold or silver but they failed to take home bronze against a depleted Finnish team.
There are many fingers to point as to why the results were what they were. Some will point to the construction of the team and fairly criticize it as many look at the players who were left off in Kyle Okposo, Keith Yandle and most notably Bobby Ryan. The Ryan snub caused much controversy before the tournament especially with Team USA being shutout in their last two games.
The squad put together by David Poile and company was a great squad. They showed that for the first four games of the tournament by scoring goals, coming up big against Russia and set themselves up to come home with some hardware.
So, yes the choices were controversial, hard choices on a big stage usually are, but this doesn’t come down to lack of talent. It came down to coaching and Dan Bylsma was outcoached when it mattered most.
Instead of seeing the high flying team that was capable of putting up 7 goals against Slovakia, fans saw a team that wouldn’t be aggressive in the game against Canada and then with Finland. Not to mention Bylsma’s coaching lead to his whole offense boiling down to a one line team when his team is full of all-stars who should be able to score at will.
Bylsma also failed to have his team prepared mentally and keep their mentality in the game. Captain Zach Parise alludes to this when he mentions that the team “didn’t show up against Canada.” Bylsma’s job is to make sure that his team “shows up” against any opponent. The same job goes for Peter Laviolette, who coached the 2010 team in Vancouver.
He also misused his lines and defensive core as Justin Faulk only played 4:36 of game time in the two games of play causing the other defensemen to be overexposed and tired. Faulk wasn’t supposed to be put in play because of Paul Martin but when Martin was injured, Faulk was put in the lineup. Bylsma should have trusted the roster given to him and played Faulk more. Maybe not Ryan Suter minutes but he could have played more. He plays around 20 minutes a night in the NHL so surely he could have played more than 4:36 in two games.
He also took a passive defensive scheme of only sending one guy in on the forecheck when they hadn’t done that for the whole tournament. Instead of getting more players into the offensive zone, they held back and weren’t able to score. Why fix what wasn’t broken? Why change the whole makeup against Canada especially when what got the team there in the first place?
This team struggled against a Russian team and maybe that scared Bylsma to change things and they recovered against a Czech team that they had no issues scoring against. It would be interesting to see what could have happened if Team USA had continued its identity.
Zach Parise is right, it is humiliating to go home with no medals when this team was too talented and showed what it could do in earlier rounds. What’s the most humiliating part was the team that was poised to make it to the gold medal round and possibly get the elusive gold. What ended up happening was a regression on an international stage that will sit with USA Hockey for the next four years.
The roster wasn’t the issue at the end of the day as the roster showed at times it was capable of winning and making it to the gold medal round. The issue ultimately came down to coaching and Bylsma failed USA Hockey and David Poile.