By FRED FAOUR
So the beauty of he morning update is we try to provide something for everybody. And don’t worry, you will football, Astros, beer and bizarre posts below. We hope you pick and choose what you want. So if you have no interest in hockey, you can skip past this first post. (Although you will be missing out on some great insight as to why America’s national hockey team sucks and I will be greatly disappointed in you as a human being. So those of you who don’t care may skip down now. As for the rest…)
Team USA was eliminated from the World Cup of Hockey last night in a 4-2 loss to Canada that was not nearly as close as the score would indicate.
You could easily make the case Team USA was the worst squad in the tournament. They not only failed to advance to the semifinals, they were eliminated in two games and will be forced to play a meaningless third game. They were outscored 7-2 in those two games.
To be fair, they had no chance to beat Canada. (More on that in a minute). But a 3-0 loss to Team Europe, a group thrown together to have an eighth competitive team, should tell everyone in USA Hockey just how much change needs to happen. Team USA has not made a significant impact on a major international tournament since winning silver in Vancouver in 2010.
There are three key reasons:
- Much has been made of the makeup of the team. The USA went for more physical, grind it out players instead of skill. That style of play worked two decades ago. It doesn’t anymore. Some of the players left home probably would not have helped against Canada. But they could have against Europe. The bigger problem was a team that was supposed to be physical and play rugged defense did neither. In the Team Europe loss, they were tentative, made terrible mistakes on defense that led to easy goals and basically looked unmotivated. They repeated that effort against Canada. A team that was specifically built to play Coach John Tortorella’s style failed at it miserable.
- Speaking of Torts…the decision to use him as coach is easy to criticize. He did win a Stanley Cup — in 2004 — when his style of play still worked. But he has worn out his welcome everywhere since, and has failed in his last two coaching stints in Vancouver (fired) and Columbus. Maybe he turns around the Jackets this year, but he was an odd choice. One of his assistants, Mike Sullivan, just won the Stanley Cup playing the kind of hockey that will win this World Cup and would have been a much better choice. Then again, the Penguins had more talent than Team USA.
- And there is the real problem. This group of Team USA players simply isn’t that good. The group that nearly won gold in Vancouver is old. Leaving skill players like Phil Kessel off the roster (although Kessel was injured and probably could not have played) meant that guys who aren’t even top-line players on their NHL teams were being asked to compete with superior players from Canada and Europe. They simply could not do it. How many players on Team USA would make Team Canada’s roster? At most three, and that’s a stretch. Patrick Kane for sure. Jonathan Quick, although he would likely be a backup. And maybe Joe Pavelski, although it’s not a given. When you make that same comparison with the European team that housed them this weekend, it doesn’t get much better. One glaring problem — as it has been for years — is the lack of quality centers. Between that and the defensive breakdowns, there were times where Kane and Quick looked like the only two players on the ice. Kane did not register a point and was often trying to go 1 on 4 as the only offensive threat on the ice. You simply can’t win that way. Some of the stars of the past — most notable — Zach Parise — have become average players. That’s simply not going to make you competitive.
So questionable makeup, questionable coaching, and a lack of talent? It is no surprise they were embarrassed.
There is good news. If you watch Team North America tonight (a 23 and under team comprised of Canadians and Americans), you will see the future of American hockey. Other than Connor McDavid and Aaron Ekblad, you can make a strong case the best players on this team are young Americans. Dylan Larkin and Johnny Gaudreau are budding superstars. Jack Eichel and Auston Matthews went second and first overall in the last two drafts respectively and might have been the best centers on Team USA right now.
In fact, you could make a pretty strong argument that a team of 23 and under Americans led by that group, plus players like Brandan Saad, Seth Jones and Shane Gostisbehere might actually be better than the current Team USA right now. And you could throw in two really good players who did not make Team North America — young defenseman Noah Hanifin and 30-goal scorer (and yet another quality center) Alex Galchenyuk.
An infusion of talent from that group, plus standbys like Kane, Quick and Ryan McDonaugh — all players who should still be in their prime — could completely transform Team USA by the 2018 Olympics (which hopefully will feature NHL players). The scary thought? If the World Cup goes with this same format in four years? Matthews and Eichel will still be eligible for the 23 and under team. You can bet Team USA won’t agree to those rules. They need the young stars.
The current group simply can’t cut it.
(Thanks for the indulgence. We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming)
The good news? The Astros get to finish the season with one more in Oakland, three with Seattle and six with their personal whipping boys, the Angels. Meanwhile, the Orioles have a tough rough ahead, including three with the Blue Jays — two teams the Astros are chasing, so ground can be gained on one of them. The bad news? Other than four with the Indians, the Detroit Tigers also have an easy schedule.
But hey, the Astros are still alive. It’s hard to imagine them making much of an impact in the playoffs without Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers at 100 percent, but getting in would be quite the accomplishment. At least the last two weeks will be interesting.
Will he or won’t he?: Bill Belichick is keeping things close to the vest on whether or not Jimmy Garappolo plays. That’s just what the Patriots do. It would be a massive surprise to see him under center Thursday night, but there is no reason to give the Texans more time to prep for Jacoby Brissett. Meanwhile, the time with the Patriots is helping Bill O’Brien with Brock Osweiler…Also, Charles James said he did not flop on the penalty that cost the Chiefs on the kickoff return for a TD. Comes off as sour grapes from Andy Reid, but lost in the call is that the Texans blew that coverage big time. Without the penalty he scores with ease anyway. That is one Achilles heel the Texans need to solve fast — kickoff and punt coverage.
In case you missed it…We added a new beer review last night, Karbach’s Krunkin Pumpkin. Check it out…
Fair question: The Big Lead asks if the media failed to jump on this story because the terrorist (alleged) is white. Right here in our own backyard.
New site: Roc the Mic finalist Hot Dog Holly has a new football web site. She is an Eagles fan so guessing it will bird heavy. She is just getting started with it so keep an eye on it as it grows.
Dead and loving it: I could see an obituary something like this one for me.
Are good looking people always jerks? Obviously I wouldn’t know, but a video tries to investigate.
Shake that manatee? God, we hope not. But it is Florida.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
In honor of Brad and Angelina’s break up…(apparently he was cheating. Can you blame him? He is Brad freaking Pitt?).
“We’re a generation of men raised by women. I’m wondering if another woman is really the answer we need.”
— Brad Pitt as Tyler Durden, Fight Club