Young Canadian team has bitter time
This is what happens when you send a young and inexperienced team to represent Canada at the world hockey championship.
When Russia beat Canada 5-2 in the quarter-finals on Thursday, they dispatched the Canadians to seventh place in the standings for Hockey Canada’s worst showing since 1992 when Canada was eighth.
The 2010 tournament marks the first semifinal that Canada has not qualified for since 2002.
But considering how Hockey Canada sees the world championship as an audition for the Olympic Games, you have to wonder whether seventh is that bad only months after Canada won Olympic gold.
Is there anything wrong with giving Steve Stamkos, Matt Duchene, John Tavares, Evander Kane,Tyler Myers and Jordan Eberle a sniff of what elite international competition is like. The road to the 2014 Olympic Games started here and only time will tell if the strategy pays off.
Veteran Ray Whitney likes what he saw over the two-week competition.
"I know I just played with the young guys I am going to watch for the next 10 to 15 years and will be able to watch them progress and watch their careers go on," he said.
There's also added value is seeing what Europe has to offer in the way of competitive teams.
"The one thing we have all learned from this is when you come over here, just because you do not recognize a lot of the names, it doesn’t mean they are not very good teams and we found that out with the Swiss and Sweden," said Whitney.
The world championship is Europe’s version of the Stanley Cup final and countries like Germany, Norway, Denmark and Switzerland have come a long way in a short time in creating a level playing field.
"We all saw first-hand how important these world championships are to everybody," said MacTavish.
"Normally Canada has a pretty decided advantage in terms of competitiveness, but in this tournament this year all the teams we played were highly competitive.
"They battled hard."
Canada has four of its last five games and never really got on track. An ankle injury to Ryan Smyth cost him the tournament and that leadership role was a hard hole to fill. Then Stamkos – arguably the best young goal-scorer in the NHL – suffered concussion-like symptoms.
Germany beat Switzerland 1-0 to advance to its world championship semifinal and now play Russia. The Czech Republic beat Finland 2-1 in a shootout to advance and will now face Sweden. The Swedes were 4-2 winners over Denmark.
The Canada-Russia game had something for everyone.
The Russians showcased their skill, and Canada matched them early on until the Canadians started taking penalties. And once the outcome was all but assured, the game became a little chippy as emotions ran high.
The game marked the first time since the Vancouver Games that Canada and Russia shared the same ice sheet in international play.
Much was made of the Russians wanting to avenge a 7-3 quarter-final loss in Vancouver and Sergei Fedorov became agitated when he was asked how good it felt giving it back to the Canadians.
"What kind of question is that? I play with those guys for many many years and that is not a good question and you know why. I was teammates of those guys and you talk only respect and that was not a respectful question."
In the end, the tournament will be remembered for how the IIHF’s communications director called out Sidney Crosby amongst others for declining to play for their country.
The IIHF later apologized to Hockey Canada and Crosby’s agent for the tone of the article which appeared on the IIHF.com website.
This came at a time when the NHL, the IIHF and Hockey Canada are planning a hockey summit in Toronto this summer, and this makes you wonder whether the IIHF understands or appreciates what NHLers go through in a season.