Team USA is coming in with a plan for the World Cup of Hockey.
It may not be a very good plan but it is, indeed, a plan.
Coach John Tortorella doesn’t care how his team wins as long as it happens.
If you are a fan of Team USA, that has to give you a special tingle down your spine. Sure, he may take patriotism to an uncomfortable level… but by the same token it adds a level of stakes that shouldn’t be associated with an exhibition tournament.
The NHL has to absolutely love it.
As the tournament begins on Wednesday, I want to take a look at the five fun storylines to watch for from Team USA.
The Goalie Situation
John Tortorella has remained quiet when talking about his goalies and while it is some obvious gamesmanship from him, he does have a tough decision in front of him.
Who in the heck does he start? You have two-time Stanley Cup champion Jonathan Quick as the leader in the club house.
Quick has plenty of rings, so that will surely blind any old school thinking coach. So why not compare Quick to Cory Schneider, the goalie many want to see in net for Team USA.
The graph, provided by NHL Numbers’ very own Ian Fleming lays it out pretty simply.
Both are good and are above league average… but in the short sample size, it’s probably safer to lean towards Schneider, who’s consistently put up more effective numbers.
While the debate between Quick and Schneider isn’t much to talk about, maybe Bishop should be getting his share of starts. I’ll leave you with this chart and you can decide who is more likely to steal a game for the US.
Just how far past their prime is Team USA?
Team North America isn’t doing Team USA any favors by taking a large chunk of their talent and pitting it right against them. The collection of talent assembled by the US is a collection of players that are aged right around 30 and have seen more than a few seasons in the NHL.
Experience in these types of tournaments can be overrated and as we have already seen in a couple of preliminary games, old, slow players typically aren’t doing well.
The upside for any Team USA fan is the possibility of fresh players.
Fatigue can wear the best players down including veterans. If these guys came into camp in shape and trained properly, they won’t have to worry about their age being too much of a factor. Most of these players are 40+ point producers, not an easy feat in the NHL. The problem is, this is a best on best tourney, you can’t just bring “good players”.
What will Tortorella say next?
The best part of the pre-tournament games has been John Tortorella, he is a walking, talking quote machine. He doesn’t have to say much to get the media up in a tizzy. His comments to Linda Cohn were misguided in this writer’s opinion but it did take any attention away from the players themselves. I may be giving the man too much credit, it seems as if he does these things to steer attention away from the players.
His unassuming team of first liners mixed in with middle-six players don’t want to hear questions about players not at the tournament.
So Tortorella is going take all of the attention away from them.
This is me officially taking off my tinfoil hat. Nonetheless, I don’t mind when Tortorella opens his mouth, it gives me something to write about.
Will the head-scratching decisions come back to haunt Team USA?
Phil Kessel and Kevin Shattenkirk aren’t on Team USA. This upsets some people.
This Team USA hockey team is the least likable Team USA anything in a looooong time.
— Travis Yost (@travisyost) September 7, 2016
Some have declared this the least likable team to don the red, white and blue. It is tough to argue as it is a team of gritty, rugged players that are hard to play against.
The name recognition is minimal and their biggest star is Patrick Kane, most likely the most polarizing player in the league.
As an American, It is tough to cheer them on.
They selected players like Brandon Dubinsky, Justin Abdelkader and Jack Johnson to be on their team voluntarily.
Jack Johnson is a possession black hole, while Abdelkader and Dubinsky are a couple of miserable SOB’s who really shouldn’t be among the country’s top talent.
The saving grace for this decidedly average team is their group, where only Team Canada should take them down.
They almost have a yellow brick road to make it into the semifinals before they really face a team that can take them down.
Ideally the NHL would like to see the two of them against each other in the final. Can you imagine if a team led by John Tortorella made it to the final? The hockey world would burn.
Is Team USA at a coaching disadvantage?
Tortorella in a Sportsnet article had this to say when asked about dictating the pace against Team Canada.
“These guys, they want to play. It’s such a short tournament, you want to make your presence felt right away as far as how you’re going to go about your business. There won’t be any problem with either team as far as intensity [Friday],”
“But as far as getting involved in a Kess-Toews, matchup? I’m not doing it.”
The World Cup of Hockey is a short tournament but deciding not to match lines is incredibly short sighted.
If they have a chance to take advantage of a matchup, why not do so? Giving up and just sticking to your guns isn’t making you any more admirable. Team USA may not have to worry about that until they come up against Canada in a high pressure situation such as the World Cup of Hockey final, the problem for them is making it to that point. If they think arrogance and sheer will can take them that far, they’ll be in for a rude awakening.