The fall of the USA Men’s Hockey team was a disappointment to everyone involved. It was a “collapse” as defenseman Ryan Sutter put it, a “failure to show up” as head coach Dan Bylsma said, and to paraphrase team captain Zack Parise, it was “an ugly note to leave on.” (HT The SportingNews)
There’s plenty of blame to go around, but does it all have to all fall on Bylsma’s head? There’s critics that will point to not scoring a goal in their final six periods as his fault. There will even be people that will go as far as to pick out the Pittsburgh Penguins’ failures in the playoffs since winning the Stanley Cup as comparisons to team USA.
I even got this message from a best friend of mine that said, “If I’m Crosby (Sid) or Malkin (Evgeni) I want a trade. I am wasting my prime years playing for a coach who will never get me back to the cup.” This is the way Penguins fans, and now the country, feel towards Bylsma. They see a coach that can win in the regular season, has the vote among the NHL as the coach players want to most play for, and has won awards. But, for whatever reason, all of the winning and support goes away once his team is eliminated in the post season.
But, like his recent Stanley Cup flame outs, this elimination is not all on him. Since winning the Stanley Cup in
2009 his team has lost in the second round, twice in the first round and once in the conference finals. In each series, except for 2011 against the Philadelphia Flyers, his team either ran out of gas—like in 2010 against Montreal—was without their top two stars—like in 2011 against Tampa Bay—or played a goalie on a insane hot streak—like in 2013 against Boston—.
As the US head coach, fans praised Bylsma for his win against Russia and the blowouts to Slovakia, Slovenia and the Czech Republic. However, when the offense ran dry, it was easy to put blame on his head. Instead, just like in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals against Boston when Crosby and Malkin went scoreless, where is the blame for Parise and Patrick Kane who combined for one goal?
If Bylsma is to blame for anything, it’s for raising expectations to an all-time high. After dismantling the four teams before Canada, 20-6, there was reason to believe that the goals wouldn’t stop. However, the US ran into two teams, in Canada and Finland, that combined to allow 13 goals in the tournament. Canada has yet to allow more than one goal. While Finland in their last four games has allowed a total of six.
For comparison, the four teams USA beat allowed 50 goals throughout the tournament. Slovenia and Slovakia finished at the bottom during group play in goals allowed, while the Czech Republic allowed an average of 2.33 goals per game during group play.
On top of running into the top defense and a team allowing 1.5 goals per game in their last four, the US was playing absurdly above the average per goals in the tournament. On the European ice teams were averaging just three goals per game. Coming into the Semifinals, the US was scoring on a five goals per game clip.
Was losing the last two games disappointing? Of course it was. We were expecting after four games to finish not with just any medal but a Gold Medal. However, while we want to point the blame towards someone, let’s have some perspective before we burn people at the stake. Instead of fingering all of the blame towards Bylsma, let’s give credit for building his team into a Gold Medal favorite; unlike Olympics past where they were just glad to get into a medal game.
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I’ve devoted most of my life to being a Pittsburgh sports fan. Currently, I live in Austin with my wife Sarah and our dogs Clooney and Maggie.. But, I had the pleasure of taking in all that is Austin, TX – mostly the Texas Stars American Hockey League franchise – for the past 4 years.