Thursday, February 23, 2006

The morning after the mourning after

Team Canada lost.

Funny how you can be in the midst of the Olympics, where national pride is on display and dozens of athletes are competing for this country and yet when you refer to "Team Canada" every Molson-blooded Canadian knows who you're talking about.

Especially, these past couple of weeks, if you mention losing.

Wow, did these guys suck. I mean, the competition was better than ever - no doubt - but the problems with this particular incarnation of the men's hockey team seemed pretty evident from the moment we faced off against that powerhouse of the ice: Switzerland.

Sure, people will be talking about what went wrong, second-guessing Gretzky's player picks, speculating on what's wrong with the national program (nothing - so drop it), but I think James Duthie had the best encapsulation of the experience on

"Anyway, since last thing you probably need is another column on What Went Wrong for Team Canada (EVERYFREAKINTHING!), let's talk about what went right.

Umm. Gee. Wow. I got nothin'.

Wait! The goalies! The goalies were good! And I thought the trainer and stick guy were very efficient when called on.

Besides that, Eeeeek. It was so bad, I half expected Wayne Gretzky to come out last night and say: "I'm not taking any hockey questions, I'll only talk about gambling."


Harsh but hilarious.

As for me, well, I think I've said it all before: Pat Quinn is not a very good coach. Sure, he's good at dealing with big-ticket players, but he knows nothing about systems and defence - and it showed in Torino as much as it shows in Toronto. These guys were garbage in their own end and had the worst break-outs I've seen since my high school yearbook.

As for the players, I can't believe Heatley was so invisible. I literally forgot he was on the team. For my money, I would have preferred to see Spezza on the big ice (why not have him paired with Heatley, just like at home in Ottawa?) and left "defensive specialist" (polite way of saying the guy can't score) Kris Draper on the taxi squad. The fact is, Gretzky rewards the old boys, the ones who have been around. But everyone has got to start somewhere - if Spezza and Staal aren't good enough this time, what makes them good enough next time? If anything, Spezza is far more valuable on Olympic-sized ice than on the NHL-sized ice they'll have in Vancouver.

And McCabe. Oh, McCabe. Any Maple Leafs fan could have told you the guy is a defensive liability. But who knew Chris Pronger would challenge him for the title of Canada's most generous player? (Oh! Hello, Mr. Russian, would you like a puck? Here ya go, buddy)

But I can't say I was terribly upset when I woke up this morning, even when I realized Laura Harring wasn't, in fact, lying next to me. The fact is, these guys never got our hopes up - they looked bad in the round robin and there was no reason to believe they would get past the Russians.

And they didn't.

So who am I cheering for now? Well, the good thing about this tourney is that there are still tons of NHLers in it, including a few Leafs. I gotta say I'll be pulling for Mats. It'd be nice to see him win a championship with the 'C' on his chest.

God knows it ain't gonna happen in Toronto...

Whoever said, "It's not whether you win or lose that counts," probably lost.
- Martina Navratilova

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