As the Devils’ season nears and the USA crashes out of the World Cup, here are a few stray thoughts for your Friday afternoon.
That Went Well...
Last night, Team USA wrapped up their World Cup of Hockey run and... welp. The Americans fell to Team Czech Republic (which, not for nothing, is likely no better than a middling NHL team) 4-3 to seal a winless World Cup that will long be remembered as an unmitigated disaster for our country’s hockey representatives. It capped an 0-3-0 run that will go down as perhaps the nadir of USA Hockey in international competition over the past few decades.
From the initial roster selection right down to the team starting pointless fights as the final horn blasted, this was an end-to-end embarrassment for the red, white, and blue. Dean Lombardi has shared some thoughts after the team’s exit defending the construction of the roster and offering this incomprehensible response regarding John Tortorella’s coaching performance. Team USA’s plan was apparently beat Canada by maxing out their grit and caring-ness (or whatever) instead of assembling the roster from the best players available. Needless to say, this strategy did not turn out so well.
The US tricked themselves into thinking they needed to have a team filled with grinders to beat Canada’s skill, and accidentally built a team that beat no one and finished last. Mercifully, this will hopefully lead to a regime change for Team USA and the appointment of a GM who understands that when you are unbound by the salary cap, the way to build the best roster possible is to bring the best players possible. Canada will be the favorite in best-on-best tournaments for the forseeable future, but if the USA wants to have a shot at knocking them off, they should take their best 23 and worry about who is playing what role later.
Devils Come Home Empty-Handed
As for the Devils on Team USA, well they will return disappointed like the rest of the roster. Both players ended up playing minimal roles for Team USA, which, in a way, is a good thing because it means they had little responsibility for the disaster that transpired. Kyle Palmieri was scratched for the first game and then averaged less than 10 minutes of ice time in the two he got into. He did manage 4 shots on goal in those less than 20 minutes and was one of three US players to not finish with a minus rating, for whatever that’s worth (not much, but you take what you can get). Meanwhile, Cory Schneider, arguably the best goalie alive, was reduced to mop up duty in the third period of a meaningless game that the USA lost. He saved the only seven shots he saw. Team USA was poorly run.
RIP Team North America
Team North America, the darlings of the World Cup of Hockey, were sent packing with a Team Russia win over Finland. TNA lost out to Russia on the head-to-head tiebreaker, and did not move on, despite winning two of their three matchups in the group stage. Regardless of their untimely demise, they were the most fun thing about the group stage of the tournament and displayed a lot of incredible talent that might have otherwise been sitting home due to “lack of experience” on the American side of the border and too much competition on the Canadian side. I can see the arguments against reprising Team North America for the next tournament, particularly from a USA Hockey perspective, but it was so damn fun that it might be worth it to have a team so fast and exciting like that again.
Training Camp Starts!
The Devils reported back to Newark this week as the 2016-17 hockey season is officially open. Taylor Hall is officially on the ice for New Jersey (with a fresh chip on his shoulder) and other new faces like Ben Lovejoy, Vernon Fiddler, and all of the prospects hoping to make the big club are here too. The Devils haven’t been super active on the late free agency and PTO scene this season, somewhere they made some hay in 2015-16. There’s still a minor chance they pick up a body or two that has an actual shot at the team (sorry Anders Lindback and Brian Gibbons) but for now, it looks like they might just roll with what they have heading into the season. Either way, it’s just good to have Devils hockey back.
Along with the Devils’ return to Newark and the Prudential Center came a flurry of social media activity from the team. I’m still getting used to this new era where the Devils pull back the curtain and allow players to have a little fun and interact with fans. Snapchat, Twitter, and Facebook were full of posts from the players and the team while they took pictures and hung out on media day.
Among Devils players, Adam Henrique is a great follow, largely for the constant roasting of Stephen Gionta, regardless of the fact that he’s not even with the team anymore.
It’s a small thing, in the grand scheme of rooting for a team, but it’s still kind of nice that not everything is locked behind Lou’s cone of secrecy anymore.
If you have thoughts on any of the above topics or anything else on your mind about the Devils or hockey in general this afternoon, sound off in the comments below.