While I'm sure there won't be a referendum or a call-to-arms over Team Canada's Under-18 showing at this year's IIHF World Championship, there will be flags raised and concerns brought forth after Canada found itself digging the puck out of its net far too often this year. The 2010 Canadian Under-18 team finds itself in the relegation round after they posted a 1-3 record for fourth-place in Group A at the World Championship. For our best kids coming up, this trip to the relegation round will not be taken lightly by the executives at Hockey Canada, and, if they were to be relegated, it would border on a national tragedy.
Canada played poorly in their exhibition games, and that play carried over into the tournament where they were outclassed by some of their opponents. A stunning opening-game 3-1 loss to Switzerland was followed up by a lackluster 5-0 beatdown by the Americans. Canada hammered host Belarus by an 11-3 score, but found itself outskated and outscored by the Swedes in a 5-4 loss today.
When asked about his team's efforts, head coach Guy Carbonneau shared his thoughts with The Canadian Press.
"I just have the feeling that they thought everything was going to be easy," Carbonneau said on Sunday. "And that wasn't the case."
I've repeated this numerous times about Canadian hockey teams on this site, and apparently my broken record imitation isn't sinking in. When Canadian teams feel that they have more talent than other teams, they stop working hard. We saw it at the 2010 Winter Olympics, we saw it at the World Junior Championships, and we saw it again in this tournament.
The only team that has consistently put forth a concerted effort in the last few years, in my view, has been the Canadian National Women's Team, and they have reaped the rewards that go along with their hard work. I don't care how much talent a team has in any league or competition because the one mantra that holds true is the same one that coaches preached to me when I was playing hockey:
I don't understand why Canadian teams seem to think that it's a given that they will be playing in a championship game. The gap between Canada and the countries who used to roll over for them has closed considerably in almost every nation's respect. The nations we used to beat soundly have caught up to us, and are now delivering the beatings we used to put on them.
The reason for this? They have improved by learning systems and developing better players. Canadian players seemingly think that they can go through the motions and find themselves playing for gold. That isn't the case any longer nor should that have ever been the case. Carbonneau said nearly the same thing after the loss to Sweden.
"I think they're starting to realize that they need to get mad at themselves and not at the rest of the world, or at the other teams," Carbonneau said of his team. "I think the other teams are just playing their games, and I think there's been a lot of frustration in our game."
So rather than heading to Minsk to play for a medal, the Canadians will now travel to Bobruisk, Belarus looking to avoid a ninth- or tenth-place finish which would relegate them out of the Division-I Championship. Canada will play Slovakia on Thursday, and needs to win to remain relevant for next year's tournament. Otherwise, this ball of yarn could come unraveled in a hurry if they lose to the Slovaks.
I'm not saying this has been coming for a long time, and I cannot pinpoint where this team went wrong per se. Perhaps Carbonneau didn't push them hard enough. Perhaps this team simply took their opposition for granted.
Whatever the case may be, it's time for the coddling to stop. Someone needs to kick this program in the rear so that Canada finds itself working harder than every other nation out there. After all, talent + hard work = great results.
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!