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Cherry, Brent Sutter spar over Canada’s junior struggles

Jan 7, 2014, 9:33 AM EDT

Don Cherry Getty Images

For the second straight year, Team Canada wasn’t able to secure a medal in the World Junior tournament. That’s a major blow for a country that always sets the bar at a gold medal for this event and it’s also their longest medal drought since 1979-81.

Former NHL player and coach Brent Sutter was the Canadian bench boss this year and after his team’s disappointing finish, he suggested that the way the country develops its players is to blame.

“There’s too much focus on winning and losing at such a young age, and not enough about the skill part of it,” Sutter said, according to the Toronto Sun. “That’s truly where it starts. At 16, 17 when they hit the Canadian Hockey League, there should already be a standard of skill already in place.”

Don Cherry didn’t take those remarks well. He felt that Sutter was unfairly pointing the finger at pee wee coaches. On top of that, Grapes fundamentally disagrees with Sutter’s suggestion that Canada has a development problem, given how many Canadian stars there are in the NHL today.

“I cannot believe Brent Sutter said it — but he did,” Cherry said.

At the same time, Cherry was willing to do some finger pointing of his own and his target was Hockey Canada.

“They didn’t take the country’s best players,” Cherry insisted. His argument is that the Canadian team attempted to maintain a regional balance at the expense of talented Ontario Hockey League players.

Canada will host the 2015 World Juniors, so the pressure put on those young players will only increase going forward.

  1. lowenni - Jan 7, 2014 at 9:45 AM

    It’s hard for me to agree with Sutter saying that the country isn’t developing talent well enough when just in the last draft alone they produced Drouin and Mackinnon.

    • kaptaanamerica - Jan 7, 2014 at 1:52 PM

      Sutter should step up and take the blame.the talent is there, the coaching isn’ Canada totally sucks.can’t pick a team for shiite including the coaches.the same people keep screwing things up…

  2. spezzdispenser - Jan 7, 2014 at 10:03 AM

    I didn’t think Canada looked necessarily bad in the tournament, just that other countries looked like they had stepped up their games. So it might be a matter of other teams getting better at developing their players.

  3. scarpino31 - Jan 7, 2014 at 10:18 AM

    Maybe Canada young talent are playing in the league and are not made available by their nhl clubs

  4. tlndma - Jan 7, 2014 at 10:27 AM


    • jpelle82 - Jan 7, 2014 at 11:24 AM

      coaching. the canadians got just plain out-coached. lack of discipline played a big part in it too. look at the semi’s against finland…just an utter collapse in the second period and they never recovered

  5. Wineshard - Jan 7, 2014 at 10:30 AM

    North American players are more NHL-ready at a young age, thereby, making it a higher likelihood that they will not be made available to the World Junior Team. This year was an example of that.

    Canada’s development of young hockey players is just fine – thanks.

  6. hockey412 - Jan 7, 2014 at 10:32 AM

    Didn’t Canada have a lot of players not allowed to leave their NHL clubs? I thought they only had one or two NHL’ers playing.

  7. storminator16 - Jan 7, 2014 at 10:49 AM

    I don’t really care about Canada’s problems but how do you not take Darnell Nurse and Hunter Shinkaruk in the first place? Did they really get a chance to make the team?

    • micasa81 - Jan 7, 2014 at 11:46 AM

      Shinkaruk has had a not-so-great year after recovering from an injury, and then when he didn’t make the team, opted to have season-ending surgery. Clearly he hasn’t been 100%. Otherwise he’d probably have made it.

      • storminator16 - Jan 7, 2014 at 12:17 PM

        Thanks, I wasn’t aware of his status. Ouch.

  8. ray2013 - Jan 7, 2014 at 12:55 PM

    Only in Canada is a few year drought in the WJCs a cause for national debate.

    • joey4id - Jan 7, 2014 at 1:28 PM

      Cherry and Suter sparing is hardly a national debate. Get over it!

      • ray2013 - Jan 7, 2014 at 6:01 PM

        From Alberta. Live in Alberta. Cherry and Sutter’s little tiff is just the tip of the iceberg. A lot of people here are concerned about the lack of success.

      • joey4id - Jan 7, 2014 at 6:04 PM

        And we should be. But! It’s doesn’t mean the system is broken. Definitely an assessment is needed before throwing the baby out with the bath water. DSC is an a hole as far as I’m concerned. I hope Rogers Media will drop him.

  9. joey4id - Jan 7, 2014 at 1:37 PM

    Firstly, Dadoun’s comment doesn’t solely apply to Canada. “That’s a major blow for a country that always sets the bar at a gold medal for this event”. Do you seriously think U.S.A., Sweden, Finland, and Russia don’t set the bar at gold? C’mon! Be real dude! You enter these tournaments to win gold, just like you enter the Olympics to win gold. You play in the NHL to win the SC. There can only be one winner. If you don’t win gold then you need to look at how your country loss and how it is developing players. You may conclude that no one is doing anything wrong, or perhaps you need to make some tweaks. Fine! Just do it! DSC can take a hike. He’s not the end all of all problems in Canada. He may think he has all the solutions, but he does nothing to make changes but go on a TV & Radio rows and throw darts at anything and anyone that is not English Canadian. He’s a buffoon.

  10. Wineshard - Jan 7, 2014 at 4:21 PM

    MacKinnon, Monahan and Rielly on Canada and Seth Jones on USA make a huge difference to those teams. Other countries weren’t missing near the same relative talent levels.

  11. shoobiedoobin - Jan 7, 2014 at 7:17 PM

    You can’t believe he said it?

    Don, you can’t believe it because you’re clueless but truly believe your own BS.

    He said it because it’s true.

    Sweden is our polar opposite. Winning, losing, whatever. Doesn’t matter nearly as much. They focus on skill sets. Chemistry. Working as a team. Look at when they won in 2006-they looked like one giant yellow and blue machine, not a bunch of egos stacked like hockey cards who played like one-man armies (Russia is the worst for that). In Sweden you’re trained at the basics young, like Canada, but at a certain age Canadians shove their kids into pointless tournaments for bragging rights and plastic resin trophies (vanity) whereas Swedes give no damns about that and instead keep working on the basics. Notice how so many Swedish players are outstanding defensively? It’s not only taught but damn near necessary to advance to certain levels of hockey. They’re the easiest players to teach because of this as well. You always hear about Canadian, American and Russian players being ego-maniac toxic troublemakers but Swedes are always low-key, easy to coach and focused.

    Sutter hit the nail on the head. It’ll come off as deflecting responsibility and I don’t care if he is, he’s still right.

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