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Despite no medals and ‘sour feeling,’ Sochi was not a complete bust for the United States

Feb 22, 2014, 2:22 PM EDT

Ice Hockey - Winter Olympics Day 15 Getty Images

SOCHI, Russia — It’s hard to look at the positives. Really hard, right now.

So soon after such an embarrassing defeat for the United States men’s hockey team, it’s easier to focus on, say, the comments of Jonathan Quick and agree there was “no reason” for the Americans to “show up and not piss a drop” against Finland.

Except, of course, for the fact there totally was a reason. That being last night’s devastating 1-0 loss to Canada in the semifinals — a loss that meant there would be no revenge for 2010 and no match-up with Sweden for gold. For a team that came halfway around the world expressly for just that — a shot at gold — can anyone be surprised that, when mere bronze was on the line, the effort wasn’t there?

“Losing that game (to Canada), it took a lot out of us,” said coach Dan Bylsma, admitting what was so obvious to anyone watching today’s contest at the Bolshoy Ice Dome.

No, Quick’s not wrong that the professionals on the U.S. team “play back-to-backs all year long” in the NHL. However, we’re not talking about a loss in New Jersey, with a chance to regroup the next night on Long Island. This is the Olympics, and these guys are only human. They wanted gold so badly, and they felt they had the team to get it.

Maybe nobody wants to hear it right now, but despite the way the Games ended, there were positives for the Americans to take out of them.

Take Cam Fowler. Just 22 years old, he got his first taste of Olympic experience, on a blue line that also featured youngsters Kevin Shattenkirk, 25, John Carlson, 24, Ryan McDonagh, 24, and Justin Faulk, 21.

“Personally, as a player it can only help for me,” said Fowler. “I proved to myself that I can play and I can compete with the best hockey players in the world, and that’s good for me going on in my career.”

And that wasn’t all he picked up.

“I think I’ve learned a lot too about disappointment, and just the overall feeling you have when you let a lot of people down,” he said. “That’s a tough thing to take.”

Veteran Finnish defenseman Sami Salo was asked how his team was able to get motivated for the bronze-medal game after losing in the semis to a fierce rival, just like the Americans did.

Salo said it was all about what had happened in previous Olympics, and the wisdom gained.

“We had a similar situation in Vancouver,” he said. “Losing to the U.S. in the semifinal by big numbers (6-1), then coming back strong against the Slovaks in the bronze game. We were really looking forward to giving something back after losing to the U.S. in Vancouver.”

He added: “It’s just the experience of this group. We had a brief meeting after [losing to Sweden) that you can’t worry about that. Our goal coming to this competition was to get a medal. We still had one game left, one chance to get that medal, and we just regrouped and…unbelievable.”

There is still hope for U.S. hockey at the world’s highest level. Great hope, in fact. If the NHL commits to South Korea in 2018, just think of the blue-liners the Americans could roll out. Seth Jones and Jacob Trouba are only 19. If all goes to plan, both should be ready for the big time by then, joining Ryan Suter and some or all of the guys mentioned above, plus other strong candidates.

At the moment, Canada and Sweden have the best collection of defensemen on the planet. It’s no coincidence those two countries will be meeting Sunday for gold. The blue line matters. A lot.

For now, though, what happened the past two nights is tough to accept.

“If we’re honest about this, these last two games, we’ve had better performances in the tank and it didn’t come to the forefront,” said forward David Backes.

“That’s the disappointing thing. If we played our butts off and were ousted, or had better teams best us, I think you can live with that. But when it’s less than stellar performances, especially in a tournament like this, it is going to be a sour, sour feeling.”

  1. puregreed - Feb 22, 2014 at 2:29 PM

    Trouba is a beast. He’s gonna be deadly next Olympics.

  2. patthehockeyfan - Feb 22, 2014 at 2:32 PM

    “Somewhere in the world there is a defeat for everyone. Some are destroyed by defeat, and some made small and mean by victory. Greatness lives in one who triumphs equally over defeat and victory.”
    ― John Steinbeck, The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights

    • redandwhite1976 - Feb 22, 2014 at 4:15 PM

      ‘A defeat’.

      The U.S. has accomplished nothing. How many times can you get beat by Canada and still keep their chin up.

      The logical step would have been realizing you only lost 1-0 to a team with 5 times the talent and said ‘A bronze medal would not be so bad’.

      The U.S. team in 2010 was actually superior in my mind, lucky Canada can’t seem to score right now. Nobody fights harder for a bronze medal though than Finland.

      Congrats Teemu, guys like you are what Zack and Kessel should be more like.

      • jamr212 - Feb 22, 2014 at 7:25 PM

        No class, just like a large majority of the Canadians on this blog.

      • dueman - Feb 22, 2014 at 9:39 PM

        Actually, “no class” would be to, one, answer one poster by labeling that person “the large majority of the Canadians on this blog” and two, assuming that you know the nationalities of everyone posting comments!

  3. c9castine - Feb 22, 2014 at 2:34 PM

    last go around for guys like Orpik and Martin. Other than that the team is rather young but some of these guys won’t be here because there is better talent on the way. callahan and brown are fine players that do bring something but they hopefully won’t have a chance. saad and galchenyuk and others are on the rise. Gibson and Bishop will make goaltending depth even better. a guy like Beau Bennett, I realize nobody has seen him do much yet, but he is going to be a top American talent soon.

    Next team is going to be twice as hard to make and hopefully that means better results….

    also, we could learn a lot about the pride and humility the Fins showed. They felt like the owed their country something. Just because you can’t be first doesn’t mean you should be a sore loser and not try to finish your best.

    • redandwhite1976 - Feb 22, 2014 at 6:46 PM

      No team has ever played harder for a ‘non-gold’ medal.

      I have the upmost respect for the fins and the swedes relating to their work ethic and defensive responsibility.

      A bronze when multiple forwards were out and your 2nd string goalie had to play the semi-final is excellent for the Fins.

      The other thing that they avoid as well (unlike the red white and blue) is constantly bicker about officiating and are not afraid to look in the mirror and just play better.

      I’ll exclude JVR and Phil because they play for the leafs (bias!), but Kane…..come on, show some passion like your teammate Johnathan Toews

  4. canucks30 - Feb 22, 2014 at 2:38 PM

    What happened to Phil “the best player I’ve ever played with” Kessel?

    Oh yeah he disappeared in crunch time…again.

    • idonthavethebloodyoucrave - Feb 22, 2014 at 4:10 PM

      As did Zach “No Show” Parise … nothing shocking there …

  5. muckleflugga - Feb 22, 2014 at 2:51 PM

    say whaaaa … who’ll remember this game in july

    that bronze ain’t no big deal

    and there’s winners and there’s losers
    but they ain’t no big deal
    ’cause the simple man, baby
    pays for thrills
    the bills the pills that kill

    oh, but ain’t that america
    for you and me

    ain’t that america
    something to see, baby

    ain’t that america
    home of the free, yeah

    little pink houses
    for you and me
    oooh ooooh, yeah

    • joey4id - Feb 22, 2014 at 5:58 PM

      Teemu and all of Finland will remember this game come July and a lot more. They will remember showing up to play with pride and desire to beat USA who looked like a bunch of spoiled and pouting professional players.

      • jimeejohnson - Feb 22, 2014 at 6:56 PM

        I’m as bitterly disappointed as the next American, but you tell it like it is (why you get so many thumbs downs) and for the positive person, Teemu Selänne has been one of the greatest hockey players in the world for a long time. We who live west of I-5 have been treated to his greatness for some time, now, and I agree with you that he is a mighty prideful professional. I disagree that the Americans are not. I think they are as bummed as they can be right now.

      • joey4id - Feb 22, 2014 at 8:16 PM

        As a Canadian who lived in So Cal for 12 years I have to say that it was a pleasure to see Teemu play at the Honda Center, and be there when the Ducks won the cup. I had the opportunity to meet Teemu, and he was nothing but class. A great guy who took time out of his busy day to talk with a hockey fan about the game and what it meant for him to win the cup. Class guy!

      • blomfeld - Feb 22, 2014 at 11:42 PM

        As a Canadian who lived in LA for two years, I have to say that it was a pleasure meeting Vicente Fernandez at the Universal Studios concert theater back in 2001 ! :)

      • joey4id - Feb 23, 2014 at 6:56 AM

        heir blomfeld, and it was also a pleasure to be at Staples for many a Kings game to appreciate the play of JQ, Drew, Captain Brown, Anze etc…. When I first move to So Cal in 2000 I never thought I’d see 2 SCs won there. My! How hockey has grown. Thank you, 99.

  6. vgraziano - Feb 22, 2014 at 3:29 PM

    “If the NHL commits to South KOrea in 2018″….se la vie!!! This will be the end of the NHL in the Olympics for a long time…..Bring back the College Kidz!!!!!

  7. scottish316 - Feb 22, 2014 at 4:13 PM

    There will be no NHL players in the next Olympics, so you might as well scrap that notion right now. As far as this team not being able to bounce back, it’s a matter of deciding to do it. It’s a matter of desire, professionalism, heart, pride and commitment, We showed none of those things. The effort in the last two periods of this game was nothing short of a disgrace. Columns like this that attempt to console or cover of the pathetic showing are not needed. Harsh words are. And as for Cam Fowler, he was completely outclassed on the ice when we played the best teams. In those instances, he was the worst player on the rink…completely outclassed. But at least he’s a young guy, not somebody like Patrick Kane or Zach Parise…guys who were called on for leadership and who were complete and total no-shows.

  8. therealjr - Feb 22, 2014 at 5:54 PM

    It was pretty close to a complete bust. They scored zero goals in the medal round. Zero!

    Right now they are a distant fourth or fifth in the world (with Russia). I don’t want to hear them in the gold medal mix talk whenever the next best on best tournament comes about.

    • redandwhite1976 - Feb 22, 2014 at 6:39 PM

      Your dead on.

      People can sugar coat this all they want, but if it wasn’t for Quick this would have been a blowout.

      I think the U.S. teams biggest mistake was thinking they had a defence core that could ‘cut’ it at this level…..defensively I’d rank them 5th at best

      • jimeejohnson - Feb 22, 2014 at 6:50 PM

        Hard to question somebody with a patriotic username like yours. Canadians have a great defensive core and mindset while the Americans thought they could win with an offensive Juggernaut that stalled: see Patrick Kane for details.

  9. General37 - Feb 22, 2014 at 6:16 PM

    My only positive is now we realize we need better coaches in place, bylsma is mediocre at best

    • redandwhite1976 - Feb 22, 2014 at 6:40 PM

      Sidney Crosby might dis-agree with that

  10. jimeejohnson - Feb 22, 2014 at 6:48 PM

    Beating the Russians: priceless.
    Losing to Finland: f+cked up except the Fins are a perennial Olympic power that somehow meshes as a cohesive unit of wily veterans in a very short time.

    Final is going to be one, great game, eh (hint)!

    • blomfeld - Feb 22, 2014 at 11:54 PM

      friend … as a Canadian who holds Swedish citizenry (thanks to my first ex) and speaks their language fluently, I envy your conflict-free support for a ‘certain side ? … personally, I have no idea who I’m rooting for ? … however I do ‘hope and pray’ that I will, when arise tonight at 0300 hours to see the game ! :)

      GO SWEDEN ?

  11. badgerhockey77 - Feb 22, 2014 at 7:22 PM

    Nope. Sorry. It WAS a complete bust for the U.S. Don’t kid yourself. Lack of effort against Finland solidified it as a bust. A cowardly and pathetic performance!

  12. shamu1the1whale - Feb 22, 2014 at 11:32 PM

    Just like the players, I had so much hope for TeamUSA this year. So it’s been really tough to see them go through all these past 2 weeks of effort, dedication, and injuries (for some), and not have won a medal. I feel for the guys on the team. It was unfortunate that less than 24 hrs after the Canada game, USA had to face the brick wall that is Tuukka Rask in their final game. Even players who are at 100% energy level find it hard to score on him. For me, the real “gold medal” game was the one against Russia. I’ll remember these Winter Olympics for that USA vs. Russia game, which was phenomenal in so many ways.

  13. sportsfan69 - Feb 23, 2014 at 12:12 PM

    Let’s understand, it was a great disappointment for the American hockey program. But, let’s not forget the guys did volunteer to play. Thank you!

    I blame the coaches for placing too much on role players in the line up. Callahan is a nice player, he’s not in the same league of with the top Canadian, Finnish, and Sweedish players in the world. A little less grit, more scoring might have made the difference the USA.

    To USA players, Thank you!

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