This was the best team that USA Hockey could put together from the best American players in the NHL, and all it could muster in eight days of play was one win, one tie, four defeats, and elimination from the tournament.
There will be no medals for this group, no homecoming celebrations, no commercial endorsements, no book contracts and no movie deals.
There has been no shortage of failures for the United States in Turin. But there has been none as monumentally embarrassing as this one. Falling, as it did, on the 26th anniversary of the Miracle on Ice in Lake Placid makes it that much worse.
It’s easy to say now the expectations for this team weren’t very high and the team met them. Its roster was top-heavy with aging veterans who had to battle jet lag and a torrid schedule that had them playing six games in eight days. It didn’t have a premier goaltender. It wasn’t considered one of the elite teams in the tournament.
But it’s not the losing, but how the team lost that makes this one so bad. When NHL players first came to the Olympics in 1998, the U.S. team partied its way out of the medal round. Four years later, it won silver in a classic battle with Canada. This year, it simply fell apart when it mattered most.
They could have beaten Finland if they had played with intensity and purpose. But that was too much for them.
When it needed energy, it delivered lethargy. When it needed discipline, it committed dumb penalty after dumb penalty.
“We didn’t have the pop and energy,” coach Peter Laviolette said. He couldn’t say why, and refused to agree that perhaps younger legs would have helped in a tournament so condensed.
Center Mike Modano, an assistant captain and one of the team’s biggest stars, felt that USA Hockey, which this year produced a women’s team that failed to get to the gold-medal game for the first time ever and the men’s team that played so poorly when it mattered most, needs “new blood” at the top.
“You’ll have to ask Peter,” Modano said of his benching.
“It wasn’t about Mike Modano,” Laviolette said. “We wanted guys out there that had jump.”