For the first time in 15 years, Canada didn't medal at the IIHF's World Junior Hockey Championships. To put that into context, there are likely 18 year old Canadian hockey fans who don't remember a tournament when Canada didn't medal. Maybe older. It is the fourth straight year Canada has failed to win gold in this tournament. It is the second straight year Canada has failed to make the gold medal game. The pattern seems to be one of decline.
If you listen to Canadian hockey media, the era of Canadian dominance of the international game is over. The Americans are bound to take over. They have more people, more money, and more room to improve. The one thing Canada has dominated for it's entire existence is about to no longer be ours.
No one is going to argue that this year's tournament wasn't an unmitigated disaster for Canada. They came in with undeniably the strongest team, including a captain who was on a near 70 point pace in the NHL last season in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
As always with Canada, they entered the tournament as favourites, gold or nothing. Well they got nothing. A lot of the blame can be put at the feet of coach Steve Spott, but at the same time fans and media have to begin to understand something; shit happens.
Tournaments like the World Juniors don't always go the way you want. There are so many things that can go wrong at the wrong time, and just one can kill it for you. In Saskatoon Canada probably should have won gold, but a bad game by Jake Allen and a mental mistake by Alex Pietrangelo lead to John Carlson winning it for the USA in OT. In the round robin of that tournament, Canada scored 36 goals in 4 games. But when it comes down to one game, one mistake by Pietrangelo meant silver instead of gold. That's all it takes.
There is no forgiveness in a short tournament.
But that's something a large portion of the Canadian public doesn't seem to understand, having the best team doesn't mean you win all the time. The same applies to the NHL to a lesser extent. Other things can factor in and the best team doesn't always win. I think you would be hard pressed to find many people who believe that the New Jersey Devils were the best team in the Eastern Conference last year for example, because they weren't.
What you do get with the best team though, is long term success. Canada has now won 19 medals in the World Juniors in the last 21 years. 10 gold medals, 6 silver medals, and 3 bronze medals. In that time, the Russians are second best with 4 golds, 7 silvers, and 6 bronzes. The Americans have 3 golds, followed by the Czechs with 2, with Sweden and Finland with one each.
Is that not dominance? Oh but it's fading you say? Well, we've heard this refrain before.
Is Canadian hockey in decline?
Habs Eyes On The Prize | Jan 7