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A failure of imagination Add to ...

On Wednesday, Scott Gomez of the Montreal Canadiens said he'd be cheering for the Russians in the WJC final because the U.S. were done and “Alaska used to be part of Russia.”

He also said "if they win maybe it'll shut some guys up in this room and you guys (in the media) too."

Mr. Gomez clearly doesn't have a full grasp the self-flagellating Canadian character - there's surely more office talk now than there would have been had Canada been able to hang on in Buffalo.

It's human nature (and sports writing habit) to want to finger the perpetrator(s) of any sporting debacle, but perhaps some perspective is required. People need to remember this is one game, featuring a squad shorn of the top under-20 players this country has to offer (Duchene, Kane, Hall, Skinner, Seguin etc.), in a string of 10 - 10! - straight trips to the final of a tournament where this country has been so dominant that all but a couple of other nations have stopped caring.

Canada slipped on a banana peel on Wednesday night - as Eric rightly points out, it happens all the time in hockey.

So scrutinize goaltending if you must, Messrs. Shoalts and Sekeres but if the occasion absolutely demands the identification of a root cause, how about this: a failure of imagination.

It's a shortcoming that has to rest primarily at the feet of the coaches - see? here we go hunting for scapegoats - and their inability to prepare for the third period.

A pair of kings is probably the most dangerous hand in poker because it usually leads to overly rash bets. You can think of the 3-0 second period lead as a pair of pocket cowboys: it should be good enough to win under almost all circumstances, but it can also breed complacency and hubris.

After the game, several players talked about "panic" and "shock" when the Russians staged their stirring comeback. But this was a team that had done precisely the same thing in its previous two games! Even if the coaches emphasized the dangers (which they most assuredly would have between periods), their charges evidently weren't adequately prepared in terms of exactly how to weather the storm, nor were there any apparent tactical or match-up wrinkles to try and stop the bleeding against a team they knew to be motivated, confident and skilled.

Perhaps the coaches did tweak their strategy (have they not heard of the trap?) and the players didn't or couldn't implement it, but either way, this one's on the adults, not the kids.

In the second period, there were ample warning signs, nowhere more evident than on Russia's penalty kill. In the third, the coaches waited until the game was 3-3 to call timeout, and when they did, too late, Dave Cameron appeared to shout animatedly at his players.

Maybe they were strong words of encouragement - the television mikes weren't close enough to capture them - but the players were dispirited and confused, so it was exactly the wrong time to yell. It's fair to ask whether the coaches panicked too.

Even the greatest champions have bad outings, and everyone chokes at some point (ask Tiger Woods and Roger Federer, two of the mentally stoutest athletes of this or any era).

Canadian hockey players have been so indoctrinated to their superiority by the jingoism of WJCs and Olympics past (thanks ravenous media machine!) that they couldn't conceive of folding in that situation. That happens to others, not to us, this is our game, etc.

But sometimes in life the wheels just fall off. The key is accepting it as a possibility, imagining it, and figuring out how you're going to try and deal with it - as student pilots are taught, panic wins every time if you let it grip you. So don't.

Gomez will surely be giving his Canucklehead teammates the gears today, and fair enough, the Ugly Canadian lurking in all of us could and should be more humble about our national puck prowess.

But this team was never supposed to make it this far, they did their best and froze at a bad time; it happens, call off the royal commissions and national soul-searching.

Follow on Twitter: @MrSeanGordon

 

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