By Andrew Imber
There is little that compares to the helpless feeling of watching an anticipated game’s clock bleed while your team gets dominated.
After a four year wait, the game flew by, and it was bad. The scoreboard won’t tell the story of America’s 1-0 loss on Friday in the Semis. Goaltender Jonathan Quick kept things respectable as the United States was dominated virtually the entire game, getting shutdown at best and looking lost at worst.
Ultimately, after a game like that, blame will fall down on many different parties. To me, the blame is deserved and should go specifically to one and partially to another.
Unfortunately, coach Dan Bylsma, who had no answer at all for Canada deserves the majority of the blame. And no, it is not solely for not adjusting to Canada’s dominating defense. Bylsma lobbied to get his Pittsburgh defensive pair of Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik onto the team, despite the fact that the two have combined for a +3 rating on a team with a +48 goal differential.
Coming into the Olympics, even the most diehard Penguins fan could have told you that Orpik has been a shell of his 2010 self, and had no business to even be in the conversation of being included on the team. Bylsma wanted a familiar duo that he could trot out in second pairing minutes against the bigger teams. Then, Martin got injured, rendering Orpik even more out of his element. Considering Martin missed the last Olympics with injury, and almost missed this one as well, it had to be known that Martin could go down again at any time. It isn’t as though Martin played exceptionally well when he was healthy, either.
While Orpik had some solid defensive play at times, he lost his man on the only Canada goal, and had more than a few egregious turnovers during the tournament. He was on the ice for most of the goals allowed over the course of the Olympics, and contributed to why the US is playing for Bronze instead of Gold.
In a situation like that, the blame has to go to the selection over the player. Everybody knew what he was capable of, and what everyone (besides management) saw coming, happened. Erik Johnson, Jack Johnson and Keith Yandle were left at home so that Bylsma could get his guy. If it worked, he would have deserved credit. It didn’t, so he gets the blame. You live by the sword and die by the sword.
Of course, Bylsma shares some of the blame with the management team, mostly GM David Poile. At the end of the day, Poile makes the final call with the roster decision. He should have told Bylsma that the goal here is to win, not to play favorites.
It is tough to know for sure. Would Bobby Ryan, Kyle Okposo, or Jack Johnson have made a difference? Not necessarily. But in a one goal loss, where offense was badly needed, these are the questions that will be asked.
Gold was the goal. Now its Bronze. Hard to say that would be a major accomplishment, considering what we were capable of doing.