Patrick Kane was notably upset following Team USA’s thrashing at the hands of Canada on Tuesday night. The Americans not only got eliminated from the World Cup of Hockey, but did so in an ugly fashion that allowed their haters to gleefully react online. While Kane was at a podium almost in tears taking questions about his inability to score a goal in another major international game, coach John Tortorella and the U.S. leadership were being ripped apart by critics on Twitter and elsewhere.
Part of this is just the reality of building an American team without your best U-23 players such as Jack Eichel, Brandon Saad and Johnny Gaudreau, who instead are playing on Team North America. But as Kane struggled throughout his two games in Toronto, it became clear that Team USA wasn’t doing enough to put its best player in a position to thrive.
Following the smackdown against Canada, Tortorella defended his lineup choices and said he believed the team had enough skill to win. This flies in the face of everything we saw Tuesday, when Canada’s stacked fourth line led by Matt Duchene skated circles around the competition, but it’s also fair to say that the U.S. did bring lots of talent to the World Cup.
Except Kane, the defending NHL MVP and leading scorer, found himself bouncing around on lines next to guys like Justin Abdelkader. Kane just spent the past NHL season playing with Artemi Panarin, one of the most gifted, flashiest players I’ve ever seen. Now you’re asking him to be the offensive anchor of your team against Canada with a linemate who has never had more than 44 points in a season?
This is where the Team USA philosophy completely lost me. It’s one thing to admit you don’t have the talent of Canada and not try to simply beat them at their own game. Fine. But it’s another to look at those stacked scoring lines and NEVER consistently take your three best players and put them together. It’s inexcusable that Tortorella never let Kane regularly play with Joe Pavelski or Max Pacioretty. That’s a powerhouse line that could’ve created offense even against a team of superstars.
Instead, those players were spread throughout the lineup without any clear rhyme or reason for it. Kane with Abdelkader and Derek Stepan? Pacioretty stuck next to David Backes and Kyle Palmieri? There was a photo going around Tuesday night of Pacioretty staring blankly while Tortorella screams at his captain. Maybe Patches would’ve been more receptive if he wasn’t being sandbagged by terrible matchups on the ice.
And when it comes to Kane, you could see him pressing to try to create without proper support. One of Europe’s goals in the opener came because Kane tried to force things in the offensive zone and squeeze past a defender, which led to a turnover and a 2-on-0. It’s the kind of play that Kane almost certainly wouldn’t have made in Chicago’s system under Joel Quenneville. But Kane probably felt like he had to be the one to make things happen on this roster, which is a tough way to score when you’re facing superteams like Canada.
The result was an ugly tournament both for Kane and Team USA, who never really seemed to have the right plan to get this team going. The whole grit thing was so laughable you could see that it was going to fail from miles away, so the Americans’ only chance here was to make sure guys like Kane were put in the right positions to carry this team. That’s not what happened, and the result was pretty much what you’d expect. Kane needed more help in the World Cup of Hockey, and he just didn’t get it.