Going in to this year’s World Championship tournament in Germany, Team USA did not appear to be particularly strong on paper. Appearances proved true when Finland beat the Americans 3-2 on Wednesday sending Team USA to the relegation round while Finland, Germany and Denmark advanced from Group D.
Team USA will now play a relegation round robin starting on Saturday with the other cellar dwellers to try to avoid being relegated to second tier status next year with no participation in the Tournament that features the top-16 national teams in the world.
So far, the traditionally powerful France team is the only team in the relegation round with the U.S., Italy and Kazakhstan must win today or they will be the other two teams in the losers bracket.
What makes this situation particularly bitter for USA Hockey is that this fiasco comes on the heels of the US winning the World Junior Championship and the World Under 18 Championships in recent months. In addition to those victories, Team USA took Canada into overtime in the gold medal game at the Olympics where all the best of the best players from around the world participated.
The World Championships are often an odd bird because they are played when the Stanley Cup playoffs are still in full swing with many NHL players unable to participate. However, with 14 teams eliminated from the playoffs, and eight more done by the first weekend of the international tournament, you would hope to be able to pull together a representative team for the US to be be competitive.
With the exception of Canada, Russia, Sweden and the Czech Republic, most of the teams are populated primarily by players that are not NHL caliber. So with these ingredients, it is unbelievable that the US can’t manage to pull it together to finish in the top twelve and at least advance to the second round. Hopefully, the team will have enough pride to go to the relegation round and set out to sweep the other weak sisters of the poor so save some face in light of their poor showing that got them there to begin with.
The one saving grace in the tournament is that television coverage has been so scarce in the States that few folks other than hockey die-hards actually know of the embarrassment that Team USA has suffered.