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Mark Madden

BLAME THE PLAYERS

 
BLAME THE PLAYERS

Several U.S. hockey players, including captain Zach Parise, said the U.S. wasn’t aggressive enough in the team’s medal-round losses to Canada and Finland.

“It just felt like a lot of times, especially [against Canada], we would forecheck with one guy,” Parise said. “We were passive. We weren’t getting up the ice. We were making it pretty easy for them to break out of the zone.”

Parise’s statement is a clear indictment of Dan Bylsma. When the captain throws the coach under the bus, is that good leadership?

When a team doesn’t score in 120 minutes of medal-round hockey, perhaps that team’s players should look in the mirror. Bylsma hardly coached a perfect tournament. But he didn’t tactically negate anyone’s individual brilliance, nor did he prohibit his players from putting pucks and bodies in the foe’s blue paint.

It’s hard to criticize Bylsma for playing a 1-2-2 when just about every team at Sochi did it, including Canada. That was necessary on the wide ice.

System doesn’t trump all. System didn’t allow Finland to score twice in 11 seconds against the U.S. “shutdown pair” of Ryan Suter and Ryan McDonagh. System didn’t make Patrick Kane miss two penalty shots against the Finns. System didn’t legislate the U.S. forwards staying on the perimeter for (literally) two hours vs. Canada and Finland.

Canada 1, U.S. 0 is not a disgrace.

Finland 5, U.S. 0 is. But there’s plenty of blame to go around for that debacle.

I’m not Bylsma’s knight in shining armor. I would not have brought him back to coach the Penguins this year. If Bylsma’s job isn’t on the line in this spring’s Stanley Cup playoffs, it should be.

Bylsma deserves his share of blame for the U.S. disappointment at Sochi.

But the players merit just as much, if not more. When Max Pacioretty said, “We didn’t show up,” it’s not because the coaches padlocked the players in the dressing room. The coaches didn’t shoot 0-for-58 from the field inside a 25-hour span.

Photos Courtesy of Getty Images

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