TORONTO – The braintrust of USA Hockey has analyzed the failure of the 2014 Sochi Olympic team’s failure to medal from every angle. To hear World Cup of Hockey GM Dean Lombardi tell it, one aspect of that failure was a lack of leadership.
“Some of our top players, in that mid-range group in the last Olympics, probably didn’t realize it was their team now,” he said.
In the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Team USA featured veteran names like Jamie Langenbrunner and Chris Drury, who were there as leaders of a young roster of NHL players.
“The training wheels were taken off” for Sochi, said Lombardi. “It was your time. And I don’t think they realized it at that time.”
So in speaking about Team USA for the World Cup of Hockey next September in Toronto, Lombardi specifically mentioned three players that will have to know it’s their team now: Zach Parise and Ryan Suter of the Minnesota Wild, and Ryan McDonagh of the New York Rangers.
Like the other teams in the tournament, Team USA has to release its first 16 players by March 1. Lombardi hinted that the fact there’s a North American “young stars” team hurts Team USA a bit, with several names that could have made his club relegated to that under-24 team.
“Some of the best players aren’t going to be qualified [to play for us],” he said. “I think there’s a definite trend towards having a bit of a turnover. Not only with the [young] players but with the players that will be back in assuming more hands-on leadership role. I think that’s one of the things that we learned from the last team. I’m not sure some of those top players realized it’s now their team, it’s their responsibility to take over. So there’s a transition there as well in terms of new faces.”
One other change from Sochi is a new face behind the bench. John Tortorella was named Team USA’s coach at a time when he was out of work. Now he’s the head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
“I think it’s a double-edged sword,” said Lombardi. “I think it was good that he was away from the game for a little bit. He kind of regrouped. There’s no question that he’s a very good coach, he gives our team an identity … part of it was that he was going to gain a different perspective. But it’s good to be in the thick of it too.”
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Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at email@example.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.