Drawn and quartered

TURIN, Italy – His eyes still full of Finnish pride, his still lip bloodied from earning it, Teemu Selanne still had the energy to snicker a crooked grin at the silly charges centering around the implosion of USA Hockey.

Following a 4-3 loss to Finland, which ran Team USA's mark to a humiliating 1-4-1 and mercifully eliminated it from the Olympics, Mike Modano blew up at team management, at team policy, at everything and everyone. He said it needed "new blood." He said, "It is probably time some things changed."

He said inconveniences such as the players making their own travel arrangements and having to find housing for family members were the kind of unnecessary distractions that can be the difference in a close tournament.

"That's something you [normally] don't have to think about," said Modano. "That's something that should be taken care of so we can focus on hockey."

Selanne just laughed through his own blood.

"Everybody has to do it [on their] own," he said, noting Team Finland offer no assistance for its grown millionaires to arrange travel. "Nobody help us. I think it is the same for everybody. I wouldn't say that, I wouldn't use that as an excuse.

"It isn't easy for anybody. The jet lag and the no breaks, you play six games in eight, nine days, it's not easy. [But] it only matters who wants to win more. Nothing else matters."

It is all that should matter, but it didn't with this team. Not even close. There was never a sense of urgency here. Never a bit of hunger. Team USA, with 23 roster spots filled with 23 NHL players (a number matched only by Canada) spent too much time pointing fingers, worrying about management slights and playing time, never pressing, barely caring.

Maybe this collection of Americans wasn't good enough to win gold, but there is no excuse to play an entire tournament and only beat Kazakhstan. Go ahead and mock that victory all you want, but you don't beat the world's largest landlocked nation by accident.

Besides, at this point, it's all they have.

Wednesday's loss was just one more disaster, coach Peter Laviolette forced to call an embarrassing first-period timeout because here in an elimination game his pro players "were flat" and already trailing 2-0.

"It was the game we seemed to have the least amount of pop and energy," said Laviolette. "I thought from the start we were standing instead of skating. We did not seem to find our energy until the last 12 minutes when the desperation level was what it was, with the score and the elimination from the tournament."

It should have surprised no one. When Team USA tied lowly Latvia, it blamed it on jet lag. When it couldn't score against Slovakia and Sweden, it assured that things would get better. When Russia and Finland simply wanted it more, well, hope you enjoyed the Chianti.

So everyone started blaming each other. Whether Modano has a point hardly matters. Yes, Team Canada chartered a flight to get the team here in comfort while the U.S. flew commercial. But that was over a week ago. By now you get over it.

All the blame game about throwing these teams together and having one practice session before the tournament is a waste of time. Yes, it is a stupid idea, born of marketing desperation from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

"[But] everybody was in the same boat," said Laviolette. "Everybody was dealt the same cards and you have to make the most of it."

No one was happy afterward. A number of players gave tacit approval to what Modano said without making as bold of statements – "Mike's been in this program a long time, I respect what he says," said Brian Rolston. Others seemed to back USA Hockey. Some just had no idea what had happened.

On a personal note, Modano was angry with Laviolette for benching him in the third period, but as Laviolette pointed out, "the third period was clearly our best period." We won't even bother with the back and forth between Laviolette and back-up goaltender John Grahame; just know that it's more of the same.

Then there was USA general manager Don Waddle, who nearly broke down in tears in disappointment.

The problem lies everywhere, of course. In the players who can't deal with not being pampered. In an organization that didn't see that coming. In an executive staff that didn't select enough young, hungry legs and offensive firepower.

But mostly it lies with a widely held sense that none of this matters all that much. That the fans don't care, that the media doesn't care, that America doesn't care. So why should anyone? This isn't basketball, where the country goes nuts over a loss. Even after being eliminated, there were mostly just shrugs.

No idea. No clue. No pride.

"We know we can beat everybody when we play at our level," said Selanne. "And we [didn't] have to play that well tonight."

That's the sorry state of USA Hockey right now – it's not even worthy of the Fins' best effort.

At least they'll always have Kazakhstan.