The following is a verbatim quote from Wednesday’s press conference featuring Team USA general manager Dean Lombardi at the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto. It was not edited for time or for clarity. Enjoy.
Q. One of the biggest decisions you had was hiring John Tortorella as coach, how do you evaluate his job and his staff’s job preparing this team?
DEAN LOMBARDI: It’s kind of funny, I went over that too.
Obviously you start with yourself and you work down. The first thing I think, again I think we hit the nail on the head, one of my biggest concerns going in, we talked about this when we talked to every coach before they were hired – one of the problems you have is you look at the talent behind that bench.
You’ve got six head coaches, and one of the problems, just like the players, accepting roles they might not be used to, right. You have six defensemen all on the back end that all play the power play, well here you’re not going to, so it’s the same thing with the coaches. We have stressed that ‘OK, we’re going to go with six coaches but they better accept their roles, and that’s not easy a lot of times in these tournaments to go that route, and are you better off keeping small or … and I thought they were great. I didn’t sense any egos and I was definitely on guard for it.
It’s not an easy thing to do for head coaches. Canada is notorious for it. You see Joel Quenneville taking a ‘two’ role and they’ve always done a great job at that. It’s almost like the team.
Did we get the caring part down? Absolutely. And I think these coaches as far as being a team were great. I think now going to, and it’s the same thing I talked about, that first game, right, were we prepared here like we needed to be, I think that’s something John, we still talked about it last night and with Paul Holmgren, ‘what could we have done better?’ But other than that, one thing you say like, you have six coaches and there were five under John, we got some darn good coaches coming and again, it’s the character. They were willing to sacrifice their egos to do their role overall.
But I think, the one thing you also struggle with is how much do you put into those exhibition games. It was really hard. I kept walking out of there, those first two games saying, ‘OK,’ and we talk about it, and they have three days to get up to speed and we’ve never seen this before and this is why so much is so different. Whenever you’re building your team essentially your veterans are coasting the first couple of exhibition games, so I have never seen a team have to get up to speed in four days and you’re playing against Canada. We thought it was important even in that exhibition game to make a statement. It wasn’t critical to win, but I think that part – then you start with players needing to play the way you maybe want, you really start looking ‘let’s change this guy, let’s change that guy,’ when the reality is you’re just trying to get through.
To expect professional athletes at their level, I don’t care how much you skate in the summer, to within four days going to play back to back against Canada, did we put too much in a guy who maybe didn’t have a good game and that’s going to happen, and said, ‘just throw it out, we have to get through this.’ We kept on juggling things internally and said the other thing I said was ‘whoa, whoa. Let’s go with this lineup we sought and stick with it because to evaluate these guys in these two games is ridiculous. It has no bearing on what we expect from them. It’s ‘get through it.’
So I think maybe if I had to go back it was, ‘let’s stick with the script we had on the board, unless it was very clear a guy was not in shape’ and I think we might have approached that part a little differently.
But I think the biggest thing was that mindset before we got to Canada and like I said, I think we immediately after that in dealing with, to me, was almost a tight team, and that’s why I said it was different than when we were down 3-0. We knew we had to win Game 1, but it was like it was still OK.
But I think the significance of this, the fact they cared so much, it kind of goes the other way and it kind of snowballed on us.
This concluded Dean Lombardi’s evaluation of John Tortorella, who led Team USA to consecutive losses in the World Cup of Hockey – to a recently invented team of wayward European players and then Canada – eliminating them from semifinal contention.
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