Cam Tucker

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 20: Team USA leaves the ice following a 4-2 loss to Team Canada during the World Cup of Hockey tournament at the Air Canada Centre on September 20, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Team USA left searching for answers after World Cup failure


TORONTO (AP) Members of Team USA gathered for a few drinks after they were eliminated from the World Cup of Hockey.

There was a lot to discuss.

The United States was surprised by Team Europe and wasn’t good enough against Canada, leading to two losses and a cascade of questions. John Tortorella as coach? Too much grit? Not enough skill? What might change after another all-too-familiar early exit from an international tournament? The pipeline of young talent for next time around?

A few days isn’t enough time to answer all those questions, especially for players whose job was to play a certain style of hockey – not put together a roster or pick the coaching staff.

“I liked our team,” winger Zach Parise said Wednesday. “I thought we played hard. It’s not a player’s job to speculate who should or shouldn’t be on the team before or after the tournament.”

Phil Kessel took his shot. Left off the team along with scoring forwards Kyle Okposo and Tyler Johnson and defensemen Justin Faulk, Kevin Shattenkirk and Cam Fowler, the Stanley Cup-winning Pittsburgh Penguins winger tweeted after the U.S. loss: “Just sitting around the house tonight (with) my dog. Felt like I should be doing something important, but couldn’t put my finger on it.”

Related: Team USA takes issue with Kessel’s tweet

U.S. management went with a sandpaper style of play that almost resulted in a silver medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics but hasn’t worked since. Center David Backes said he believes that style of hockey can still win if executed correctly.

“To come here and flop like we did is extremely disappointing,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “Obviously we have to examine ourselves and what more could we have done and how can we get better for future tournaments.”

The 0-2 start revealed the Americans brought too much physicality to a skill game. Canada, Russia, Team North America and others have thrived with fast-paced, entertaining hockey. Speed has been king at this international tournament, but Backes noted that the Americans “weren’t going to out-skill Canada.” With the aim of beating Canada, U.S. general manager Dean Lombardi instead built a big team with an edge in hopes of neutralizing the talent of the top hockey power in the world.

Instead, the World Cup showed that depth of talent is everything. Leaving more skilled players at home was too much to overcome.

Kessel was the Americans’ leading scorer and best player at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, but he was left off the roster. Hand surgery after the playoffs may have put his availability in doubt, but USA Hockey’s management team clearly overlooked him and others.

The U.S. opted for old-guard players like forward Brandon Dubinsky, defensemen Jack Johnson and Erik Johnson and grinder Justin Abdelkader. Tortorella, as old-school a coach as there is, wanted to play his brand of hockey and stood by the roster construction and style.

Canada outclassed the U.S. in a 4-2 whacking Tuesday night that wasn’t as close as the score. Not only could the Americans not beat the tournament favorite but they weren’t able to knock them around, either.

“As a team we have some bigger guys who are physical,” Canada captain Sidney Crosby said. “It doesn’t mean they have to chase hits.”

In the aftermath of the loss, players talked about hitting the post and being close. They also defended their teammates against criticism, even while conceding the results weren’t good enough.

“There’s perhaps a gut check for everybody that’s on this team to know or to evaluate really what they were able to give or what they gave for the red white and the blue,” Backes said.

Tortorella was not made available to reporters on Wednesday. Lombardi was expected to speak Thursday before the U.S. finishes round-robin play with a meaningless game against the Czech Republic, which also failed to reach the semifinals.

Patrick Kane, who did not score a goal in two games after winning the Hart Trophy as the NHL MVP last season, wouldn’t blame his coach for this failing.

“Tortorella is just one of the most passionate guys I’ve ever seen about hockey,” Kane said. “I’ll never say a bad thing about him. He’s just a great coach. We didn’t show up for him.”

Lombardi and other executives will take heat for the World Cup debacle, though it might lead to philosophical changes about how to beat Canada and win elite tournaments. It will help at future events to have players like Auston Matthews, Johnny Gaudreau, Jack Eichel, Brandon Saad and Seth Jones, all of whom played on the 23-and-under Team North America and weren’t eligible for the U.S. team.

“There is definitely a fantastic future coming here,” Tortorella said Tuesday night. “There are some good young kids there that I think they’ll bring some juice to the program.”

For now, there is the final game against the Czechs. Parise said the U.S. won’t repeat what it did in against Finland in the bronze medal game at the Sochi Olympics, essentially mailing it in.

“All of us probably really regretted what happened that game,” Parise said. “You ask yourself, `Could we have played harder with the bronze medal on the line?’ … We’ll come and play hard just like there is a spot on the line to get in.”

Report: Lupul (sports hernia) could be placed on injured reserve to begin season

Joffrey Lupul
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Joffrey Lupul last played an NHL game on Feb. 6, before being shut down for the remainder of last season with a sports hernia injury.

But with training camp set to begin Thursday, his future with the Toronto Maple Leafs isn’t exactly clear following an offseason of uncertainty as he recovered from the injury.

From TSN’s Frank Seravalli:

Lupul returned to Toronto from his off-season home on Sept. 13. Sometime during the last week, it’s believed Lupul underwent a physical examination by Maple Leaf doctors and indications are Lupul was notified he is unfit to play and will be placed on the injured reserve list to begin the season.

Lupul was asked to comment via text message Wednesday and replied he will address the media on Thursday. He has not skated with the group of Maple Leafs informally preparing for training camp daily at the MasterCard Centre.

The Maple Leafs declined comment on Wednesday. A press release from the team said its training camp roster will be released Thursday.

In 46 games last season, the 32-year-old Lupul scored 11 goals and 14 points before he was shut down.

Lupul also has two more years — and a limited no-trade clause — left on his current five-year contract, worth a total value of $26.25 million, as per General Fanager.

Team Canada lineup changes: Muzzin, Giroux in; Getzlaf, Weber out

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 20: Head coach Mike Babcock of Team Canada yells on the bench while playing Team USA during the World Cup of Hockey at the Air Canada Center on September 20, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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Team Canada has already clinched a spot in the World Cup semifinals.

But as they prepare to play in the second half of a back-to-back situation, Canadian head coach Mike Babcock has made some changes to his lineup for Wednesday’s game against Team Europe.

Both teams are 2-0. Both are moving on to the next round. The winner tonight determines who wins Group A.

It was already reported yesterday that goalie Carey Price will have the night off, while Corey Crawford starts in goal.

On Wednesday, it was revealed defenseman Shea Weber and forward Ryan Getzlaf will also sit, according to multiple reports (here and here). Jake Muzzin and Claude Giroux will enter into the lineup.


The biggest reason Canada wins? ‘It’s called players, really good players’

Here’s what’s at stake in today’s World Cup games

Team North America defeats Sweden in thrilling OT, forces Russia into must-win game

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 21: Nathan MacKinnon #29 of Team North America celebrates his game-winning goal in overtime against Team Sweden during the World Cup of Hockey tournament at the Air Canada Centre on September 21, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
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Team North America is still alive in its quest for a World Cup semifinal berth. And they stay alive following one of the most exciting three-on-three overtime periods you might ever see.

The final 45 seconds of that extra period was wild.

The two teams — more specifically, Daniel Sedin for Sweden and Nathan MacKinnon for North America — traded glorious chances in such a short amount of time, bringing the crowd in Toronto to its feet. MacKinnon finally won it, as he dragged the puck to his backhand and beat Henrik Lundqvist top shelf, giving ‘TNA’ a crucial 4-3 victory.

The opportunity on Lundqvist presented itself after Johnny Gaudreau, who was sensational throughout the entire game, stripped Daniel Sedin of the puck as Sweden was trying to counter attack. The puck found its way to MacKinnon, who was left all alone.

You know the rest.

My goodness. What an overtime period.

John Gibson had some shaky moments in this game, but he also came up big with a breakaway stop on Daniel Sedin in the OT.

That’s an important win for the young North American squad. They move to 2-1 in the tournament, with four points. They’re certainly in for a stressful 24 hours or so, but they have forced Russia into a must-win versus Finland on Thursday.

If Russia cannot beat Finland, then North America advances.

A regulation win would’ve been much better, as North America would’ve clinched a semifinal berth in that situation. And they certainly got off to the perfect start, with Auston Matthews scoring 30 seconds in and Gaudreau awarded a penalty shot — he was unsuccessful in his attempt — 26 seconds later.

But Sweden managed to come back, tying the game on a goal from Patrik Berglund early in the third period.

The single point means Sweden clinches top spot in Group B with a 2-0-1 record and five points, and a berth in the semifinals.

Canucks’ Virtanen knows spending time in the AHL is a possibility

Jake Virtanen
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The Vancouver Canucks had options last season when it came to Jake Virtanen. They ultimately came down to this: Send him back to junior, or keep him with the big club.

He wasn’t eligible to be sent to the minors last season, so the Canucks chose the latter, as Virtanen spent the entire season — with the exception of the world juniors — in the NHL. The sixth-overall pick in 2014, Virtanen scored seven goals and 13 points in 55 games.

A developing power forward capable of being physical and going to the net, conditioning was a real point of emphasis for Virtanen heading into his offseason workouts.

Now 20 years old, however, he knows he may be asked to spend some time this season working on his game in the minors, which puts the onus on him to not only be in top physical shape when camp begins, but to show he’s capable of producing more at the big-league level.

“This year I could be going to Utica or staying in Vancouver. But … I’m not going to focus on Utica. I’m just going to focus on playing in Vancouver,” Virtanen told TSN 1040 radio on Wednesday.

“I don’t have anything else on my mind.”

The Canucks have numerous veteran players listed as right wingers, including Loui Eriksson and Jannik Hansen, heading into camp. They also have Anton Rodin, a left-shooting right winger, who enters camp as something of a wild card. He could also crack this lineup with a good preseason.

There is competition at right wing heading into camp, and Virtanen will need to prove he can help the Canucks win, which was the message from head coach Willie Desjardins earlier in the summer.

“I think Willie and the management are going to have me held a little bit more accountable. I’ve got to get out there and they’re going to expect more from me,” said Virtanen.

“I’ve got to go out there and show I belong.”