Cherry, Brent Sutter spar over Canada’s junior struggles

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For the second straight year, Team Canada wasn’t able to secure a medal in the World Junior tournament. That’s a major blow for a country that always sets the bar at a gold medal for this event and it’s also their longest medal drought since 1979-81.

Former NHL player and coach Brent Sutter was the Canadian bench boss this year and after his team’s disappointing finish, he suggested that the way the country develops its players is to blame.

“There’s too much focus on winning and losing at such a young age, and not enough about the skill part of it,” Sutter said, according to the Toronto Sun. “That’s truly where it starts. At 16, 17 when they hit the Canadian Hockey League, there should already be a standard of skill already in place.”

Don Cherry didn’t take those remarks well. He felt that Sutter was unfairly pointing the finger at pee wee coaches. On top of that, Grapes fundamentally disagrees with Sutter’s suggestion that Canada has a development problem, given how many Canadian stars there are in the NHL today.

“I cannot believe Brent Sutter said it — but he did,” Cherry said.

At the same time, Cherry was willing to do some finger pointing of his own and his target was Hockey Canada.

“They didn’t take the country’s best players,” Cherry insisted. His argument is that the Canadian team attempted to maintain a regional balance at the expense of talented Ontario Hockey League players.

Canada will host the 2015 World Juniors, so the pressure put on those young players will only increase going forward.