American players were critical of their last two efforts in Sochi (see: Ryan Suter and Jonathan Quick), so it wasn’t surprising to see head coach Dan Bylsma come under fire in the days following a 5-0 loss to Finland in the bronze medal game.
One player who insists he wasn’t criticizing Bylsma, though, is team captain Zach Parise.
“I never took a shot at Dan, and I never would,” Parise said in an email to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “I was asked about how we played in a particular game, and I said we were passive as a team, not playing a passive system. We seemed slow as a group that particular game (against Finland).”
Parise was emailed to share thoughts on Bylsma in response to pointed remarks after the Finland game. Parise said the Americans were “passive” and noted “we had one forechecker at times, and let [the Finns] break out of their zone.”
Here’s more, from the Trib’s Rob Rossi:
Members of Team USA management initially were concerned that players — specifically Parise, a face of USA Hockey — appeared to publicly poke at Bylsma in the wake of the disappointing Olympics finish. However, conversations between management and players Sunday cleared the air.
Also on Sunday, several Penguins players expressed disbelief and disappointment that Bylsma was taking heat for the Team USA’s failure to medal after a 4-0 Olympics start. Bylsma also came under public fire last June after the Penguins were swept from the Eastern Conference final by Boston and only scored two goals in that series — though, ownership quickly authorized a two-year extension and raise for Bylsma, who was named coach of Team USA a few weeks later.
Parise said he supported Bylsma during a discussion Sunday with Ray Shero, the Penguins general manager who was Team USA’s assistant for the Olympics. In their conversation, Parise offered details of what impressed him about Bylsma during the short Olympic tournament.
“He always asked for the opinion of the players on different things,” Parise said in the email. “And on the ice he let us play and demanded us to work. He was always detailed in his approach and his meetings. We were more than prepared from a scouting standpoint for each game.”
Parise finished the Olympics with just one point — the fourth goal in a 5-2 quarterfinal win over the Czechs — and posted a minus-1 rating over six games.