Tortorella, the Millennials, and a Rising Team Europe: Early World Cup Observations
The following is from an email exchange Sunday night between Dave Lozo and Sean McIndoe, aka Down Goes Brown.
Photo by Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports
This article originally appeared on VICE Sports Canada.
(Editor's note: The following is from an email exchange Sunday night between Dave Lozo and Sean McIndoe, aka Down Goes Brown.)
Lozo: OK, so now that we've both made bad jokes on Twitter about Green Day canceling shows at the World Cup, I thought I'd email you to see how your Sunday is going. Me? Two fantasy football losses, 2-1 in my picks pool with two games pending, and I want to believe Alex Ovechkin touched that puck at the end of the Sweden game.
Here are my three thoughts about the World Cup so far:
1) Team USA will lose to Canada and their tournament will be over after two games, which cracks me up because the NHL did everything it could to get USA and Canada into the semis.
2) Team Europe is great because they are old, like me, and really stuck it to Torts, another thing I enjoy.
3) This isn't World Cup-related, but I've been crapping like an untrained dog during a thunderstorm, so some of these emails may come from the toilet.
Ps: You know Canada has gold in the bag, right?
DGB: Hi Dave...
Both of my fantasy teams are 0-2, and I don't actually mind because I made a conscious decision at the beginning of the season to just accept that the entire hobby is just dumb, stupid luck and no rational person should care about it. Check back with me next week at 0-3 and find out how that's going.
Oh hey, speaking of dumb and stupid, let's start with Team USA. I haven't understood most of what they're doing all along in this tournament, from hiring Tortorella to the roster selection to benching Dustin Byfuglien on Saturday. They were never going to be the favorites, but they've got enough talent to at least have a shot. But they seem to want to do it with one hand behind their back, all in the name of grit and heart and compete and all of the other buzzwords that badly run hockey teams seem to love.
But all of that said, there's a part of me that could still see them pulling off the upset tomorrow night. They have the goaltending to make it happen, and if they get a bounce or two maybe they can make it happen. It's also possible that they already all hate Tortorella and can't wait to quit as soon as things go bad, but I can see the US winning this one. And besides, the best possible result would be a USA team that bragged about being built to beat Canada doing that, then finishing 1-2 and missing the playoffs anyway.
Am I crazy?
Lozo: Are you crazy? Absolutely. Fantasy football is the greatest thing ever created, as it allows us to fill gaping voids in our lives with legal gambling. This email is sponsored by DraftKings.
I know that as a Canadian, your default setting is to be all, "Oh geez, USA can do this and anything can happen because we Canadians are a humble people and want to take it one game at a time." I call bullshit! Bullshit, I say!
Do we have the goaltending to steal this one? Yes. Will that goaltending be in net? No. Jonathan Quick has squeezed a career out of two great months in 2012 playing behind a dominant 5-on-5 team in the postseason and now because of that and a fluky showing in a 1-0 loss to Canada in Sochi, Americans have deluded themselves into thinking Quick can steal a gold medal. And by Americans, I mean Dean Lombardi, the Kings GM who put together this deficient team.
And beyond that, this USA team isn't good. And yeah, we're not dressing Byfuglien, perhaps our best defenseman, and yeah, we left Phil Kessel, Tyler Johnson, Kevin Shattenkirk and other great players home in the name of grit and Abdelkadering, but how about Patrick Kane only getting 4 minutes in the first period against Europe? Or Max Pacioretty on a third line? Or Max Pacioretty on a fourth line in practice Sunday? Torts is really the crazy one. Jack Johnson is on this team!
The ideal ending to this tournament is Team North America beating Canada in the final on a Jack Eichel penalty shot in overtime, allowing me to claim that as a USA gold.
I did not write this on the toilet.
DGB: I wrote a thing for Sportsnet for tomorrow about Tortorella and Lombardi, and without giving the whole thing away I'm pretty sure that if it all goes bad, the coach is the one who eats it. Lombardi has two rings in the last four years, so no matter how many weird things he does (the Mike Richards thing, Dustin Brown's contract, etc.) he's pretty much bulletproof. Tortorella hasn't won anything in 12 years, and he's already on his third NHL team since then. Plus, the media hates him. So, yeah, if Team USA bottoms out he's the one taking the hit.
As for Team North America, they're playing Finland as we write this, so I'm going to stall until I can see how that game is going so I'll sound smart about them.
Lozo: As a Leafs fan, have you prepared yourself for the inevitable Auston Matthews injury that costs him the first four months of the season? Think it's a shoulder? Or a knee? Either way, I can't believe it will happen when he collides with Morgan Rielly.
As for Lombardi, isn't some of the shine coming off him? Beyond all the other stuff you mentioned, what sort of silly man builds a team in 2016 based on what a team did in 1996? It makes me wonder how much of the Kings success was just an accident based on the team drafting really high for a lot of years. Could Tyler Johnson have excelled in 1996? I can see how he wouldn't, but in 2016, he's an elite scorer and playoff performer in a league where size isn't a big deal anymore.
And as I am about to send this, North America is up 2-0 and Matthews was involved again. What former Leafs do you hope attend the Stanley Cup parade in two years?
DGB: The Team North America goal just got waved off, because it made Leaf fans happy and the hockey gods couldn't allow that. Sorry everyone, that's on us. (As for the inevitable Matthews injury, it's clearly going to be a concussion. Has to be something that can linger for years, for maximum fan psyche damage.)
I do think the shine is coming off Lombardi, and this might be the tournament that really pushes that narrative over the edge. But it's still a work in progress. I feel like Tortorella is already close to being a lost cause in terms of how he's viewed. He's nearly into that Marc Crawford territory where we all just agree that your previous Stanley Cup doesn't count and it's OK to ignore you for every job opening.
Let's go back to Team Europe for a second, because I know you've been in their corner for a while now. I don't want to overreact to one game against a country that's bad at hockey, but is it fair to say that a Team Europe win would be the worst-case scenario for the tournament? Most fans seems to hate the two made-up teams, but at least Team North America is fun to watch and a marketing goldmine. If Europe wins, you have no real national pride, not much to market, and not even so much as an anthem to play. And if it is the worst case, does that mean we should just assume it's already a lock?
Lozo: You can just tell what an afterthought Team Europe was. "Oh, right, they don't have an anthem. Totally didn't realize that. Our bad." "Uniforms? I don't know, just stitch two jerseys from Roller Hockey International together and give them that."
Based on the groupings, the NHL seemed to forget there are a lot of real good players on the only compelling form of The Leftovers on TV. Hossa, Chara, Gaborik, Kopitar, Josi, Nielsen, Draisaitl, Zuccarello and oh yeah that Halak guy had a good run in a tournament once if I can recall correctly. It was all a matter of how much they cared, and I think getting their asses kicked twice by a bunch of young punks woke them up. Thinking this garbage pile that is Team USA would make quick work of the Europeans was always silly. Now if Europe beats the Czechs and Canada beats USA, it's all over.
I'm also confused as to why Rinne is starting over Tuukka Rask. Why won't an international hockey body let me pick its roster and set its lineup? I'm 1-1 in TWO fantasy football leagues, damn it!
DGB: Yeah, Pekka Rinne is one of the great "quietly not super good anymore" guys in the NHL, right up there with Brent Seabrook, Bobby Ryan and all of the Staal brothers. But he's also 6'7", and I guess that's the one thing you don't have to worry about suddenly disappearing in a short tournament. Also, Rask would have one bad game and then flip out and start smashing his stick over somebody's head.
(Team North America just scored to make it 2-0. Like I was saying, I've always thought they'd be pretty good.)
Hey, we haven't mentioned Sweden yet. They beat Russia 2-1 on Sunday, even though Henrik Lundqvist decided to use a sick day at the last minute. Their forwards are iffy but the blueline is ridiculous. They're still the second-best team in the tournament, right?
(Now it's 3-0 for Team North America. Like I told you, they're the best team in their group.)
Lozo: For me, it's Sweden, Canada, Europe and North America. Sweden having Zetterberg back out was the only real killer withdrawal because when it comes time to play Canada, they can't go Sedin-Backstrom-Zetterberg down the middle. They still have enough talent to win a one-off with Canada but I don't know about a best-of-three, even with Lundqvist.
By the way, what do you think Lundqvist did with his "sick" day? The Jays are out of town so I'll say he wanted to spend the day playing Super Tecmo Bowl. I'm just going off what I did with a fake sick day in middle school.
Well, I don't have much else to say and my stomach is really grumbling. I just want to add that the NHL needs more Russia-Sweden dark jersey vs. dark jersey situations during the regular season, and oh look it's now 4-0 and the millennials are officially running the world.
DGB: At 4-0, I think we can all agree that Team North America is winning this tournament, making international hockey the latest thing ruined by idiot millennials.
But yeah, it feels like that opening Team Canada game where they just toyed with the Czechs is getting everyone a little too excited. I mean, the Czechs are terrible. Beating them shouldn't be all that impressive. This still feels like one of those tournaments where Canada has an easy time and then loses 2-1 in the semifinal because some goaltender makes 57 saves and a late goal by a guy who plays on his NHL team's third line holds up as the winner.
I'm tempted to drag this on further just to see if I can make Dave poop himself, but I'll close with a quick summary of the tournament's opening weekend.
Stock rising: North America, Sweden, Europe. Holding steady: Canada, Czechs. Stock dropping: Russia, Finland. Stock plummeting: Team USA, at least until they upset Canada tomorrow and I make VICE delete everything I wrote tonight.
I'll leave the last word to Dave, unless he's already gone full Harry Dunne, in which case this piece will just end awkwardly right here.
Lozo: I say we bring an end to this grumbling by dropping this into our editor's inbox and making a splash!