We come to the end of our World Cup preview with the team that’s probably going to be the most heavily watched and the most confusing. There’s no question that Team North America is going to be the most entertaining team, at both ends. Just like a good curry. But a lot of us won’t be able to shake the feeling that this team quite simply shouldn’t exist. And seeing as how, as Feather pointed out, the US’s second and third line in on this team, it’s kind of infuriating.
The reasoning behind this team, if you squint really hard, is to market the game’s younger stars. But if you hold that theory up to any kind of light it falls apart in a hurry. One, Gaudreau, Saad, Matthews, Eichel, Larkin, Jones and Trouba would just as easily be marketed on Team USA, the team with the audience that the NHL is really trying to get to pay attention to this fucking thing and this fucking sport. Is that audience more likely to do that when they can wave the flag a bit and root for their home nation or when they look up to the bar TV and see a bunch of guys dressed as if they’re straight out of Tron? I’ll give you a minute to decide.
Secondly, if you want to market your young players, THEN MARKET YOUR YOUNG PLAYERS. Don’t come up with this daft team idea. Throw the Oilers on NBCSN more than once, bill it as a chance to see Conor McDavid, and don’t give us Flyers-Rangers four fucking times a year. Look, there is no more out-there basketball destination than Portland. And yet I know exactly who Damian Lillard is and how much fun he is to watch play. I’m really supposed to believe that’s so hard to achieve with McDavid or Gaudreau or Ekblad?
Anyway, the team. Yeah, the forwards are going to be a coke binge. Gaudreau with anyone is fun, and now he can flank either McDavid or Eichel or MacKinnon. Drouin and MacKinnon can reenact the days they had in Halifax when they ruined the psyche of many a teenager. Mark Scheifele is like the 4th center here. Saad gets to play with any variety of real centers before heading back to Columbus and the tears shed when seeing he’s still stuck with Brandon Dubinsky. The amount of speed and skill here is really quite stupid. Are they any two-way checkers? WHO THE FUCK CARES? This team shouldn’t be so why not have them just go all out and try and Motorhead their way to victories.
The defense shouldn’t be any less fun. Seth Jones, Ghost Bear, Colton Burpo, and Morgan Reilly can call get up and down the ice and Ekblad and Trouba aren’t helpless in that area either. Again, there might not be any safety nets here but given the mobility this team has everywhere in the lineup they can attempt to be Loyola Marymount ’90 on ice and might just pull it off.
The goalies… well, this is where things could get dicey. It is likely Matt Murray gets the nod, and he did just win a Cup so I don’t want to go too hard in on him. He’s been a promising prospect for the Pens for a while, so we can’t dismiss him as just someone who got hot for a few weeks in the spring. But we don’t know if he’s the real thing yet. The same goes for both John Gibson and Connor Hellebuyck. That’s the problem for Team NA here is that their goalies haven’t gotten nearly the same chances as the skaters in the NHL and thus are way behind in their development. Given how fast and open they’re going to play this, their goalies are going to have to come up with some pretty flashy performances to advance.
Reasons For Optimism: The potential for really Globetrotter shit up and down the lineup is tantalizing, and they don’t really have anything at stake because none of these guys will play for this team again in two or four years, whenever the next competition is. As far as pure skill they might only be outgunned by Canada. They’re certainly going to be faster than any team they face.
Reasons For Not Optimism: It’s not clear that anyone on this team can play any defense whatsoever except for Ekblad. Their collective age surely will lead to some mistakes, and we have no idea if the goalies can bail them out. They seriously could be anything.
Predicted Finish: Sweden has the blue line and mobility to corral this team, though it’ll be close. Russia most certainly does not. Whether the Finns experience and trapping tendencies can frustrate them is what will probably determine their fate. Yesterday I said the Russians probably sneak by them for second in the group, but it really is a toss-up. I’d rather see this team get to the semis because I think they’d at least throw a scare into Canada which would be hilarious. Like, I just want to see Shea Weber try and chase around all of these nutcases. So I’m rooting for that.
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