Monday, 8 August 2016

Team Canada and Noah Juulsen at the Summer Showcase.

Not much to talk about these days, it’s hard to think about any worthwhile subjects to write about, as Brendan Kelly now demonstrates weekly, but the WJC Team Canada showing last week is a sore point we can pick at.

It used to be that our team was the 800 lbs gorilla in this tourney, with the odd fallow year here and there, but that seems to be a thing of the past. The American squad, especially, seemed a step ahead, a notch above. They were bigger, faster, more talented, more cocky, and seemed to mesh better than our hopefuls.

And this was a bit of a surprise. The games against Finland and Sweden Team Canada had a bit of a ‘split squad’ situation going on, but for the last game I felt head coach Dominique Ducharme had sent out the players who by and large will be the team we actually ice this Christmas, barring one or two surprises. So we had our A Team out there against the Americans, and we got schooled.

At one point, the TSN crew of Gord Miller and Craig Button spent five excruciating minutes dissecting the epochal dilemma the Leafs face with Mitch Marner next season. Oh the woe, the gnashing of teeth, since he might be too slight for the NHL they surmised, couldn’t meet the age requirement for the AHL, but was much, much too strong now for the OHL, wasn’t he? The amusing aspect was that, as they reached their conclusions, Mitch Marner was being punked by the Team USA players, getting knocked down and denied access to the puck by the bigger, stronger adversaries. He looked like a boy amongst men, and definitely not ‘too strong for the OHL’ at that point.

In any case, Hockey Canada needs to review its programs and its selection methods. I don’t think Keegan Kolesar, in this day and age, should ever be considered for Team Canada, or any players of his ilk in fact, whether the game is played on North American ice or the larger European surfaces. No matter what amount of heart and soul these players bring, the whole team gets dispirited when it can’t score. Brent Sutter hockey has been proven not to work at the WJC.

Noah Juulsen gets a B+ for his two games played. The first game he played was the OT loss against Finland. As usual he skated agilely all over the ice, made good decisions and seemed to be a good pairing with Thomas Chabot, the only d-man returning from last year’s team. He didn’t pick up any points, but also wasn’t on the ice for any goals against. He controlled play when he was on the ice, preventing crises before they developed. Compared to Jacob Chychrun, who was on the ice for both goals and was at last partially responsible for both, and stumbled and pratfalled his way through the game, Noah was a stud.

Yet a blogger gave the mindless appraisal that Noah “doit en donner plus”, seemingly based only on the fact that he didn’t appear on the scoresheet. Which is hogwash. I know Noah had an uneven season last year, and I know hunting season is open, that it’s fashionable to slam anything and anyone related to the Canadiens these days, but to criticize Noah for his game based on the boxscore is moronic.

Plus, I hate this expression, which has taken hold with many observers. The most prominent practitioner is RDS’ Gaston Therrien, whose analysis often stops there, that this prospect and that prospect and this player and everyone “doit en donner plus”, an uninformative generality that’s more of a copout than anything. It translates as someone ‘must give more’ or ‘must give some more’, and if that doesn’t sound right, like it doesn’t mean much, then I’ve captured the essence of it.

What exactly is it that the subject “doit en donner plus”? Is it more effort, are we saying the player is lazy, slacking off? Are we talking about more grit, more hits? More production, more goals, more points? More Corsi for, more shots? More Corsi against, more fewer shots?

This is such an non-insight, it’s so devoid of meaning, that it drives me up the wall. Fans in the stands have more trenchant observations than pros who crutch themselves up with this claptrap.

Anyway, I was eager to see Noah have another solid outing on Saturday so I could shove it in that guy’s face, but he had a couple of hiccups. He was on the ice for a goal against when he didn’t shine, and he also had a chychrunesque stumble, when while skating backwards defending an odd-man rush he got his feet tangled and crashed to the ice like Bambi. He didn’t have a bad game, necessarily, but in a difficult outing for Team Canada, Noah was not a standout, for any positive reasons at least.

So now Noah needs to have a strong start to his season, and a good showing at the December camp, but I have to believe that unless things go terribly wrong he’s a solid bet to make the Team Canada roster as a 19-year-old who was the last man cut at last year’s selection camp.

Add in Mikhail Sergachev playing for the Russian team, and my fanboy hopes that Will Bitten torches the OHL early and makes the WJC roster as a surprise addition, and we’ll have a reason to watch the tourney this year.

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