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US Struggles in Slovakia

So it's been a rough go of it for the US Under-18 team playing in the Ivan Hlinka tournament in Slovakia. After splitting exhibitions with Canada and Slovakia, the team lost all three of their games and will play Switzerland for 7th place.

Canada and Russia are playing in the final. A loaded Team Canada, with Harvard recruit Louis Leblanc and former Michigan State recruit Matt Duchene, should come out in the final, which should lead to the usual chest-thumping north of the border.

Incidentally, if you ever wondered why Canadians act like they do when it comes to hockey, look no further than their absolutely pathetic showing so far in the Summer Olympics. Canada has a whopping zero medals, just behind international athletic powerhouse Mongolia, who took home their first ever Summer Olympic gold in Barbecue.

That reminds me of last July. My dad and I were driving through Windsor while they were hosting the Canadian Olympic trials and this conversation took place:

Me: They're hosting the Canadian Olympic Trials over there
Dad: Oh, so that's a pretty big deal
Me: Maybe for them...

Anyway, back to hockey. The US' struggles in the Hlinka tournament has led some to suggest that the US should send their NTDP team to this tournament, to have a better showing. I like USA Hockey's current strategy, however. The NTDP asks enough of the kids in their program by having them leave home at such a young age and spend the entire school year traveling and playing a pretty rigorous schedule. There's no need to push them even more with another tournament over the summer.

It's also a great experience for the kids that get to participate in the tournament. For most, it might be one of the only chances they get to play an international level and travel to Europe to play hockey. There may be down years where the US doesn't have the depth to perform as well with their second best team, but the US has(rightly) placed more emphasis on the spring-time World U18s. A 7th or 8th place finish in this tournament with a secondary team isn't that big of a deal.