As much as I'm sure there must have been a letdown after the embarrassing performance against Canada, there was still a lot riding on the US's bronze medal game against Sweden yesterday. A win and they end the tournament as a pretty strong team that just happened to lay an egg against a good Canadian squad. A loss and they end the tournament as an overrated group that coasted through an easy group, but couldn't compete against the best teams.
It turned out the US defeated Sweden 4-2 to take home the bronze medal, and all things considered, it doesn't look like that terrible of a performance for the United States. Certainly expectations were higher than a bronze medal, but with the US having won so few medals at this event, they're not yet in a position to turn their noses up at any hardware. A lot of people considered beating everyone but Canada a strong possibility for the US heading into this tournament, and even though they didn't give Canada their best shot, they did still beat everyone else in front of them, which is still an accomplishment.
There's really not much else you can say about this year's team. Maybe not having two dominating defensemen like John Carlson and Cam Fowler hurt this year's team. Maybe the returning forwards didn't have the impact people hoped. But ultimately, all you can say about this team is that they were pretty good, but didn't show up for the Canada game.
The US should have a very strong team next year. The '92 birth year is by far their deepest, meaning there are a lot of players returning from this team, and a lot of quality options that just missed out on this year's team that should be ready to go for next year. And they will be in more familiar territory, drawing Canada in pool play, which I think will help them adjust to the magnitude of a US-Canada World Junior game.