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Disastrous version of Team USA leaves Kane frustrated

TORONTO -- Patrick Kane's USA baseball cap was pulled low on his head. His eyes told a sad tale. Last week, two days before the start of the World Cup, the South Buffalo native mused over turning 28 this season and understanding he only has a finite number of chances left on the international stage.

That's what had to make this completely disastrous version of Team USA so tough to take for him. Two games, two goals, two losses. That's the damage tab for the ill-conceived Americans, who are already eliminated from the semifinals with one now-meaningless game to go. A 3-0 loss to Team Europe and Tuesday's 4-2 loss to Canada in a game that was far more lopsided than that will send them back to NHL training camps by the weekend.

"You can make excuses. You can look at different reasons. We lost. Things didn't go our way," Kane said. "We can feel sorry for ourselves but it's just the way hockey is. ... I'm just really frustrated we're not going to be going on to the next round. It's tough. You get opportunities in tournaments, you don't want to let them slip away. It’s definitely frustrating being an American, having these opportunities and having nothing to show for it."

This team has been controversial for months, starting with USA Hockey's decision a year ago to hire the then-unemployed John Tortorella to be the coach. The roster composition reflected Tortorella's type of hockey, with lots of grit and not nearly enough skill.

Phil Kessel was left off the roster, an omission that looked more and more ridiculous as the season went on and Kessel become a Conn Smythe Trophy finalist. So were names like Tyler Johnson, Kyle Okposo, Kevin Shattenkirk and Justin Faulk. Some of the choices made little sense. Jack Johnson? Brandon Dubinsky? Justin Abdelkader?

Just before 11 p.m. Tuesday, Kessel unleashed this flamethrower on Twitter.

The dog might have done a better job building a roster. Tortorella should never get near a national team again but he's far from alone. General manager Dean Lombardi and cohorts Brian Burke and Paul Holmgren need to get far away too.

Enough about grit and jam and sandpaper and truculence. As Team Canada and Team North America show, you can and should build a team around skill and skating.

If this team was built to beat Canada, as its leaders openly said, what were the likes of Dubinsky and Abdelkader doing on it? And was leadership infighting about the roster in the wake of the Europe loss? If you scratch Dubinsky against Canada -- the team he was clearly brought to play against because he is Sidney Crosby's biggest nemesis -- he clearly didn't belong.

Asked if he had any thoughts about a different roster, Tortorella simply said, "no".

Asked for an assessment of his best players, Tortorella said, "We lost. Wasn't good enough."

"It's disappointing, frustrating, all different emotions," Tortorella said. "I think we let some people down. It's on my watch. I certainly feel responsible for that. ... You guys can beat up the all roster all you want. You look at some of the players on that roster, we simply did not do enough offensively and we self-inflicted quite a bit in two games. We gave up some easy goals. You can't do that in a short tournament."

Team USA was a goal away from an Olympic gold medal in 2010 in Vancouver and a 1-0 semifinal loss to Canada away from returning to the final in Sochi two years ago. The gap got wider. Now admittedly, Team North America hurt Team USA. Auston Matthews, Jack Eichel, Johnny Gaudreau and Seth Jones, among others, all would have been better suited for this team but that wasn't an option and the nation's hockey depth -- as well as the acumen of its leaders -- wasn't up to the challenge.

"Tortorella is just one of the most passionate guys I've ever seen about hockey. I'd never say a bad thing about him," Kane said. "He's a great coach. We didn't show up for him. I feel bad in that sense for sure. Looking at some of the younger guys, there are guys coming up who are going to be making noise for American hockey. We'll see what the team looks like for the 2018 Olympics.

"I'd love to be a part of that group and look forward to bouncing back for USA Hockey. It's tough right now for sure. You've got two years to sit on this one. When that time comes, hopefully you're able to give your best for your country."

(That assumes, of course, that the NHL will go to the '18 Olympics in South Korea. No sure bet right now but that's a topic for another day).

"It's one of tournaments where you make a mistake here or there and you're done," Kane said. "Your tournament is over. In 2010, we were close and felt like we were on the rise. In 2014, we had a great round-robin and quarterfinal game and lose 1-0, then come up to a back-to-back and lose 5-0 (in the bronze medal game). It was tough to lose that one. Two games here and you're done. It's just amazing. It's crazy the way hockey is."

"Obviously we want that end result, you always do," said captain Joe Pavelski. "When you don't get it, you always break it down and see what you can do better. As a team, management does it. As a player, you do it to see how you can get better. In 2010, it was definitely a tournament we thought was right there for us. In 2014 in Sochi those last two games were a tough ending for us."

What's left for USA Hockey leadership now? At least one more chance to watch Team North America, Wednesday afternoon against Sweden. Hope they're taking good notes.

"There's definitely a fantastic group to come here," Tortorella said. "There's some good young kids there that I think will bring some juice to the program. I"m anxious to see them play the rest of the tournament."

At least we don't have to watch Team USA play anymore. Want one more Twitter bomb? Check out what sled hockey gold medalist Josh Pauls had to say:

Talk about a mic drop.

email: mharrington@buffnews.com

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