Thursday, January 03, 2008

Cracks for Canadian camp, as Americans stand ready for showdown

It's never easy to hear that you're not going to see any action in a pivotal game, even more so when you're young, invincible and feeling as though you've been slighted in a most unfair way.

As Canada prepares for Friday's showdown with the American squad in a semi final match up at the world juniors, the goal tending situation suddenly burst onto the front pages of the papers back home.
Jonathon Bernier, who last saw action in the shocking (for Canadians anyways) loss to Sweden is not taking the news well, that he won't be back in the nets for a chance to take on the Americans. What seems to have burned him the most though is the fact that he appears to have learned of coach Craig Hartsburg's decision from second hand sources, those being his fellow team mates who broke the news to him on Thursday.
So upset was Bernier, that he decided to break a little news on his own calling over the crew from RDS, the french language broadcasters for the tournament to vent his frustrations over the way the entire goal tending issue has been handled.

Craig Hartsburg, meet John Paddock, two coaches with a major goal tending headache on the way at a most unfortunate time.

Steve Mason was given the start against the Americans, despite his own rough game in the quarter final match up with Finland. A game which saw the London Knight have a few strange goals get in behind him, just like Lewiston's Bernier found against the Swedes.

Tim Wharnsby of the Globe and Mail is reporting that there may be other Canadian team members surprised that Bernier wasn't put back in the nets for Canada for the American showdown. However, no one seems willing to be quoted for attribution when it comes to any goal tending controversies dogging the team, loose lips sink ships and possibly hockey teams when at war.

The timing of it all of course is not helpful, when the under achieving Canadian squad should be best attending to their lack of offence and defensive miscues of the past week, they instead are apparently concerning themselves with coaching decisions, making an ability to focus on the task at hand, something that may be missing as they prepare.

Hartsburg, will have to take some of the rap on this one, he seems to have misjudged the tender egos of his young charges and while they were all (with one exception we guess) saying the right things by the end of the day Thursday, you now wonder what's going on in the back of their heads.

If they can channel all this nervous energy and apparently excess amount of time on their hands into a solid two way effort on Friday against the Americans, then perhaps the unease in the camp will finally be purged.

If however, this festers long enough over the night that it affects their play Friday against what appears to be a well prepared and unified American squad, then there will be many questions to think over while they watch others battle for the Gold Medal.
The wheels certainly haven't come off the Canadian cart, but for a few games of the past week and a few hours today they began to wobble, it's definitely time to tighten things up a bit and make sure that everyone is back on the same plan.
Making player personnel decisions is always the hardest part of any job that a coach has, how you handle it all can make the difference between success and failure. The sudden flare up over goal tending seems to indicate one thing, that it's not just the players that have sometimes forgotten their assignments at this tournament.

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