Junior brass needs to be accountable

RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:49 AM ET

CALGARY - The teens selected to represent Canada at the upcoming world junior hockey tournament are endlessly evaluated, poked and prodded, and placed under enormous national pressure.

It's time the men above them took some heat, too.

Nobody asked Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson, head scout Kevin Prendergast or coach Don Hay to jump through the kinds of hoops the kids do every year to be involved with this team.

But maybe, somebody should.

If the Canadians go a third straight year without winning the tournament that only this country cares about on home ice (the last one was held in Buffalo but might as well have been across the border), then Nicholson better have some good answers for the processes under which his team operates.

And please spare us the wrinkle he lobbied for earlier this year, that the NHL draft age should be raised, which would, in effect, virtually guarantee Canada landing a half-dozen or so of its elite pro players for this post-holiday puck circus.

That's like a South African billionaire griping his mine's in trouble because six of his biggest diamonds have gone missing.

There's still more than enough talent in this country -- an embarrassment of first-round NHL riches -- and the bottom line is the tournament deck is stacked in Canada's favour by being held here every other year.

It all comes down to picking the right players and putting the right men behind the bench.

Other top countries aren't fooling around.

The Russians went right back to bench boss Valer i Bragin, who oversaw the stunning gold medal in Buffalo.

The United States recycled Dean Blais, whose team beat Canada in overtime in Saskatoon two years ago.

Hay gets the call for Canada. He obviously has a fine track record, winning a gold medal a decade-and-a-half ago and, more recently, a Memorial Cup crown five years ago at home in Vancouver.

Best of all under Nicholson's structure, he applied for the job.

But then, you also have two-time defending Canadian Hockey League coach of the year Gerard Gallant in Saint John, saying he didn't apply for the job this year and it's not a big goal for him.

Here's the hottest coach leading the junior hockey team with the most talent on the planet, and he just won the Memorial Cup.

Shouldn't Nicholson be practically stalking him to help the national juniors?

You never see Quebec Remparts boss Patrick Roy, who has convinced young and talented top scorer Mikhail Grigorenko to buy into backchecking hard, on the Canadian bench.

Nicholson has Prendergast comb North America for the top hockey talent. Shouldn't someone also be scouting the coaches and trying to determine the hot hand?

No one will question anything if Canada, which takes on Finland at the Saddledome Monday in their first exhibition game, wins gold.

But these are certainly the highest stakes for Hockey Canada in some time.


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