Canada's Mark Scheifele (19) reacts after his team was defeated by the U.S. in their semi-final game at the 2013 IIHF U20 World Junior Hockey Championship in Ufa January 3, 2013. (MARK BLINCH/Reuters)
It’s funny to hear the rush to explain Canada’s loss in the World Junior semifinal as simply a product of the rest of the world catching up.
This type of explanation always comes mere weeks after being told, around the time of the selection camp, that Canada has enough depth to ice two competitive teams.
Some other hockey nations may, indeed, be catching up — the U.S. obviously has a helluva team this year.
And parity on the world junior stage explains why Canada doesn’t rattle off handfuls of consecutive gold medals anymore, the way it once did.
But what we saw in Thursday’s 5-1 loss to the Yanks was nothing more than another big-game collapse, one that has to raise questions about the national junior team’s coaching and leadership in Ufa, Russia.
The Canadians weren’t ready to play, and blaming the bye is a fool’s game.
The best coaches and leaders will see that potential pitfall and find a way to avoid it.