Following the selection camp, it was pretty clear that this team was going to have a LONG way to go. Growth and improvement would be absolutely necessary in order for this squad to compete for a gold medal.
This morning's game versus Finland does nothing but emphasize that notion.
Listening to Steve Spott's post-game comments, he suggests discipline and lack of offense are the things they need to work on the most. No one's going to argue with that.
Another big concern for the team is the health of Brett Ritchie, who Spott says was held out for precautionary reasons. Small bit of needed good news.
Like each of the last three World Junior Championships, goaltending is going to be a weakness. TSN continues to cram the fact that Malcolm Subban is the runaway number 1, but his on-ice performance continues to suggest anything but.
It's hard to criticize Subban too much when two of the three goals were scored on 2-man advantages but the final two goals from Finland were very soft. The game-winner beating Subban short side when there was no angle and Subban never even got a piece.
Without much help from the rest of the team I'll reserve any further judgement on the goaltending except to say that I look forward to Binnington starting against the Swedes on Saturday.
Player of the game, Ryan Murphy, was easily the most impressive player on the back end for team Canada. Coming in as the seventh defenseman this is more than a welcome surprise. He brings the type of mobility and offensive flair previously seen from the likes of Ryan Ellis and Kris Letang, so hopefully he can continue to perform at this level.
Another player TSN continues to praise is Morgan Reilly. Well, wake me up when this kid does something please. I don't think we should be fawning over this kid for properly executing a break-out pass, like Ray Ferraro and then Bob Mackenzie did on the broadcast. Reilly very clearly has a great skill-set but I've yet to see him perform to the level that we hear about so often.
Tyler Wotherspoon and Griffin Reinhart are going to be a solid third pair but I'd like to see them be much more physical. Great play by Griff to jump up into the play and bury that rebound.
Scott Harrington and Xavier Ouellet are going to be counted on for heavy minutes. They'll need to be a lot better than they were today with a lot more discipline. Thought they both got away with a couple cross-checks as well.
And Dougie Hamilton continues to play just as he did last year. This guy is tall, big, fast and skilled and for some reason we haven't been able to see that amazing package all put together. He's going to need to be a huge player for this team.
The top line created some changes and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins made a fantastic play to set up Mark Scheifele for the easy goal. Ty Rattie is a bit of a floater, kind of like Brett Connolly; I'm hoping to see a lot more out of him and clearly Spott believes he can be a goal scorer on this club from how he's being used.
I expect we'll continue to see more of Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin as the tournament progresses. They're being eased in so far but are quite clearly dangerous offensive players.
Ryan Strome had some strong shifts as well but they never really turned into many scoring chances.
It seems that the players are looking for Strome and Nugent-Hopkins all the time and trying to force it to them. Those types of things tend to get ironed out the more they play with each other and the longer the coaches get with the team, but that was a bit of an issue in this game as the play was often forced in the offensive zone looking for those two, the top two centres on the team.
Where was the jump though? Where was the push and the fight from these boys? Much like the selection camp, there is a major lack of that Canadian flair that we've become so used to seeing from this team year in year out.
Maybe I shouldn't have attended the selection camp at all, but I did. And what I see so far and my opinion of this team to this point is that it is well below the standard that Canada has sent to this tourney in the last 10 years. Obviously they can't be written off by any means - and that's not my intention - but my expectations are considerably lower right now.
My hope is that this loss to the Fins helps the team to realize that they need to be much better.
One thing's for certain, if this kind of play continues, we'll be in for a lot of exciting games, which is great for us as fans, but maybe not for the Canadians as they look to win their first gold medal in 4 tournaments.
Team Canada takes on Team Sweden this Saturday in their final pre-tournament action.