Anytime a hockey superpower loses in an Olympic tournament without coming home with a medal there will always be second guessing and that is the case right now with the USA and Russia as they come home from the Olympics with 4th and 5th place finishes respectively.
From the US standpoint, there will be criticism from player selection to coach selection to goaltender selection, but in the end the team that was picked was within one goal of a guaranteed medal. The same thing would be happening right now if Canada has lost the semi-final game to the US, with respect to Claude Giroux and Brent Seabrook for example. Fortunately that Jamie Benn, Carey Price and the rest of the team stepped up so that is not the case. Would Bobby Ryan have made a difference? Would Erik Johnson have made a difference? We will never know, but in the end at least they’re not Russia. Right after the US is lost in the semi final to Canada one of the biggest trends on Twitter was Bobby Ryan, since he was the best goal scorer left of the US roster very publicly and somewhat controversially. In a tournament such as this, one player isn’t going to make that much of a difference. Even if Ryan was considered the number one forward on the US roster (which he is not), the difference between 1 and 14 isn’t that great.
Take for instance the loss of Steven Stamkos. Would Canada be better with Stamkos in the line up than without him? Of course they would but does that mean that they would have scored an extra goal a game? Half a goal a game? The game of “what if” is often played, but there is nothing that can be done about it now.
As for Russia, their problems run deeper. The political divide between the KHLers and the NHLers is wide and political pressure to play players who stayed home instead of going to North America. The last time the Russians medaled in the Olympics was a bronze in 2002. They had almost exclusively NHL players on the roster, but since then they have had the NHL/Russia split and they haven’t been able to deal with it. When the chips are down and the going gets tough, each player seems to take it upon themselves and try to change the course of a game on their own and forget about the team. That seems to be ingrained in their team culture and it hasn’t worked at the best on best tournaments.
Even if Canada should go on to lose the gold medal game and come home with silver, there will be some second guessing. That’s just the way it is. But it will be nothing like the firestorm going through the US and Russia over the next few months.