A familiar face will be returning to the bench to lead Team Canada at the 2014 World Junior Championship in Malmo, Sweden. Hockey Canada President Bob Nicholson announced this week that two-time former champion Brent Sutter has been appointed head coach for the red & white.
Sutter currently resides as the coach, general manager, and owner of the Western Hockey League’s Red Deer Rebels. He will be joined by assistants Benoit Groulx and Ryan McGill at the tournament.
This is an excellent choice for Canada. Sutter earned the 2000-01 CHL Coach of the Year honor after guiding Red Deer to victory at the Memorial Cup. He also has experience coaching in the NHL with the New Jersey Devils and the Calgary Flames. The Viking, Alberta-native has coached Canada internationally on four prior occasions, including last year’s World Hockey Championship. He led Canadian squads to back-to-back World Junior Championship gold medals in 2005 and 2006.
As a player, Sutter competed for Team Canada four different times. The member of one of the most accomplished families in hockey history proudly displayed the maple leaf on his chest at the 1986 World Hockey Championship and at the now-defunct Canada Cup in 1984, 1987, and 1991.
Historically, Canadian squads have dominated the World Junior Championship. Canada has won 28 medals at the prestigious under-20 tournament, fifteen of which were gold. With the pride, passion, and previous success that Team Canada has experienced, it is considered quite the drought that they haven’t captured the tournament crown since 2009, where their victory at home in the Canadian capital of Ottawa represented their fifth of five straight gold medals.
“It’s not like Canadian hockey has totally dropped off the map,” explained Sutter, “Canadian hockey is still very elite but it’s just other countries have closed the gap on us.”
Since Canada’s 2009 victory, the gold medal has been snatched up by the United States, Russia, Sweden, and the Americans again this past year. In that time, the Canadians have been forced to settle for two silver medals and one bronze. In their most recent tournament, Canada was dispatched by Team USA in the semifinals and Russia in the bronze medal game, returning home without any new jewelry around their necks.
“There’s a lot of parity and it’s tough now,” Sutter continued. “Things happen quickly. It’s fourteen days from start to finish to get yourself to the gold medal game, so you just have to focus on one game at a time and the players must be mentally strong.”
Team Canada will begin their gold medal redemption tour in Malmo on December 26, 2013. Canada has been placed in Group A, along with the United States, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Germany. Group B will consist of Sweden, Finland, Russia, Switzerland, and Norway.
Is Brent Sutter the right coach to lead Team Canada back to the WJC podium? Which country will take home the gold medal from Malmo, Sweden? Leave a comment or tweet me @BostonNumber9 or my team @TMMotS and @FanSidedNHL.