It's one thing to lose with two or three of our best players skating for NHL teams, but defeat in a lockout year robs us of our rationalization and underscores how far back of the pack we have fallen.
No "victims of our own success," excuses were handy early Wednesday morning when Canada was kicked out of the gold-medal competition for the fourth year in a row at the world junior championship.
As a country, we couldn't snap off our TVs and shrug, "well, if so-and-so wasn't playing for the Penguins and if the Leafs didn't have that guy, we would have won. Easy."
Nope. That dog won't hunt this year.
Our best lineup beaten handily by another country's. No excuses. Only the reality that at least two teams were better than ours.
Gold is no longer an automatic for Canada at the world junior championship. And the tournament will be all the better for it.
Domination is great. But it can also get a little boring. The Christmas Classic is no longer a Canadian coronation.
Two years in a row Canada has been dispatched from the semifinals and it's now four straight years without a gold medal.
No one is applauding a Canadian loss and it's about time our juniors mixed in a championship.
But rather than take the defeat as an insult, shouldn't we be embracing the adversity and looking for ways to improve?
Because, this just in, Canada is not a gimme to win anymore.
We don't develop top-end goalies at a high rate, we haven't been among the best skating nations in decades and superior hockey sense is no longer a Canadian birthright.
Our development program has flaws. What are we going to do about it?
Since 1982 when Canada began sending a national all-star team and developed the Program of Excellence, our junior team has won 15 golds and seven silvers in 33 tries. Twice Canada has gone on golden runs of five championships in a row.
Canada has without question been the dominant country at this event since 1982, with next-best Russia having won nine titles in that time.
But more and more this is becoming a global event with the U.S., Finland, the Czech Republic, Sweden and now Switzerland developing top-flight programs.
Gold may be the expectation in Canada and that's still a good thing. But a medal of a different colour can no longer be looked at as a failure. …