Finland had a bad year at the WJC and will be walking into the regulation round against Switzerland without pretty much their entire coaching staff, as they were canned after a 3-1 loss to their international rival Sweden, their third straight.
Finland, for the record, has never been ranked worse than 7th since 1977. The last time they were this bad at any level was a decade after the second world war ended.
In pretty much every statistical category that the world juniors tracks, Finland came up hilariously short except for penalty killing. Of which cinderella story of the tournament Denmark stands out more.
This World Junior’s performance by Suomi performance is nothing short of catastrophically bad. And it does not. make. sense.
But in hindsight, it appears this was honestly the best they could’ve hoped for under the circumstances of who their coach was: Jukka Rautakorpi.
According to the finnish press, and paraphrased for the audience at large by one empassioned fan who gave a twitter thread about how poorly these kids were treated.
(The thread has been edited for space on this page in a block quote. Follow @erikhaula, the original tweeter here. No, it is not actually Erik Haula.)
...The new coach had arranged one (1) practice for the team during the tournament and then made it the captains' job to look after the whole fucking team full of underage players and it doesn't fucking make sense. He just didn't care at all and it's unbelievable....he had already gotten us to the relegation round once who in the name of god thought choosing him is a good idea...I feel so bad for the team and especially the captains, they tried so hard to make things work without a coach who actually cares...
She* would go on to point out that the captains Olli Juolevi, Vili Saarijarvi, and Kasper Bjorkqvist arranged a private meeting before their last game to try and pull something together.
This means that Rautakorpi and company took a close look at an extremely talented roster of Finland’s finest Under-18 players and took one of the following options:
- Decided that the Finnish team was so head and shoulders above their competition they felt like they didn’t have to do anything, which is arrogance in it’s finest, most evil form.
- Decided the opposite, that Finland in comparison to the rest of the World Junior teams that they decided it wasn’t worth it. Which is the most insulting option, given the talent on Finland’s roster and that freaking Latvia still exists as a viable WJC contender.
- Rautakorpi was so ambivalent or insulted that he had to coach the world junior team he decided to check out before the tournament even started. Which is arrogance in it’s finest, most evil form.
- Genuinely didn’t care about the tournament and took the job under the assumption that putting in the bare minimum might put him in future consideration for another job in Finland’s ice hockey federation or better standing with the KHL. Which is arrogance in it’s finest, most evil form.
Whatever option he took, he hung a team of kids of which 80% of which were not able to drink in Ontario yet and the nation he represented out directly to dry because he apparently couldn’t be assed to do his job. Which is coaching the goddamn world junior team that happens to be the reigning champs. Which he effectively outsourced to two 19 year olds and one 18 year old. Talented players, to be sure, but otherwise they were stuck attempting to put a team together and keeping them out of whatever they might’ve remembered from one. practice. And no. others. That is the kind of crap that’d likely get a coach fired with prejudice in Juniors, let alone the internationally known and coveted World Junior tournament.
Finland choosing a coach that would be both this careless and this neglectful is a goddamn shame to a team that is full of both bright and hopeful prospects, a shame to said players who instead of focusing on their play had to now focus on playing and attempting to overcome their inexperience with something that should be years in their futures to even consider, (IE: coaching) and a shame to the fans who were hoping for another strong performance from their champions.
Thankfully it isn’t all bad for Finland. Their new coach, Jussi Ahokas, was apparently quite good for Finland in the U-18 tournament, and is apparently well liked and fairly successful. But he has to more or less bring a team that has been managed by three players together to avoid losing to Switzerland and into the relegation that Rautakorpi’s “inspiring” leadership brought them into.
And frankly, they deserve better. The entire nation of Finland deserved much, much better than this.