I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
Beilein Beilein Beilein. Noted on the sidebar but worth repeating is Rosenberg's latest:
From all indications, John Beilein is not just a candidate to be Michigan's next basketball coach. Beilein is the candidate. [emphasis original]
Michigan athletic director Bill Martin is not tipping his hand publicly, but he appears to have zeroed in on West Virginia's Beilein. There are a few hurdles to overcome before Beilein is introduced as the next coach. Beilein's Mountaineers are still playing in the NIT, so he has yet to have a face-to-face sit-down with Martin. When that happens, anything is possible. One man might say something to turn off the other. Beilein might ask for too much money, though that is highly doubtful.
And Beilein might say, "Michigan? Ha! West Virginia, mountain momma, take me home." That, however, also would be surprising. Beilein had serious interest in the Indiana and North Carolina State jobs last year (he was a finalist for both) and has told friends he wants a shot at a national championship.
There is no doubt he would have a better chance at Michigan than at West Virginia. In other words, the hurdles are 10 inches high. Martin and Beilein easily can hold hands and jump over them together. It is not a 100% lock that Beilein will be Michigan's next coach.
But it is better than 50-50.
I wish Rosenberg had been a little more explicit as to whether he's got an inside source here or if this is just a gut feeling. It certainly sounds like he's got good reason to make such a strong assertion, but a little more transparency would be nice.
Andy Katz has the same info:
Michigan is expected to seek out West Virginia coach John Beilein this weekend in Atlanta after the Mountaineers finish with the NIT final on Thursday night in New York.
Multiple sources told ESPN.com that the Wolverines plan to unofficially interview three or four coach candidates -- possibly Beilein, Xavier's Sean Miller and Southern Illinois' Chris Lowery -- and then choose one for a formal interview. Their focus, though, is on Beilein.
Katz has been throwing out random names for two weeks now. It's good that he's finally on the right track. Cookie time.
Endorsed by Wonk. Also noted in sidebar; also worth re-noting. Wonk, perhaps feeling lingering guilt over abandoning the conference that nurtured his blogging ambitions from thew womb, takes an extended look at John Beilein and gives him two thumbs up. Most illuminating passage for any PSL coaches or fathers of incoming point guards who regard Beilein's system as a "slow down" approach is a look at WVU's pace in the Big East. Number in parens is possessions per conference contest:
8. St. John's (65.2)
9. Villanova (65.2)
10. West Virginia (64.2)
11. Louisville (64.1)
12. Cincinnati (63.2)
You'll note that Michigan managed to pound out a mere 61.2 possessions per game, and that West Virginia's number would have been the highest in the entire conference, though the pace of their opponents undoubtedly had something to do with that. Kenpom's numbers are slightly different (Wonk uses only conference games) and less flattering but hardly tell the story of a redneck Northwestern: West Virginia was faster than four Big Ten teams in terms of pace -- with an adjustment for how fast your opponents play -- and the two teams directly in front of the Mountaineers, Michgian and Minnesota, were two of the most turnover-plagued teams in the country. Turnovers have a tendency to make you look fast, if stupid. All indications are that at the very least West Virginia's pace will fall in the middle of the conference. Granted, the Big Ten is the slowest, most boring conference in all the land, but you can't credibly claim that a lack of pace will kill Michigan recruiting if the Big Ten had a recruiting year much like the SEC just did in football -- and they did.
Potential Michigan Coaches Deathmatch! I haven't paid close enough attention to the NCAA tournament in recent years to remember this without an assist from helpful messageboarders, but last year six seed West Virginia and John Beilein crushed eleven seed Southern Illinois 64-46. While it would be silly to conclude from a single game that Beilein the man, the quotes from the Saluki players in the aftermath are interesting:
"We ran into something we've never seen before," Southern Illinois forward Randal Falker said. "It was all confusing. I've never seen a team that can all hit the 3s. We just couldn't match up with them."
"We haven't played a team like that where all five guys can hit the 3," Southern Illinois guard Tony Young said. "It was a crazy game."
"We ran into a buzz saw," coach Chris Lowery said. "Their experience outreaches our tradition."
...not really sure what the last one means. Note that this is a slightly less experienced version of this year's Saluki four-seed that featured some seriously hellacious man-to-man defense.
Verrry eeeenteresting. The Hockey News surveyed 283 NHLers -- almost half the league -- on a wide variety of issues. The results are really interesting: 70% of players want to keep the shootout as-is, a scanty 3% want the penalties for fighting increased, a small plurality want to keep the (retarded) delay of game minor for throwing it over the boards, and 66% of the league hates Sean Avery more than anyone else. (Duh: Elisha Cuthbert.) Of direct relevance to you, the fervent college hockey fan (or person who just tolerates my fervent fandom):
If you had a son who was an NHL prospect, would you prefer to see him play:
1) U.S. college hockey (140) 52%
2) Major junior hockey (104) 39%
3) European hockey (26) 10%
4) Other (0)
Also I must note this:
What's the best thing about your job?
1) Living dream/playing/adrenaline/sold out buildings, etc. (111) 43%
2) Friendship/Teammates (32) 12%
3) Money/Lifestyle (26) 10%
4) Travel/other cities/road trips (25) 9.7%
5) Times off/Summer (22) 8.5%
6) Playing against best/competing (11) 4.2%
7) Everything (8) 3%
8) Fans (6) 2.3%
9) Women (5) 2%
10) Naps (3) 1.2%
11) Winning (3)1.2%
12) Fame (2) 0.78%
13) Hotels (1) 0.4%
14) Media (1) 0.4%
15) Trainers (1) 0.4%
16) Video Coach, Steve Summers (1) 0.4%
Etc.: Interesting Daily article on life after football for people who aren't Alan Branch. Would have been more interesting if they had caught up with a David Bowens or even Kelly Baraka; News article on how M is going to have to ramp up its coaching pay (duh)... Izzo raked seven million this year(!).
Leading the nation with 69 points wasn't enough to get the University of Michigan's T.J. Hensick into the top three for college hockey's top honor.
His hopes for winning the Hobey Baker Award ended with Wednesday night's announcement of the "Hobey Hat Trick" by the foundation that administers the award.
The three finalists are North Dakota forward Ryan Duncan, Notre Dame goalie David Brown and Air Force forward Eric Ehn, who is a native of Dexter. All three are invited to the April 6 presentation ceremony in St. Louis, on the off day at the Frozen Four.
I am beginning to agree with the more paranoid factions of the Michigan fanbase that think the college hockey establishment is out to get Michigan. Duncan plays on a line with two first-round draft picks who have more talent than him and has twelve fewer points than Hensick. Ehn has five fewer and plays in Atlantic Hockey, the college hockey equivalent of the Sun Belt. (Brown probably deserves to be in the final three if any goalie other than the snubbed Jeff Jakatis does.) What a travesty. The Heisman of college hockey indeed: it's just as credible.
It's ugly when the angry mob turns to infighting, but here we are. Ann Arbor Torch & Pitchfork celebrates as bloggers strafe each other with mixed metaphors.
As I was writing Ode To Beilein, Dave at Maize 'n' Brew was poking holes in his Beilein voodoo doll... holes made of words! Since a heated discussion popped up in the comments of the last post, let's revisit the idea of John Beilein as Michigan's coach. This will take the form of a fisk, but, like, a nice one...
God bless Bob Wojnowski of the Detroit Free Press for putting in print what I've been saying since Beilein's name was first floated, how in the world is this guy considered our top choice?
Woj put it best by saying, "But how high is the upside? Is Martin even seeking a major upside or hoping to get lucky? In U-M's hunt for a home run, is Beilein a ground-rule double?". I said it yesterday, "When the number of NIT appearances equals his NCAA appearances it worries me... Up and down years are not what I have in mind when I look for a new coach. I want a guaranteed winner, every year."
Beilein is not a home run coach. In the Pulous world of basketball coaching, Beilein is a Mark Loretta. He's expensive and other than getting on base a lot, he doesn't do a whole lot. He's a safe bet. The same way Tommy Amaker was.
Okay, first the assertion that Beilein is a "safe bet" just like Tommy Amaker. This is ludicrous. Tommy Amaker had been a head coach for all of four years. Seton Hall failed, failed, had a Sweet 16 run as a ten seed with two OT wins, and then failed miserably despite the return of most of the Sweet 16 team from the year before. Amaker did reel in the nation's top recruiting class before "failed miserably." How on earth does this constitute a safe bet? The the dueling NIT appearances in their (hypothetical) final years before becoming Michigan's coach are vastly different. If last year's WVU Sweet 16 team, which returned their stars from the previous year's run, had collapsed into the NIT and then we had decided to hire Beilein, that would be equivalent.
Amaker had proven very little, especially in comparison to Beilein, who has been a head coach for twenty-nine years and has transformed the basketball programs of every school he has been at for the better. Yes, he has as many NIT appearances as NCAA appearances. He's also spent most of his career at places like Richmond and Canisus. Everywhere he's been he has produced winning teams. Amaker had one (ONE! ONE ONE ONE!) successful year, but had indicated a hell of a recruiting ability. If Beilein is Loretta, Amaker was Dave Kingman.
Second: "Up and down years are not what I have in mind when I look for a new coach. I want a guaranteed winner, every year." This is a noble aspiration but you will have to point out the coach who is willing to come to Michigan who can provide this service. More later.
I have serious reservations about Beilein's ability to recruit. Looking at his teams, they are stacked with 6-10 white guys who shoot three pointers and can't play in the post. He relies on three point shooting and a Princeton offense that does manufacture points but can stifle creativity. Beilein's recruits are system guys. He's never recruited the midwest well and all of his contacts are on the East Coast.
Personally, I've had all the "creativity" I can stomach after six years of Amaker's "go out there and be really darned creative, guys!" I do not care how creative my team is. This is what I care about:
Raw Efficiency : 113.1 ( 15) 97.8 ( 72)
Adj Efficiency : 118.6 ( 12) 94.6 ( 62)
Beilein's team graduated five of their six major contributors last year. This year they are the twelfth best team in the country in terms of offensive efficiency despite Beilein's renowned inability to recruit. He gets kids no one else wants and turns them into three-point shooting maniacs that are in the top dozen offenses in the country in a rebuilding year. This man is a genius.
So here we come to the recruiting thing:
The standard response to this criticism is "Look where he's recruiting, no one can recruit there!" Stop. Stop right now. That's bull. Like I pointed out two days ago:
A good recruiter can sell a herpes vaccine to a nun. I refuse to give him a pass on his recruiting record because he works in Morgantown. The next response is he "does more with less." Yeah, but it's his less. It's not like he intentionally passes on 4 and 5 star recruits.
First: just because Butler and BYU and SIU and WSU and Nevada and Vandy have had success in the tourney this year does not necessarily mean that their coaches have been raking in four stars. Those schools have three between them in the past five years, two for Vandy and one for WSU. They've had no more recruiting success than Beilein over the past few years. And comparing West Virginia to a team that's the preeminent program in one of the most talent-rich states in the country, one that's been to four Final Fours in the past decade... um... no sale.
And is it better to get a four-star power forward who doesn't fit your system or a three-star who does? Beilein's ability to recruit is self-evident when you look at the results on the floor. This is how the Steelers' defense was always so good when they were the only team in the league running the 3-4: they got perfect fits for their system that would not have been available if it was more commonly employed. Beilein plucks square blocks and the gurus rate mostly on roundness.
Wojnowski rightfully points out, "No one should assume he'll magically recruit better once he gets out of West Virginia, or that U-M will recruit itself." He's another east coast outsider who is eerily similar to Amaker in that sense. He doesn't have contacts here. He hasn't made inroads to the AAU and PSL. He needs someone else to do that. It'll take years before he has the comfort level with our key recruiting areas, and frankly by the time he does he'll be on his way out. Haven't we been down this road before?
It's almost immaterial if he doesn't recruit better in the eyes of the gurus. In all likelihood he will because the Michigan name still has cachet and the campus is still 30 miles from Detroit. But if he doesn't the alternative is... Sweet 16 appearances? Nearly reaching the Final Four? West Virginia isn't in the Horizon League, it's in the Big East.
And sure, stipulated that the most important thing Beilein will do in a hypothetical coaching tenure is find two local guys to recruit their asses off, but he can buy that experience.
Based on the coaches currently in the Big Ten: Tom Izzo to Bo Ryan to Thad Matta to Kelvin Sampson to Bruce Weber to Tubby Smith (and you can probably throw Purdue's Paitner in there as well), if Beilein came to Ann Arbor he'd be eighth on the top coaches list in the Big Ten. Is that what Michigan wants?
The final straw, at least to me, is the cost of bringing him here. At a minimum Beilein will coast the school $1.2-$1.3 million a year. Then there's the $2.5 million dollar buyout. Woj is dead on when he says "Would that be the wisest investment for a program that needs to spend on facilities?"
lockquote>If you believe that Beilein is the guy to revive the program, the surest bet, than the increased revenue from his hire will offset his price.
His record is so-so. His recruiting is subpar. The schedule West Virginia played was worse than Michigan's. He's expensive. He's a high floor, low ceiling coach.
I do not think four rebuilding jobs in 29 years, the most recent culminating in back-to-back Sweet 16s, the first one basket away from the Final Four, followed by a year in which a bunch of unregarded freshmen are in the NIT final at West Virginia is a so so record. And how subpar can his recruiting be with that record? Unconventional, yes. Unsuccessful, no.
And high floor... low ceiling. Let's talk about how high that floor is. Everywhere he has been he has created a remarkably efficient offense and taken teams to the NCAA tournament or the NIT, which is probably and equivalent accomplishment when you're at Richmond or Canisus or any of those schools that can't be called "mid-major" without serious fibbing. At West Virginia he had a couple ramp up seasons and then blew up. This year he has his guys on the cusp of the NCAA tourney as freshmen, set up for another three-year run. And this is at West Virginia. Even if his recruiting does not improve his offense has been shown to work at the highest levels*. The Beilein floor is tourney appearances most years with fairly regular success therein. He's not going to recruit worse at Michigan.
That's the floor. The worst case scenario.
A low ceiling is a more reasonable concern. Beilein's system is his system and he may not recruit better at Michigan either via inability or by choice. (Personally, I believe the lure of a winning Michigan program will be sufficient to draw all sorts of attention just as the Fab Five reaches its retro-cool apex.) And it remains to be seen whether his teams are actually any better if they have NBA talent on their rosters. But his system has already produced top-twenty offenses the last three years; how much better does it need to be? Any potential leap to the elite will come on the defensive end, where improved athletes will help WVU's consistently mediocre offensive numbers.
But we've got one more thing to consider before questioning Beilein's ceiling...
*(clarification to something I wrote in the coaching profiles, when I questioned if his offense could, uh, work at the highest levels. Having not examined his kenpom stats at that point I failed to realize that over the past three years he had erased that question and replaced it with an exclamation. Where the question remains is defense.)
I'll grant you, Beilein is an excellent basketball coach. But Michigan needs more than that. We need a star. And Beilein just isn't it.
Give me a name. Gillespie is getting $2 mil a year from A&M. Tubby is getting $2.2 from Minnesota. Pitt fans grumble about Jamie Dixon's inability to get the highest profile talent to attend. Bruce Pearl -- and who says there are fewer questions about Pearl than there are about Beilein? -- has categorically denied interest in the job and would probably find any potential salary bump matched by Tennessee. To dismiss Beilein you must provide a better alternative, and unless you are entertaining fairy tales about Calipari or Pitino or Mike Montgomery, there does not appear to be one.
The discontent here is based on the assumption that we could hurl a huge chunk of change at some rockstar coach and he would come. But rockstar coaches are already making that huge chunk of change at schools that are currently experiencing more success than Michigan -- that's why they're rockstars. And it's likely that anyone who isn't is only waiting to use Michigan as leverage. That's the reality when you haven't made the tournament for a decade.
This is a terribly difficult post to write with any degree of certainty. Coaches lie constantly up until the moment they take another job. Bill Martin has no motive to disclose the serious candidates, either. The basketball program's resident message board insiders are so pissed at the state of the program and the departure of Amaker that they spin everything to make the athletic department look terrible and can't be considered reliable. As an example of the latter, the hot rumor currently being promulgated on the boards is that Memphis' John Calipari approached Michigan and Martin "turned him down," cue outrage etc. Even assuming there is a nugget of truth somewhere in that statement, the same insiders have been declaring Michigan's program to be such a joke that no serious candidate would take on the massive challenge posed by not having a practice facility. So either you believe the latter and Calipari's only response to the idea of coaching at Michigan would be an imperious laugh or you believe the former, in which case you have conclusive proof that these insiders' perception of the program is hopelessly warped, with the inescapable rider that whatever information you wish to extract from their OMG insiderz reports has to be adjusted for derangement.
So take all of this lightly. A brief survey of my personal opinion developed from reading everything available follows.
Beilein is probably the first choice. This is the easiest and most sensible explanation for the lack of movement in the search. Beilein has reached the NIT final on an improbable buzzer-beater...
...so any potential overtures have to wait until after the final Thursday night. We know that Beilein is -- or at least was -- very much willing to move. He was almost signed, sealed and delivered to go to NC State last year (some reports even had him paying half of his own buyout) until the deal fell through at the last moment. In the wake of the buyout fiasco, Beilein dumped his agent. Unless a strong run in the NIT with a bunch of freshmen convinces him to stay, Beilein's ready to move on to a greener pasture.
Further evidence re: Beilein: we haven't even bothered to interview any of the hot mid-major candidates:
"We haven't been asked for permission," said Tom Weber , Southern Illinois athletics representative, regarding Lowery, the Missouri Valley Conference's coach of the year.
"I haven't been contacted at all regarding coach Stallings," said David Williams , Vanderbilt's vice chancellor for university affairs and general counsel.
"We haven't been contacted," said Barry Collier , Butler's athletic director.
(Stallings, by the way, is a new name that's come up, usually accompanied by a resounding "meh.")
Do you have any (wrong) ideas about Michigan's next coach?
Michigan has not contacted West Virginia's John Beilein, unless you count the flower arrangements disguised as my columns. But that could be because Beilein's team is still playing in the NIT. If this drags on two more days, that could mean Michigan is waiting for Beilein -- which would be good news for U-M fans.
This is your third push for Beilein. What are you, his agent?
No. But if I were, I would respond to this silliness that he can't recruit and that his modified Princeton offense won't work with the athletes in Michigan.
First, the offense: West Virginia averaged 69.7 points in Big East play this year. That was more than Jim Calhoun's team, Jay Wright's team, John Thompson III's team or Jamie Dixon's team. It was 0.3 points less than Rick Pitino's team. And those guys all had more talent in the same league.
As for recruiting: HE COACHES IN MORGANTOWN, WEST VIRGINIA. Put him in Ann Arbor. His recruiting will improve dramatically.
What about Beilein's $2.5-million buyout?
That is entirely up to athletic director Bill Martin. Martin does not have to consult with the school's regents to write that kind of check.
He is also totally ganking my schtick. I wave my fist impotently at thee, Rosenberg!
Meanwhile, Wojo expresses concern about Beilein's upside:
But there is cause for caution. Beilein never has recruited well, earning him the teasing label -- he "does more with less." Is "doing more with less" the plan U-M is ready to embrace? In five seasons at West Virginia, Beilein has made the NCAA Tournament twice. I get nervous about coaching geniuses who built their reputations on smaller stages and haven't had the opportunity to prove their system works elsewhere.
Yes, West Virginia is in the Big East, and Beilein has proven something there. But it's fair to wonder if he has the energy, charisma and connections to compete on the recruiting trail with the Big Ten's best. I do think Amaker's outsider status hurt him.
In retrospect I don't know if it was so much Amaker's "outsider" status that hurt him. My theory: it was his status as one of the most privileged black guys on the planet that was damaging. He grew up in Falls Church, Virginia, a Washington DC suburb that's 3% black with a median household income of almost $75k and am median family income of almost $95k. He went to friggin' Duke. He married a woman who was so good at being an academic she was widely cited by dumb Detroit columnists as a reason Amaker wouldn't get canned. His resemblance to Condoleeza Rice goes much deeper than just the (striking) physical aspects. He has as much in common with hardscrabble Detroit ballers as she does, for instance. On the other hand, Beilein is a real boostrap kind of mofo, coaching at a community college before hitting the big time at, uh, Nazareth, LeMoyne, and Canisus. If you look beyond relative levels of melanin, it's Beilein who can relate to people who've struggled for everything they've ever gotten.
Also: it is even possible for anyone to recruit worse than Tommy Amaker? That sounds flip, but I mean it. Is it remotely within the realm of possibility that a competent coach who is likely to build an upper-half Big Ten program with 5'8" point guards from Grosse Pointe, duct-tape, a piece of gum, and some socks -- MacGuyver stizz -- can recruit worse than Tommy Amaker? Before answering please consider that Amaker's recruited two point guards, one of whom is Jerrett Smith, in six years, has offered scholarships to guys like Kendrick Price, Anthony Wright, and Reed Baker, Rainmaker (who ironically enough seems the perfect fit for Beilein's three-mad offense), and coached at a famous name school that's 30 miles away from one of the country's most fabulous talent mines.
To be fair, this isn't Wojo's question. He's does question the potential upside of a Beilein because he's not likely to recruit like Matta:
But how high is the upside? Is Martin even seeking a major upside or hoping to get lucky? In U-M's hunt for a home run, is Beilein a ground-rule double?
Let's be clear on this: Beilein wouldn
't be a bad choice. He wouldn't be a cheap choice, and if U-M lands him, the financial commitment would be significant.
He would be a safe choice, which seems to be exactly what U-M wants.
Fair points, but unless we can pry a Jay Wright free -- doubtful -- the alternatives are most certainly not safe, and the reason they have more upside than Beilein is the reason Cheick Samb has more upside than Jason Maxiell: who the hell is Cheick Samb?
No one could be hotter than Steve Alford was eight years ago this month. His 12th-seeded Southwest Missouri State team (since morphed into simply Missouri State) had beaten 4th-seeded Wisconsin and 5th-seeded Tennessee to reach the Sweet 16, before falling to 1-seed Duke.
And Alford's team did it with punishing defense: the score of the Wisconsin game was 43-32. If Alford could do that with the recruits he had in Springfield, MO, the thinking went, just imagine what he could do at a "power"-conference program.
We've since found out what he could do. Not much, and he's now fled the power conferences entirely.
Jumpin' Jebus, that's Chris Lowery except with an annoying Indiana pedigree. (Sort of: should be noted that the Salukis earned a 4-seed this year; Lowery's less of a risk because part of his appeal comes from building a 4-seed worthy team over the course of the regular season, not merely fluking his way to the Sweet 16.) Wonk then lists his number one priority for any new coach: recruiting. Damn! This is where Jalen Rose, assistant coach comes in. We've got it all figured out:
HEAD COACH: John Beilein
RECRUITIN' ASSISTANT: Jalen Rose
GENERALLY IMPRESSIVE ASSISTANT: Jon Bon Jovi
Lon Kruger might be lying but probably not. He says he's not interested:
"No contact at all and no thoughts about any other positions," Kruger said in a national teleconference on Tuesday. "Barb and I decided three years ago to come to Las Vegas based on a couple things: No. 1, people we wanted to work with, we felt good about the people here and their sincerity and establishing the type of program we thought was possible here. No. 2, it was a community in which we wanted to live. We love living in Las Vegas, it's a great place to live a lot of energy, excitement and a lot of things going on. We're here, we've been thrilled by the three years and haven't thought at all about living anywhere else."
Remember, Kruger and his wife are now old and when you're old living in a post-atomic nightmarescape is preferable as long as it doesn't snow. UNLV just experienced the first success it's had in a long time and with the well-heeled boosters (cough Steve Wynn) UNLV has, Michigan can't outbid the Rebels.
Bruce Pearl not interested. Um...
"Iowa and Michigan are both jobs that in a different time and a different place -- like I said, I worked my whole life to be at a place like Tennessee. I was a Hawkeye for a long time. I've recruited Michigan well for years as an assistant at Iowa and a head coach at Southern Indiana, and here and (Wisconsin-) Milwaukee. I've always recruited Michigan. Those are opportunities that you certainly try to get to, but I'm here. I'm in the SEC. I'm at Tennessee. I go to work every day trying to reward Tennessee for bringing me here."
Oh, hell. Even thinking about the most recent North Dakota game has been the mental equivalent of touching a hot stove but the thing must be confronted and slain, and then we can move on.
THE STEAMING HORROR OF THE THING ITSELF
Penalties. I spent most of the game cursing out the referee in a wild, confused rage. It was the perfect storm of crappy college hockey officiating, featuring all the Save The Children penalties available: weak roughing calls when a forearm got too high and the like. My favorite was the linesman-called penalty on Hunwick that the referee had stared directly at and decided not to call. The crack production crew didn't even show us replays of many off-screen calls, so I have no idea how mincing the particular application of the rules was in this particular instance.
What I do know is that you have to be a very special kind of asshole indeed to give a player a ten minute misconduct in the third period of an NCAA tournament game. Yeah, TJ probably said something, but his recollection is as follows:
"The ref was chirping at me more than I was chirping at him," Hensick said. "I don't want to get anybody in trouble. I didn't really say much to him except at the end when I was getting sick of hearing what he was saying."
Unless Hensick threatened something truly vile, and that doesn't seem to be the case, the ref was way out of line. But I can't say I was even a little bit surprised. College hockey referees are too often determined to make themselves the show.
Stupidity. Standard college hockey reffing bitch aside, there were some completely inexcusable penalties Michigan took. The standout was Brandon Naurato highsticking a guy to the ice after play had stopped. I hesitate to criticize Red Berenson for a lot of reasons -- built the program with his bare hands, could kill me with his glare alone, etc. -- but Michigan has been a stupid, undisciplined team for a while now. This year's surfeit of unnecessary penalties and awful turnovers was the worst it's ever gotten. If Berenson was Tommy Amaker he'd be getting roasted for never teaching Matt Hunwick when to pinch (never, if you're Hunwick) and when not to (always). He was the captain and he symbolized the team: indisputably skilled but dumb as hell.
Even though the referee was obviously an enormous tool, Michigan should have been able to adjust to that and keep their arms down when they went in for a check.
Sauer. Undid a half-season's worth of goodwill in 30 minutes. Was sold out on a few goals but gave up some howlers. The Oshie wraparound was a weak shot that went between Sauer's arm and his body. The Bina goal was a an unscreened snap shot from the blue line. Oshie's second goal was shot from behind the goal line and bounced off him before going into the net. A couple other goals were savable, if tough. The difference in the game came halfway through when UND's own horrible goalie briefly turned into Patrick Roy and shut Michigan down. Probably the second worst game of his career (the Notre Dame game in which he gave up a laugher from the blue line on the first shot of the game is still the king tuna) and the worst time to have it. I doubt we see much of Bryan Hogan, as Red's proven it takes a crowbar to separate him from his starting goalie, but God I hope he's for real.
- TJ. Obviously a huge blow. Kevin Porter, if he returns, is going to see his points fall off a cliff.
- David Rohlfs. Shockingly effective at forward after two seasons pressed into duty as a mediocre but safe defenseman. Provided a power presence in the corners totally lacking elsewhere on the team except on certain nights when the third line was going. Lack of an equivalent senior on next year's team will be a smallish problem, but the three junior grinders below will probably pick up most of the slack.
- Jack. Two years was all we could expect, really.
- Hunwick. As noted above: a skilled player but one prone to mental breakdowns. Hard to believe he actually warranted the CCHA's defensive defenseman award, as by my count he was only the third best defensive defenseman on his team. Will miss his minutes because of the huge turnover Michigan is experiencing but won't miss all the odd-man rushes and breakaways that were his fault.
- Cook and Dest. Functional by the end of their careers. Also will be missed. Though it's likely the incoming freshmen will easily match their talent level, these guys were unlikely to turn the puck over in inopportune places. It's unlikely we'll be able to say the same for their replacements.
Kevin Porter. I personally doubt he returns. The Coyotes will want to sign him after his big year -- the alternative is to wait and risk losing him for nothing if Porter wants to shop himself around after his senior year -- and Porter might be wise to take a grab at a signing bonus now, as I can't envision his points going anywhere but south when he's not playing with the best passer in recent Michigan history.
Chad Kolarik. Supposedly a good bet to return. Needs to work on his defensive game and learn that it's okay to pass the puck once in a while. Could go if he gets offered one of those "don't walk" contracts, but I don't think anyone in the NHL saw Kolarik play last year and saw a surefire NHLer.
Mark Mitera. No read on him. Had a disappointing year between last year's and this year's WJCs and ended up not making this year's team, but also had a ridiculous dozen-or-so-game streak in which opponents did not score when he was on the ice. A first rounder of Anahiem's a couple years ago, is certainly a threat to get signed. Would be a devastating loss, leaving Michigan with Kampfer and a hastily re-switched Summers as the only returning defensemen. A lock to play Jack minutes if he returns.
Andrew Cogliano. Oiler fans, once confident that Cogliano would return to school next year, have changed their tune and I'm leery. One of those guys who swore up and down he'd be here for four years upon arrival; those guys have a zero percent accuracy rate about their own futures to date. Obvious top-line center and centerpiece of the powerplay if he returns. Working against this: Edmonton has acquired an AHL affiliate and needs to stock it. Working for it: the trades of Chris Pronger and Ryan Smyth have garnered a bounty of picks and prospects and Edmonton may put Cogliano on the back burner for a year.
Lebler, Miller, Naurato, Turnbull. All quality players that aren't ever going to be stars. Lebler will be a sophomore, the rest juniors. With the incoming class consisting of a lot of smallish offensive centers, are likely to find themselves as Rohlfs-esque wingers on scoring lines, especially if Cogliano's back. A key part of next season will be finding someone on this crew capable of playing on the top line.
Summers. Was a bit of a nightmare at defense, plagued by turnovers and bad decisions. Was far more effective at forward. Unfortunately, Michigan is unlikely to have the luxury of playing him there without Johnson's return.
Fardig. An effective fourth-liner and penalty-killer, but will be in tough for playing time if Porter, Cogliano, and Kolarik return. Six forwards come in this recruiting class and at this moment only two are outgoing. Has dabbled on defense both for the NTDP and at Michigan and may get moved if there's a surplus at forward.
Ciraulo. Has likely seen the most playing time he's ever going to, but became a fiesty little c
ontributor on the fourth line by year's end. Will probably see Charlie Henderson minutes from here on out.
THE GREAT WIDE OPEN
For two years Michigan has been the same team, a top heavy array of scorers with prone to stupid faith-shattering breakdowns and shaky goaltending. This has been good for not much: first-round exits in the NCAA tournament and watching other teams raise CCHA and GLI banners. In a sense, the departure of the defensemen and TJ is a relief. The team next year might be terrible. It might be fantastic. But it will definitely be different.
Sometime soon: a recruiting class breakdown.