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.
This is a bit old but I hadn't mentioned it here: Sims and Udoh dispel the transfer rumors surrounding them, at least for now.
I'm a sucker for old Michigan highlights, and when they feature Keith Jackson I'm doubly so. Anthony Carter versus ND, 1981:
Meanwhile, prolific YouTube clip assembler dynoguy has a set of ND highlights from years past:
And... uh... there's this from the era when Jim McMahon spawned a wave of football teams wearing sunglasses and "rapping":
The tenuous Michigan relevance herein is Husky quarterback Wilbur Odom, who spent two years on the bench at Michigan in the late 80s before transferring to "Angelo State," a school that seems to be desperately lacking a "San".
Coaching stuffs. The search continues apace; with everyone mentioned as a possible candidate currently done with their season except John Beilein, who has West Virginia in the NIT Final Four -- cue jokes from State fans about how he's a perfect fit. Michigan Sports Center has a comprehensive recap of recent developments. Villanova's Jay Wright and Memphis' John Calipari are two names getting more play recently. IMO, both are pipe dreams. I don't know what to make of Calipari's name getting mentioned, as I always had him associated with Shady Doings in my mind for what appears to be little cause. There was some trouble with Marcus Camby during Calipari's final season at UMass, but as I understand it the issue was more a Marcus Ray/Curtis Enis thing where Camby had impermissible contact with an agent. Everything else he's charged with is the usual mud flung at any improbably successful recruiter and basketball coach. See: Donovan, Matta, et al.
But it does bring up the question all basketball programs have to ask themselves in the AAU era: just how corrupt to we want to be? Frankly, after six years of being a 1 on the Huggins Scale* I'm a little tired of watching everyone with a dodgy hanger-on get redirected to other programs. The resulting Michigan fanbase is constantly lamenting the unpure state of college basketball mostly because our refusal to dip our toe into anything unpleasant -- not even inpermissible -- is the only thing we can cling to after a decade of futility.
*(an MGoBlog created measuring stick for coaching corruption. Not actually headed by Huggins:
11: Dave Bliss (yes, this one goes to 11)
10: Tarkanian -- full on cheaty cheaty all the time
9: Jim Harrick -- a consistent pattern of malfeasance that includes academic fraud
8: Clem Haskins -- Harrick except not slimy enough to get away with it for quite as long
7: Huggins -- as skeezy as you can be and still have a job
6: Steve Fisher -- classic don't ask, don't tell
5: Billy Donovan -- you just KNOW there's something fishy but can't actually prove it.
4: Kelvin Sampson -- persistent minor flouting of NCAA regulations to harrass recruits for personal aggrandizement
3: Rick Majerus -- persistent minor flouting of NCAA regulations because he thinks they're stupid
2: Izzo -- basically squeaky clean, will occasionally take flyers on dodgy characters
1: Amaker -- ick
0: Whoever the current sacrificial lamb at Northwestern is.)
Jalen! Fascinating article from last month's DIME magazine penned by Jalen Rose his ownself:
It ended up being bigger than we ever thought. You have to remember, this was the early '90s. Not only were five freshmen starting, but all five freshmen were also black. How many college programs in the entire country back then had five starting black kids, let alone five freshmen? We were making a statement on so many levels. Social, cultural, hip-hop - we repped the street, flavor, fashion and the love of the game. We were coming after teams like the UNLV Runnin' Rebels squad of the previous few years and John Thompson's classic G'Town teams that were right in the thick of Prop 48 debates - he had to walk off the court a few times with his teams because the environment was so bad. So it was important to us, maybe above all, for the Fab 5 to be strong black men.
We were extremely aware of what was going on. Yes, we were brash and talking trash and we created a distinct style and played with flair, but we also went to class. We never got credit for that. We should have.
I am totally onboard with the idea of bringing in Jalen as an assistant coach whenever he retires from the NBA, especially if we hire someone like Beilein.
Tea leaves. The media got their annual peek inside a Michigan spring practice; the Ann Arbor News reports back:
Given those considerations, here's what the first-team University of Michigan offense looked like across the front: Mark Ortmann at left tackle, Jeremy Ciulla at left guard, Justin Boren at center, Alex Mitchell at right guard and Cory Zirbel at right tackle.
Brandon Minor was the tailback, Chad Henne quarterbacked the offense, and Greg Mathews and LaTerryal Savoy were the wide receivers.
With Schilling still out after surgery -- he should be back in a week or two, that's not particularly enlightening. It does seem that Ciulla will be the first interior lineman off the bench in the case of an injury. Adam Kraus will probably slide over to center in that event, allowing Ciulla to play at guard. Should Jake Long miss any time (please, Angry Michigan Everything Hating God, let's not get any ideas), Ortmann is likely to be his replacement. The defense:
In its package with five defensive backs, the first team featured Tim Jamison and Shawn Crable at end, Brandon Graham and Will Johnson at tackle, Chris Graham and John Thompson at linebacker and Morgan Trent, Johnny Sears, Charles Stewart, Stevie Brown and Brandon Harrison in the secondary.
Adams and Taylor sat out, nursing injuries. Now, this is interesting. Brandon Graham is playing inside, at least in the nickel package inside. Graham saw a lot of time as a zero-technique* pass rusher in the 3-3-5 last year and may maintain that role into the fall. This look could either be a true 4-2-5 with Crable as a speed-rushing end or it could morph into the 3-3-5 is Crable drops back and Graham slides over. Stevie Brown and Stewart are going to battle for the starting spot opposite Adams; current projections have Brown with the lead but Stewart is reportedly doing well at his new, less speed-intensive position.
*( == lined up directly over the center)
Etc.: Hawkeye State > takes an entertaining, in-depth look at the Iowa coaching search; I find this article on SI.com with blogger Alex Belth interviewing new blogger Curt Schilling extremely interesting; Section Six has an update on the NCAA's actions against diploma-mill high schools.
Thanks to a helpful commenter I got an IE6 test setup up and running and got the ugliness there fixed... mostly. For reasons I can't determine, the end of posts often get cut off in IE6. The text is still there -- if you highlight the area it pops up like any other selected text -- and if you scroll up and down a bit it'll reappear... sometimes. It's really weird and doesn't appear to be a markup issue. If anyone knows what's going on there, please drop me a line. In the absence of help, I don't know if I can fix that. Anyone experiencing it is advised to try the selection workaround.
The other thing: there is Adsense on the right sidebar. Blame Orson, who convinced me the revenue was worth the bother. (Initial returns imply otherwise, perhaps because the ad I saw constantly until yesterday was querying me whether I had a gay-friendly auto that "expressed my pride," which seems to miss this blog's demographic quite badly. I mean, we haven't won anything since when? Try the Florida blogs, buddy. Rival fans are invited to use this nugget in sophomoric attempts to make fun of Michigan.) I'm trying to strike a balance between irritating and invisible. Anyone who is seriously pissed is advised to get Firefox and download the AdBlock Plus and AdBlock Filterset Updater, which work so well that I thought AdSense was broken until I remembered to turn it off.
Anyway: with the gruntwork of moving to the new blogger completed I have a lot more capability at my fingertips. If there's anything you'd like to see let me know and I'll take it under consideration.
And while I'm site-bulletin-ing: Obviously the MGoBlog banner has to change in the near future, as Steve Breaston is off to return kicks in the NFL. Equally obvious: I am not a graphic designer. Would there be interest in a contest to design next year's banner? Free shirt? I'll play Scrabble with you? Interest will be gauged and then perhaps we will proceed.
I've got two good sources on this and wouldn't even classify the following as a rumor. I need some sort of official news font that gets all Cronkite on you.
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Jason Forcier can read the writing on the wall -- it says "Jesus Christ, that kid can throw eighty yards" -- and is transferring to Stanford effective at the end of the semester. Lloyd is not happy about it.
Editorial Opinion: Not entirely unexpected once Mallett rode into town, but a blow if Henne goes down early in the year. The hypothetical Mallett redshirt I wanted but wasn't going to get is now completely out of the question unless David Cone gets real good real quick. Even more problematic for next year, when Mallett is the presumptive starter and his backups are Cone and a three-star-ish freshman. A scholarship opens up, but will Michigan now feel compelled to use it on another quarterback? At least now Michigan can offer prospective candidates two years of separation between themselves and Mallett.
He's officially gone:
Johnson confirmed his departure in an exclusive interview with The Michigan Daily this afternoon.
"I thought I was ready for a new challenge," Johnson said. "With all my close friends, the seniors, gone now and everything, I thought it was time for me to pretty much go for a new challenge."
Goodnight, sweet prince.