fair point that
Because it's well, THIS WEEK, we interrupt the ongoing
"DESMOND JOINS THE FOOTBALL TEAM"
storyline to bring you...
(Click the Image to See Full Size Version)
I was very tempted to title this one "THE SHOT," because twenty years from now that's what we'll be calling it. And yes, we'll still be talking about it.
Good luck, boys... and thanks for the magic.
Friday Fun will pay homage to the team in perhaps a more stoic way.
THE BLOCKHAMS™ runs (typically) every week here at MGoBlog and on its official home page. Also, don't forget to check out the Friday Fun, my weekly single panel comic based on trending Michigan events, available on Twitter and the home page every Friday.
So, that Trouba guy left
Yeah, and now Michigan’s defense is in pretty sad shape.
I heard he was good at the hockey thing
Uh, right. A little better than good, actually. Only defenseman besides Jack Johnson to have an expletive seamlessly integrated into his name in recent memory.
Isn’t there somebody to replace him? I mean, this is Michigan fergodsakes
No. I was going to say not really, but let’s not lie. No. No no no. The answer is no.
Let’s start with his basic stats. In 37 games Trouba scored 12 goals and had 17 assists for a total of 29 points. That puts him third on the team in total points, behind only Alex Guptill and the also-departing AJ Treais. The next highest pointgetter on defense? That’d be Mac Bennett with 18. Trouba was fifth in assists, third in goals, and first in powerplay goals.
His offense will be sorely missed by a team that is losing its two best defensemen in Trouba and Merrill, and though Merrill missed a large chunk of the season and didn’t generate an earth-shattering stat line because of it those two were still key parts of Michigan’s powerplay. There isn’t a stat to quantify what a hard point shot like Trouba’s means on the powerplay, but the best proxy (best does not equal good, but still) is probably powerplay goals. Trouba had 7, which as previously noted was enough to lead the team and was also two more than anyone else. That accounts for 22.6% of Michigan’s powerplay goals so yeah, powerplay man. In total Trouba scored 9.3% of Michigan’s goals which means that he didn’t score 90.7% of them. I am desperately grasping for something positive here. Unfortunately, looking at Mac Bennett’s goal total (6) and realizing that it translates to 4.65% of Michigan’s total goals coupled with the fact that all other Michigan defensemen combined contributed 3 goals was not the ray of sunshine I was looking for.
There isn’t a good way to analyze defensive performance without advanced statistics, and even then the link between things like Corsi (which looks at shots generated versus shots allowed while on-ice) and a player’s defensive abilities is tenuous at best. College hockey isn’t exactly a haven for stats nerds so I have no advanced stats to trumpet here, which means we have to rely on the ol’ eye test. These ol’ eyes think that Trouba was pretty good in the defensive zone. He displayed greater hockey intelligence as the year progressed, understanding where pressure would be coming from and making the right pass to avoid it while also learning that sometimes going headhunting provides a super fun adrenaline rush until you get scored on because you were out of position, which is in fact a total bummer. I think that plus/minus is a hopelessly flawed statistic because it’s so reliant on how the team as a whole performs, but we might as well look at Trouba’s anyways. He was a –8 on the season, which sounds bad until you realize that we’re talking about a team that scored 129 goals and allowed 130 while posting a collective plus/minus of –45. Players tend to have negative plus/minus scores when they play for teams that allow more goals than they score, and even then a plus/minus score is so heavily dependent on who you play with that it’s practically impossible to tease out who was responsible for the goal (either for or against) and who deserves the plus or minus.
The one element of Trouba’s play that was less than stellar was his penchant for racking up penalty minutes. He finished the season with 29 penalties for 88 minutes, though 17 of those minutes came in one game at Northern Michigan early in the season when Trouba committed three penalties and got a game misconduct for a hit on NMU’s Reed Seckel. Trouba committed three penalties in a game on four separate occasions in 2012-13; once in November, once in December, once in January, and once in February. The ol’ eye test may be failing me here because I really thought he toned it down a little as the season went on but it looks like instead Trouba just went all non-potty mouthed Mike Rice on people once a month (sorry, too soon?).
Is there some Troubanian uber-recruit that can replace him?
The best of the incoming defensemen is Michael Downing, a self-described defensive-defenseman who can contribute sparingly at the offensive end. He’s likely to have more value on the penalty kill than the powerplay, and that’s according to himself. In the grand scheme of things this is good, as defense was clearly Michigan’s weakness in 2012-13 (see: more goals allowed than scored). I don’t expect Downing to replicate Trouba’s offense even if he is given a shot on the powerplay, and I don’t expect any of the defensemen currently on the roster to have as significant an offensive impact as Trouba did. After all, Trouba did win the GONGSHOW’s offensive defenseman of the year award, which sounds like something I would have created in NHL 02 if they let you create trophies but accolades woo! I think that the only way Trouba’s offensive production gets replaced is “by committee,” which is an athletically oriented way of saying we don’t have a replacement.
As Center Ice put it in Seth’s Exit: Jacob Trouba post, the inclusion of multiple freshmen and the promotion of seldom used players to regulars will either work, or it will be a disaster.
You’re not a very optimistic person, are you?
Typically I am pretty optimistic but in this case DOOM. I’ll close by recycling a joke I already used in Seth’s Exit post because if you’ve read this far you probably like hockey and muppets and Michigan or something.
What's that picture?
Well that's just weird. I don't think that's how they're used around here either....
I beg to differ. Trouba and Merrill left and that deserves an anti-celebration. Those two decided that, like the oft celebrated Muppets that are so beloved by perusers of this here blog, you can’t have one without the other.
WHERE WAS I WHEN THIS LAST HAPPENED?
This week, I wanted to take a break from statistics-based musing and stop to reflect on this coming weekend, when we will see Michigan do something that it has not done in twenty years – play in a Final Four game.
Granted, I am not the oldest member of the MGoCommunity, but I am old enough to remember well what I was doing and where I was at in my life around this time of the year in 1993. Coming from a Michigan family and having been a fan since I was a wee lad, these appearances were huge events in my house. My parents had a Final Four party in 1993 as well as a party for the Championship Game, which of course we did not win.
So, the question I asked myself may sound a little lame, but it was interesting to consider – How has the world changed for me since the last time Michigan was in a Final Four game?
In the spring of 1993, I was not quite fifteen years old and still figuring out high school. I was excited about the potential to get a learner’s permit in a time when all that was required in Michigan was proof that you lived in the state and maybe a pulse. In my bedroom, I typed papers on what was the pinnacle (well, not really) of computing at the time – a Mac Quadra 950 - and I printed them on an Epson MJ-500 inkjet printer. I had an e-mail account and access to what there was of an “Internet”. I accessed these on a dial-up connection facilitated by Compuserve and through a US Robotics 14.4K modem.
In 1993, I wanted to go to Michigan more than anything, but it would be another two years before that acceptance letter which changed my life came in the mail. As for my sports life, the options for viewing were growing, but still comparatively limited. For example, the Tigers games which weren’t on WDIV were sometimes on PASS, and PASS was a channel that I had to beg my parents to add to their cable package, along with Cinemax (that one was for admittedly selfish reasons as well, albeit different reasons). Part of that package was ESPN, which was a single channel then, and not in HD (because nothing was).
On April 5thin the year 1993, a rather awkward but unashamed nerd who had no clue at the time he would rise through the MGoRanks to help moderate threads on what is arguably the most influential Michigan site out there watched Chris Webber try to call a timeout when none were left and get rewarded with a technical. There was always next year, right? I was a forgiving soul.
So, here is that “next year” that I’ve waited for – 2013.
The players on that team which I watched on a 28-inch Zenith all those years ago are now hovering around 40 years old. I was accepted at and have since graduated from Michigan and even picked up a masters along the way. Several of the players on the team we will watch on Saturday were still about a year from being born when we were last in the Final Four, never mind played in the Championship Game.
I have, in that space, passed up some of the so-called milestone ages – 18, 21, 30, to be precise. Indeed, I will be 35 in July. In those intervening decades, I’ve married and am coming up on my 9thwedding anniversary. I have two beautiful children who now watch these games with me if they are awake. I’ve gone from occupying a drafty room above the garage of a house in Saline to owning my own home. I have gone from being taught to being the teacher, at least when my employer dares to let me teach people statistics. The Mac Quadra and the US Robotics modem have been replaced with an iMac and Comcast Xfinity broadband. Fox Sports Detroit and the multiple iterations of ESPN have created a situation where I have gone from being forced to watch certain games if I wanted to watch sports at all to feeling tormented over which games I should watch out of the 300 that are on at any given moment. I’ve gone from wishing I could drive to cursing the lack of mass transit in Metro Detroit too.
Why this weird trip down LSA’s memory lane, right?
Part of the fun in the ride of the current team, at least for me, has been this realization that it somehow builds a bridge back to what was a relatively carefree time for me, as well as a previous time when Michigan basketball was at the forefront and in the spotlight. It was awesome then, and it is awesome now.
I see in this current team a youthful energy and flair, and although I am always hesitant to make direct comparisons of what are two different eras of the game, those traits remind me of watching that team back in the early 1990s. It’s difficult to make good statistical comparisons, but the energized feeling that I have when watching is definitely the same.
Whatever happens on Saturday, I would consider this season successful because I believe that, at this juncture, we’ve made the circle back and achieved that general level of performance. Further, I believe John Beilein has set this team up through recruiting for a rather nice string of potential tournament runs here. Without speculating on how far we go in coming years, of course, I think that Beilein has built a program that will be seen as one not to be overlooked as a serious contender when March comes around.
My parents even said, as I sat there after the loss to North Carolina in 1993, that they would be there again next year and to simply be patient, but I will say this – come what may, this is one weekend for which it is difficult for me to wait.
Not a hype video this time around, but with inspiration from monUMental's usual role, I decided to create some wallpapers for our Final Four game on Saturday. (Click the image for fullsize.) I hope you like them!
Mod edit: Bumped to diary because obviously. JGB.
For those of you lucky enough to be coming down to Atlanta for the weekend, I present to you my quick-ish (okay maybe not really) guide to the city. Some things to take into consideration while reading and evaluating my suggestions: I’m approaching 30 and have been in Atlanta since 2001 (born and raised in Birmingham, MI prior to that); I’ve lived in a lot of areas of this city and have settled down in the Inman Park/Old 4th Ward area, which is a couple of miles east of downtown; I eat out quite a bit, go to a lot of bars, and see a lot of live music (mostly electronic as of late). I’ll try to include options that I think anyone can enjoy, but I do have a section at the end for the under 30 crowd looking to go out.
As a companion to what’s below, please make use of the google map that I’ve created. Everything mentioned below, plus some additional spots, are pinned on the map. Sections of town are also outlined to help you figure things out. On the left hand side of the map, everything is organized by neighborhood and then alphabetical order within each neighborhood.
Before I get started on everything, a note on transportation: Atlanta’s public transit is MARTA, and while it’s not all that great, you can make it work for you. There is a MARTA stop at the Airport and the Georgia Dome, so if you stay near a MARTA train station, you can make it through the weekend without needing a car. That said, this is a city built for cars, and most of the places are exponentially easier to reach by car than by MARTA.
I’ll start with the three main areas of Atlanta. From south to north these are Downtown, Midtown, and Buckhead. It’s about 10 miles between downtown and the northern reaches of Buckhead. I’ll provide some pros and cons of staying in each area and things to do during the day and at night.
This is where the game is going to be played and all of the official festivities are going to be. The Dome, Philips Arena, The Georgia World Congress Center, CNN Center, and Centennial Olympic Park are all adjacent. There are plenty of hotel options in the area. The ones closest to the dome are the Hilton Garden Inn, The Omni, Embassy Suites, and the Glenn. Whether or not anything is available in those, I don’t know. Probably not, but there are still a lot of larger hotels within walking distance like the Westin, the Marriott Marquis, the Hyatt, The W Downtown, etc.
During the day:
Downtown has a few major tourist attractions. You’ve probably heard about the Georgia Aquarium, and the hype is for real. Go check it out - you won’t be disappointed. The World of Coca-Cola is right next door to the Aquarium, but I’ve never been. If you have a couple of hours to kill I’m sure it’s better than nothing, but I don’t think it’s a must-do. These are all located in/around Centennial Olympic Park, which will be hosting some pretty big (free!) concerts all weekend.
A couple miles east of downtown is the King Center. It’s just outside of comfortable walking distance so you can take MARTA or a cab (cab is probably easier if you can get one because even if you take MARTA you still have to walk a bit). Admission to the center is free (so is parking if you're driving). It’s basically just a little museum but you can also tour the home that MLK, Jr. lived in, as well as tour his church, Ebenezer Baptist.
Downtown, unfortunately, is usually pretty dead at night. A lot of people work down there, but not so many live there. There are some decent restaurants and bars but it’s not a place to go out and party. That may change slightly just because there are going to be so many people in town, but don’t get your hopes up for any late night ragers. You’ll have to head a couple of miles north or east for those (see below).
I don’t eat downtown too much, but here are a few good spots I can recommend:
- Legal Seafoods (seafood, obvs. Slightly pricey but worth it if that’s what you’re looking for)
- Der Biergarten (German food, German beer, great atmosphere and setting with outdoor seating)
- Stats (ultimate sports bar – beer taps at your table)
- Park Bar
Do not go to Underground Atlanta. Seriously. It’s garbage. Nobody goes there and there’s nothing to do, despite what you may have heard. Don’t waste your time.
Bottom line: If you want to be within walking distance of all the Final Four activities and aren’t too concerned with being near a lot of nightlife, Downtown is where you’ll want to stay.
Midtown has quite a bit to offer and while it’s not within walking distance of the Georgia Dome, if you stay near one of the MARTA stations (the Midtown station at 10th Street or the Arts Center station at 15th Street), then you will be able to get to there easily without a car. So if you’re looking for a hotel, try to keep it near a MARTA station for the best experience.
These would all be decent options, but the list is by no means exhaustive:
- Hilton Garden Inn Midtown (just opened a couple of months ago)
- Regency Suites Hotel
- W Midtown
- Lowes Hotel
- Renaissance Hotel
During the Day:
Piedmont Park is Atlanta’s version of NYC’s Central Park (it was designed by the same person). Though nowhere near as cool as Central Park, it’s still a great place to walk around, especially if the weather is nice. It offers some nice views. The southeast corner of the park is home to Park Tavern, which is a good place to grab lunch or a drink (even better if it’s raining, because they serve $1 beers). The southeast corner also attaches to the Atlanta BeltLine, which is really just a glorified sidewalk for now but will eventually form a 22-mile loop around the city and include transit to connect disparate parts of the city in a much more efficient manner. Good place for a casual stroll but not much to actually do. At the northwest corner of the park are the Atlanta Botanical Gardens which are great if you’re into that kind of thing.
The High Museum of Art is also located in Midtown and is a very high quality museum, again worth checking out if that’s your style.
There’s way more going on in Midtown at night than compared to Downtown. The center of activity generally tends to be around Crescent Ave, between 11th and 14th streets, where there are a couple of blocks worth of restaurants, bars, and clubs. I’d just walk around and see what looks interesting. If you want to go to a club, though, I will say try something like CosmoLava, which is a little more laid back, before you try Opera, which is a full-on clubby club with exactly the people you’d expect to find at clubs. (Warning: annoying auto-play video on the Opera site, which is absolutely fitting.)
There are a few more spots outside of the specific area mentioned above that I would recommend:
- Cypress Street Pint and Plate
- The Vortex (burgers). There is also a location in Little 5 Points mentioned below.
- Proof and Provision
- Empire State South (for a nicer meal)
The area around 10th and Piedmont is one of the hotspots for the gay community, which is pretty prominent in Atlanta, just FYI.
Bottom line: stay in Midtown if you want to be close to nightlife and have a ton of restaurant options within walking distance. If you’re close to a MARTA station, all the better, because that’ll make getting to the games pretty simple.
To me, Buckhead is overrated. In it’s heyday, it was the place to be, but it’s not like that anymore. It’s the more “upscale” part of town, but it’s not walkable and the types of bars and clubs here are not my scene, so I can’t give you too much to go on. Maybe someone else can fill in the gaps here.
One thing I absolutely have to recommend, though, is Holeman & Finch. Always mentioned in the discussion of best burger in Atlanta - partly due to its exclusivity as only 24 are served each night, starting at 10 p.m., and you have to get there by about 8:30 if you want to get one – it’s also a great bar and restaurant overall. If waiting an hour and half for a burger doesn’t sound appealing, the good news is that on Sundays they serve unlimited burgers for brunch. They usually sell about 200-300 during those brunches. Yes, they are that good. The place is pretty tiny, so you might have to wait, but I don’t think you will be disappointed.
So that’s the basic rundown, which turned out to be quite difficult. Even in that little bit there is so much I haven’t mentioned. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention these places/areas - most of which are going to require a car to get to.
Antico Pizza. Best pizza in the city. Authentic Napoletana style. Walk up, order, go find a seat in the kitchen and watch the guys pump out pizza after pizza as they blast Italian music. After a few minutes, yours will be there, and in another few minutes it’ll be gone. Pick up a bottle of wine or some beer before you go, because it’s BYOB. (Mac’s in Midtown is a good place to grab alcohol, btw.)
SweetWater Brewery. If you like beer, check out their brewery tours which run Wednesday – Friday from 5:30 to 7:30 and Saturday from 2:30 to 4:30. Not the easiest place to get to, but it’s a good time.
Ormsby’s is like your buddy’s ultimate man cave basement. The downstairs area has a bar, pool tables, skee ball, foosball, and even a bocce ball court. It’s become a little over-populated over the last couple of years, but it’s pretty unique and generally a fun time.
The Porter Beer Bar/Little 5 Points. Rated one of the top few beer bars in the US, The Porter’s beer list is ridiculous. Their food is pretty damn good too. The Porter is located in Little 5 Points, which is a more artistic/alternative area of town (tattoos, piercings, hipsters, head shops). If you can get over there and walk around the area, I would encourage you to do so. There are a few other good bars nearby if The Porter isn’t your style: the original location of The Vortex, mentioned above, is here; Brewhouse is a good place to check out if you’re a soccer/footie fan; and Euclid Avenue Yacht Club is a nice hangout for the locals. Wrecking Bar Brewpub is just slightly removed from L5P proper, but another solid choice for food and beer (brewed in-house).
Barcelona Wine Bar/Inman Park. If you are in the mood for tapas, wine, and a great dining atmosphere, check out Barcelona. It will be packed, so you will need to make a reservation. Even though this area of town is a bit removed from Downtown and Midtown, an entire night can be spent walking around to the different bars and restaurants, most of which are way more low-key than Barcelona, but still great (Victory Sandwich Bar, Jack’s Pizza & Wings, and P’Cheen, to name a few).
Kevin Rathbun Steak. Also located in Inman Park/Old 4th Ward, this is the place to go if you want the best steak in the city.
The Highlands is another area where you can spend the night bar hopping and probably find something to suit your tastes. There are a mix of vibes from yuppie-ish and/or brotastic (Hand in Hand, Dark Horse Tavern) to divey (Moe’s & Joe’s, Neighbors). As long as you’re looking to drink, you’ll be fine here.
Decatur is an enclave about 6-7 miles east of Downtown. The good news is that it’s totally accessible via MARTA, so even if you’re staying Downtown, it’s easy to get to and everything worth doing in Decatur is centered around the MARTA station. It’s one of the few well-planned MARTA stations, to be honest. Good bars in Decatur include Brickstore Pub (their beer list is on par with The Porter, which is saying something), Leon’s Full Service (cocktails and food), and Twain’s (pool hall, bar games, good beer selection, including some of their own brews). Fun fact: all three of those places are owned by the same couple. Good restaurants in Decatur include Iberian Pig, Cakes & Ale, and Raging Burrito.
Brunch in Atlanta tends to be a big deal, and there are many places that specialize in brunch fare. To name a few:
- Highland Bakery (Inman Park/Old 4th Ward, near Jack’s and P’Cheen mentioned above)
- West Egg Café (A couple miles west of Midtown, near Ormsby’s mentioned above)
- Einstein’s (Midtown)
- The Flying Biscuit (Candler Park, Midtown, and Buckhead locations)
- Ria’s Bluebird (Grant Park)
Finally, one last section for the students or under 30 crowd looking to go out at night to some of the more local/non-touristy places (even less touristy than what I’ve mentioned above):
Edgewood Ave – all of the places below are within a few blocks of each other and walkable. You probably want to cab it from downtown/midtown to this area. In full disclosure, there are some safety concerns, though I have never personally had any issues at all. It’s also a bit of a mess right now because they are installing a streetcar system so the road is all torn up.
- Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong Emporium (affectionately known as simply “Church”): Cool bar, usually with some intense games of ping pong going on upstairs. Get drunk, put on a preacher’s robe, and hang out.
- Noni’s: A deli/restaurant by day, it turns into a dance club at night. Usually pretty packed out. DJs tend to play electro/house.
- Sound Table: another restaurant by day, dance club by night.
- Pizzeria Vesuvius: Decent pizza, good vibe. There’s a bookcase at the back of the restaurant. If you pull on it, you’ll find that it’s actually a door to a hidden speakeasy (is that redundant?). Now you’re in the know.
Poncey-Highlands – Just around the corner from the Highlands, there are a few places for late night fun:
- Bookhouse Pub: small, cozy, good crowd and good drinks.
- MJQ: Next door/underneath Bookhouse. Literally underground. Pretty grimy but can be a lot of fun if you just want to drink and dance.
- El Bar: Just up the road from Bookhouse and MJQ, El Bar is located behind/underneath the El Azteca restaurant on Ponce. It’s almost inconceivable that there’s even a club there, but it’s there and it’s pretty awesome IMO. This place is tiny and the crowd does not arrive until after midnight. DJs tend to play more hip-hop/trap music here.
- Clermont Lounge: A true Atlanta experience. I will say no more, lest I spoil the surprise. You can google it if you want, but really you should just go without any expectations. The drunker you are, the better.
East Atlanta: tough to get to without a car, East Atlanta Village (EAV) has a good bar and restaurant scene, including:
- Graveyard Tavern (Pool, DJs)
- Midway Pub (Sports bar with a good patio)
- The Earl (Bar/restaurant with an indie rock music venue in the back)
- 529 (live music pretty much every night)
That’s pretty much it for now. Hopefully you found this useful and informative. Please feel free to ask specific questions in the comments and I will be happy to provide my best input and advice. I’m fully aware that I missed a lot of good spots, so if you’re an Atlanta resident feel free to offer additional suggestions as well. Have fun down here, be safe, and Go Blue!!