at least it's not just us?
Say this for the man: he dances when you tell him to dance. (AnnArbor.com)
Thanks for the service. One of the secret joys of being a Michigan fan has been the excellent service provided by John Wilkins and the alumni band when the students aren't available. Wilkins always brought an entertaining flair to the job he created 21 years ago. He has just retired, and he'll be tough to replace:
Deciding to retire from the pep band was not easy for Wilkins. “I will miss the Alumni Pep Band very much,” he said. “The opportunity given to me to conduct a Michigan band at Michigan games, to play this great Michigan music, was a dream that I had since a little boy, a dream come true. Over the years I have developed incredible friendships with the players and will miss working with them on a regular basis. I'm glad that I have been invited to come back every year to conduct the entire Alumni Band at the football game in October on homecoming weekend.”
Also I have that tie.
It's kind of like the Heisman I guess. Denard will be on the cover of EA's most recent slight rehash of NCAA Football 2003. Smile incoming:
He joins Desmond Howard and Charles Woodson. The game will pay tribute by having linebackers jump impossibly high to snag interceptions off everybody.
There were vote shenanigans that threatened to propel Texas A&M's Ryan Swope over the top, but EA promised they would eliminate fake votes, and by "eliminate fake votes" they meant "put Denard on the cover even if he finished last because this is EA, and EA gets dollars son even if it means turning a single player game into an always-online fiasco because we are mad at pirates."
He probably doesn't realize he's twisting the knife. After three straight weekends in Ann Arbor, Drake Harris finally gave the "it's not you… it's me" speech to Michigan State, decommiting. Except he said it was actually you, Michigan State:
"Since I'm just playing football now,” Harris told reporters after his regional basketball game Monday in Grand Rapids, “I want to play at a bigger school, win a national championship."
Analysts are saying don't count your 6'4" elite wide receivers before they hatch, but it looks like the field is catching up to Michigan now. They'll have an opportunity:
“I don’t have a frontrunner, I don’t even have a top list right now. I’m supposed to go down to Florida on March 22, and then Ohio State sometime in April and Notre Dame sometime in April. I’m not sure what I’m going to do in the summer. I’ll probably go out and visit some schools out West.”
Harris says he'll enroll early and plans to commit in October. Long way to go.
[Ace, you can just C&P this section into Friday Recruitin'. Sorry.]
Well, yeah. Trey Burke is a first-team All American to the Sporting News and the Big Ten's player of the year, the first time in 24 years a Michigan player has brought that award in. The last guy was Glen Rice, which also yeah. Burke said "I feel honored" in response to being honored. Tautological point guard is tautological.
It really came down to Oladipo versus Burke, and while I love Burke with a Denard-crush intensity you really can make a case for Oladipo, who shot 66% from two(!), was the #5 guy in true shooting percentage, has a near-top-100 OREB rate—something Michigan felt the lash of on Sunday—and is a defensive superstar. It's that versus Burke's huge usage and incredible assist rate and turnover avoidance. It's Woodson versus Manning for the Heisman, except Indiana fans probably won't be bringing it up 20 years later.
Well… uh. Tim Hardaway also made first-team All Big Ten on one of the two ballots. This I am not so sure about. Aaron Craft got the nod on the media ballots—a weird situation where the better defensive player gets the hype and the coaches go for offense—and to me that's a lot more justifiable than going strictly by scoring average. That's how you pick Hardaway over, say, Gary Harris, who shot 74/52/42 on FT/2s/3s versus Hardaway's 69/50/38 on virtually identical usage. Hardaway did rebound a lot better, but what rebounds exactly was Gary Harris supposed to acquire as a the two-guard in a lineup with Payne, Nix, and Dawson?
I haven't watched Harris that closely but I doubt Hardaway brings much defensive value he doesn't. Eh. Awards are pointless, see…
The CCHA's continuing inability to do anything right. This is far less egregious than the various Hunwick-related snubs last year (Hunwick was a top-three Hobey finalist and not the CCHA goalie of the year), but Boo Nieves was honorable mention All Rookie this year despite having the second-most points of any freshman in league play. Alaska's Tyler Morley's 8-7-15 was better than Nieves's 8-14-22.
In other news, highlights of Michigan's 3-2 win over Northern on Friday contain one Michigan goal and two by NMU.
Where was this all year? Hockey resoundingly swept Northern Michigan over the weekend in two games I did not see because I assumed Michigan would not have a home series last week, because when has Michigan ever finished between 6th and 8th in the CCHA? LOL that idea.
In any case, Michigan's Saturday demolition of Northern was so comprehensive it makes you a little mad. Michigan outshot Northern 23-6 in the first period and 16-3 in the second, whereupon it was 4-1 and all over but the shouting. If you can do that now…
Anyway, Saturday's game was a weird one with two penalty shots:
Copp converted the second once the goalie went for a poke and missed it, leaving his five-hole exposed. He also scored a grinder earlier.
A few guys are really standing out on a weekly basis, Copp, Racine, Nieves, Merrill, Guptill, they just are playing on a level that no one else is coming close too. I vividly remember our series against Western earlier in the year because every stoppage of play a Bronco went to a Wolverine, chirped at him and gave him a shove. No one did anything about it. Today I thoroughly enjoyed seeing any Wildcat who went near Racine get a push and shove, most of the the time it was Andrew Copp doing it. Little things that make a big difference.
The Guptill-Copp-Deblois line sees Guptill on a seven-game point streak; Nieves was sick last weekend but played through it.
Vincent Smith AMA. #2 popped up on Reddit yesterday to do an AMA promoting his Pahokee kickstarter, and the first question is… not about Clowney. It's about what kind of sub he ate. Well done, zparts. The second question mentions Clowney, but also finger guns. There was also the inevitable MGoBlog question that got the inevitable "I don't really read it" answer.
There is another. Derrick Walton senior highlights:
He won't be Trey, but if Hardaway and Robinson are back he won't have to be. If he can be a better version of Yogi Ferrell (18% usage, 26 Arate, 43%/32%) Michigan shouldn't have too much of a dropoff on offense what with everyone else back.
3/1/2013 – Michigan 4, Ferris State 1 – 13-18-2, 10-15-2 CCHA
3/2/2013 – Michigan 1, Ferris State 1 (shootout win), 13-18-3, 10-15-3 CCHA
it was messy, like we like it (MGoBlue)
After the Bowling Green meltdown from myself and the hockey team I vowed I was done talking about them. They'd just gotten blown out by BG and topped it off by letting a dangerous knee-to-knee hit slide without so much as a shove. They sucked, which was bad enough. That they did nothing when a guy wearing an A was on the ice after a cheap shot in an already-lost game was the end.
I spent the following two months of the season watching them in a depressed, cynical fugue state, dreading the ticket in my hand that condemned me to watch them get swept by Alaska for the first time since Alaska was a thing, not really caring if we missed half of a first period against Western because the waitress couldn't figure out how to change the channel, content to pick up twitter updates on the Ohio State series. I kept thinking of better things to do with 500 dollars, like use it to set my beard on fire.
Friday, I went to the ticket drawer, pulled out not one but two Ferris State tickets, realized that the home-and-home I expected was a two game home series, and sighed.
Friday started off rough with a penalty 30 seconds in; Michigan only killed it off with a couple of fine point blank saves from Steve Racine and then suffered another shift of heavy Ferris pressure. I was just prepping to enter fugue state when Michigan scored; Zach Hyman and young Lynch and Selman cobbled out a goal from some hard work. Guptill won a board battle and Andrew Copp made a cross-ice pass that Deblois buried, and Ferris got chippy.
Jacob Trouba probably got speared at some point, and another opponent knee met a Michigan player dangerously. This time there wasn't even time for me to put the Bowling Green game together with that incident before Copp came over and let that Ferris guy know he was marked. Roughing penalties followed; Trouba took an extra two late with Michigan up four. Michigan had incidentally dominated a 4-1 win, outshooting a decent team by 14. It was fun.
Saturday's ticket felt like an opportunity instead of a burden, and Copp—now ensconced in his role as the #1 center—started screwing with Ferris before the puck even dropped. He assisted on a first period goal, drew two penalties, intercepted stretch passes like he was playing for a Ron Mason Michigan State outfit, and spent large chunks of the game giving anyone who looked at a Michigan player funny the business. A pissed-off Trouba picked up a misconduct. I grew little grudges against Ferris State players, and was incensed by after the whistle business.
Michigan again significantly outshot Ferris. Racine stoned a couple of breakaways and then three straight shootout attempts. The team mobbed him for an unnaturally long time after the last one.
It felt like a team again, and Yost a place to be. It was Michigan hockey: end to end, pissy, ref-baiting, out-shooting, chippy fun. Michigan has always been a team with its heart on its sleeve, prone to dumb penalties of aggression that I used to loathe. They are far superior to the sleepwalk of the last year. By the end of Saturday's tumultuous draw Ferris's goalie was out in overtime and Yost was on its feet, moaning and screeching, full of hate and joy and fear. The new building seemed like the old one for a bit. Finally.
I don't know if Racine is going to keep up this level of performance or if Trouba's going to stick around or if Copp can really be the emotional center of a team as just a sophomore. I do have something to say about them that isn't randomly assorted swear words now. It's hard to see them winning two series and two at the Joe to extend that tourney streak, but at least I'll be pulling for them instead of silently hating everything. At least I've got a reason to renew.
Bullets still mostly about next year
Gongshow forever. I don't actually know if the refereeing in the Big Ten is going to be any better, but it's fitting that the last ten seconds of regular-season CCHA play saw Ferris State get a breakaway thanks to having seven guys on the ice. Here are four:
Here are two more:
This is okay since the goalie is out. This guy…
Not so much. Racine stoned the guy anyway.
Racine, come on baby. I was hoping he'd pop that save percentage over .900 with that weekend but he remains stuck at .892. Nonetheless, he was probably the star of the weekend if it wasn't Copp. Two goals against and many quality saves.
The one goal on Saturday was a little strange—still not sure if that was deflected or just unexpected—and is a bit concerning. Racine has had games like that where he makes a bunch of good stops and then lets some bizarre stuff in; it's a major weakness.
Despite it, the kid looked good… confident post-to-post, able to come out on shooters when it's appropriate, and seemingly technically sound. I was watching Saturday's game with a couple of guys who have played the position as kids and on the beer league level and they also thought he'd come a long way. My amateur impressions are that I see a ton of places where pucks can slide through Rutledge, and Racine provides not only a bigger guy but one with fewer gaps as he moves around.
Michigan should still try to find another goalie next year; I think Racine has a decent chance of developing into a quality guy. If he does, Josh Blackburn for president.
Copp. At the beginning of the year I said I thought he could be more than a fourth-line PK guy like the Swistaks and Fardigs before him who came from the end of the USNTDP bench. I didn't think he'd be centering the top line by the end of the year. I cannot overstate how excellent he looked this weekend: he played smart, made nice passes, took a couple of high-quality shots, and seems to have become the on-ice leader of the team. Not bad for a late add.
I'm guessing the split between football and hockey—he was Skyline's QB—held him back and now that he's finally focusing full time on one he's making a leap. At 7-9-16 he's ten points off the team leaders, but that's with very little PP time and after spending big chunks of the year down the depth chart. He's making a late-year leap and I bet he sees those points go up a lot next year.
Nieves. Another guy who is rounding into form as his freshman season comes to a close. A lot of guys who become stars start out slowly as freshmen and then emerge in the second half of their first year—Palushaj, Pacioretty (though he never came back), and Tambellini spring to mind. He's showing that he may be a guy Michigan can lean on heavily next year.
Next year. This was discussed in a UV last week, but it's all about offseason departures. Michigan loses Sparks, Lynch The Elder, Treais, Moffie, and Rohrkemper. Only three of those guys really play important roles. Sparks and Rohrkemper get scratched a lot. Moffie is the 4/5 defenseman if Clare is healthy. Lynch is okay but eminently replaceable. Only Treais might sting. Most schools are going to lose players more important than one guy with 20-something points, though.
But what with the rampant rumors about dissention in the ranks, an already-bulging roster, and a recruiting class that could have as many as eleven kids in it, defections are all but inevitable. Merrill, Trouba and Bennett will have NHL options; Di Guiseppe, Guptill, and Nieves will also. Other guys may just want to leave.
Michigan is committed to bringing in at least seven of those guys: forwards Evan Allen, Bryson Cianfrone, JT Compher, Alex Kile, and Tyler Motte plus defensemen Michael Downing and Nolan DeJong. Hockey is an equivalency sport so not all of those guys are necessarily on full rides and Michigan lost Daniel Milne midseason, but if they're going to keep the roster at its currently rather packed level they are going to suffer a defection. If they don't, they will carry nine defensemen into next year. If they suffer lots, then Max Shuart, Spencer Hyman, and Kevin Lohan may also join up, and then there's the goalie situation.
Michigan is a team that could go into next year featuring Trouba, Merrill, Bennett, and projected first-rounder Downing as their top four defensemen… or they could lose half of those guys and end up icing Mike Szuma quite a bit.
Meanwhile at forward, Compher is a high-end prospect expected to go in the middle of the first round; Allen and Motte are second and fourth in NTDP scoring. Cianfrone was projected as a first-round OHL pick before his Michigan commitment but has struggled in the USHL with a 3-14-17 line in 39 games. An emergency appendectomy may have something to do with that, he is small (5'8"), and he is young, but it looks like his star has fallen. Kile on the other hand has put up a PPG this year with Green Bay. At least one or two of those guys will probably end up on a big line.
Here it's less precipitous a dropoff if only because none of the forwards are near Merrill or Trouba's level, but Guptill's been playing well of late and it would suck to lose Nieves just as he starts rounding into a player.
In any case, find or grow a goalie and the talent will be there for a major bounce-back year as long as there's a guy to grab folks by the scruff of their neck. Please hockey Jesus, don't let Trouba's only year at Michigan be this floundering one.
Roy Manning return? With Jerry Montgomery gone to Oklahoma, Michigan needs to fill a spot on their coaching staff. No, it will not be Mike Hart or Ty Wheatley. It'll be a defensive guy. But there is another dude floating out there who is a young former Michigan player: Roy Manning.
Manning was a little-regarded recruit who came seemingly out of nowhere to start as a senior and did well enough to get drafted and have a few years in the NFL. Like Montgomery, he's become a hot name hopping to and fro. He was hired at Cincinnati in February, got a standing ovation for doing so, and had just landed at NIU after Jones took the Tennessee job. Fluff bits:
He's got a Ron English basso going on.
Home ice and the future. Michigan finishes its regular season this weekend with a home and home against Ferris State needing a sweep and some help to secure a first-round home series in the playoffs. If they don't acquire the requisite points, Michigan's last home game in front of the students will have been the February 1st matchup with Michigan State. Which… wow. Just another way in which this season has been bizarre and disappointing.
It's senior day for the, uh, seniors, and it looks like a pretty manageable class to replace:
- Lee Moffie: Michigan's #4 or #5 defenseman in the unlikely event everyone is healthy.
- AJ Treais: Tied for second in scoring with 11-12-23; had excellent start to the year and tailed off as guys like Sinelli and Copp moved onto his wing because they did that skating hard stuff. Copp has actually produced decently, but not having a reliable offensive option on the other wing has hampered production from him.
- Kevin Lynch: I have no idea what line he's on; ideally would have become a Rust-like shutdown center. Instead is anonymous middle-of-lineup guy with 6-13-19.
- Lindsay Sparks: diminutive winger will go down as Craig Murray 2010 for me, a player on the third line who I liked more than is rational and spent four years expecting a breakout from that never came. 4-4-8 in 16 games this year.
- Jeff Rohrkemper: fourth line jack of all trades.
The key, of course, is what happens with Michigan's offseason defections. There are a ton of guys who are departure threats, starting with the dream D pairing of Merrill and Trouba and extending to Nieves, Guptill, Bennett, and Di Giuseppe. While none of those extended guys seems NHL-ready, Guptill was left at home for a series this year and is a third-rounder. He seems like a candidate for the Chris Brown "really?" departure.
A goalie will be scoured for, of course.
Welcome to the team. Here is pack of raving dingoes. Enjoy. From ESPN's exit interview series comes this nugget from Mike Kwiatkowski($):
My lowest moment of my career was probably be my first year, [Rich Rodriguez'] last season, when I was playing scout team left guard. I had thought about if this decision was right for me. I wasn’t playing my position and going against Mike Martin all the time.
Despite being a freshman walk-on tight end, he did not die. I'm using Mike Kwiatkowski as a bomb shelter in the event we teleport back to 1980 and there is a nuclear war on.
No more flyovers? Step A in any debate about cutting spending is to go right to the stuff that people notice no matter how small. Like flyovers:
Federal budget cuts would end flyovers at sports events
Of course, they have to fly the planes at some point—can't have a war with a bunch of crop dusters flying F-16s unless you can start cloning Randy Quaid—so the net additional cost of having some of those flights buzz stadiums is, um…
“It’s no additional cost to the government for support of any public events. Typically, if you see a unit fly over a football game, that is 90 seconds out of a several hour training sortie that they’re flying.”
Zero? Here is someone's attempt to explain why this is a thing:
"We just have a reduced number of those training hours, and so everything is being dedicated to just preparing for that overseas deployment and for flying that's actually happening overseas," Varhegyi said.
Not very good. Later they mention that Army/Navy/Air Force sports could get hit despite 95% of Navy's funding coming from sources other than the government. Filed under scare tactic—dollars to donuts the flyovers continue.
Something that is not true at all. Drew Henson talks about his brief baseball career in a non-bylined article that prevents me from hammering whatever intern wrote this:
But he always had his sights set on baseball — simply, he said it was more fun — and even signed with the Yankees after they made him a third-round pick in 1998. They agreed to let him finish his college football career, and he played summer ball in the Yankees system while still at U-M.
John Navarre would not be a divisive figure if this was true. Oh, and Michigan probably would have been awesome in 2001. Also that article is based on another article, which it links right at the end of the piece in a non-underlined URL link. Bad intern.
Etc.: Derrick Walton is a Mr. Basketball finalist, puts up 31 on Taylor Truman for senior day. WTKA afternoon show is kaput. Recruits' 40s are lies. Does the recruiting deregulation need to be salvaged? If so, suggestions to do so.
1/8/2013 – Michigan 1, Bowling Green 5 – 7-11-2, 4-8-2 CCHA
[KIDS: IF YOU READ THIS POST YOU WILL BE EXPOSED TO SWEARS AND PROBABLY DIE]
I had only stayed because I had come up with a fun game for myself: see how long it would take Michigan to get a shot in a third period where they trailed Bowling Green 4-1. So I was there when BGSU kept Michigan pinned in their own zone for about two minutes and finally slipped one five-hole on Racine. And I was there for The Shot, which happened with about 15:30 gone. 15:30.
Since there were four minutes left in the game I figured I might as well stick around to pick up a hockey version of the Fandom Endurance III badge. I'd long since disconnected from any emotion save extreme hipster irony, so like whatever man. But this team does still have the ability to pull emotion out of me.
With a minute and a half left, a Bowling Green player went low on Mac Bennett, dangerously so. His body went directly into Bennett's knee, and Bennett crumpled to the ground holding it. It looked bad, ACL bad.
I remember Ferris lighting up a Michigan player who I can't recall right now so badly that the entire arena was baying for blood. I remember Travis Turnbull losing his shit after a period and getting kicked out. I remember Bobby Hayes. I remember Bob Gassoff, who shouldn't have been issued a stick and is now a Navy SEAL. All of these men were mean. They ascribed to the hockey code where any offense, no matter how slight, is reason to do some meaningless shoving and maybe facewash a guy. There is a code, and in its simplest form it is "don't go after a goalie or anyone's knee, ever."
A guy who caused a major injury in a game already decided would have spurred a line-brawl with any of these people. It should spur a line brawl. It should do something. Anything. Michigan shrugged and went back to its bench.
That was it for me. I found out there was one last emotion this crew could pull out of me: pure rage at them.
This hockey team with eleven drafted players got outshot 34-20 by Bowling Green, with zero. I'm not sure BG has more than four players taller than six-foot. 5'10" BGSU freshman Dajon Mingo—from Canton, so sadly not related to Barkevious—was the most interesting player on the ice. They have blown the tourney streak already, in early January, and they can't even be bothered to defend a guy wearing an A on his jersey. Not one of them gave a shit, and while a few—Trouba, Merrill, Copp, Hyman, maybe a few others—do actually look like they are trying and improving, as a group this is a leaderless crew that doesn't backcheck and gets outskated by team after team with a tenth of the talent they have. Every game is a new way to be infuriated.
So whatever. I'm done. I'm not writing another word about this hockey team, because all the stuff I put down I have to delete lest the athletic department, readers, PETA, and local law enforcement become alarmed. What a shame it would be to waste time on these [delete] [revise] [delete again] fellows when the basketball team is such a joy.
Before I go, three things.
One: several years back a friend and I got dinner before a game against Notre Dame, then in their year-one resurrection under Jeff Jackson. We noticed a crew of folk decked out in ND gear who were obviously parents, and asked them how Jackson had effected such a turnaround with almost literally the same set of players his predecessor had led to the bottom of the league.
They said that Jackson had challenged them when they had come in: they could either be the losers they were, or they could work their asses off. And that was it.
Two: This is from a Dave Shand interview MVictors did a ways back:
Shand: You haven’t seen fuckin’ Red after a loss. There’s actually a story in John Bacon’s book Blue Ice. We’re up in Sault Ste Marie, and we’re playing Lake State. I think the previous 27 times we’d played them we beat them twice. This was 90-91. Lake State were defending national champions. They were big, physical and they’d bang the shit out of you, especially in their own building. I think we lost 10-0.
It’s just Red and I up there–Mel’s on a recruiting trip. I thought Red was going to fucking explode. He comes into the locker room, throws shit around and he goes, “That was unbelievable. You guys are wimps and fucking pussies. You’ve got no fuckin’ guts and no fucking balls.” He stomps out of the locker room. I’m the assistant coach so I follow him out.
So the team’s getting on the bus to get back to the hotel, it’s about three miles from the rink and it’s 25 below zero. As the team’s getting on the bus Red goes, “I ain’t fuckin’ riding with those losers.” So we walk back from the hotel in a snow storm, at 25 below zero, I’ve got Italian loafers that I bought when I was in Europe. They were $250 shoes, they were ruined. I get back to the hotel and just throw the shoes in the garbage because they’re done. I had to go back to my room and run a tub of hot water because I thought I was going to get frostbite.
So Red calls and tells me to come down, he’s got the tape from the game. We looked at the tape ‘til 6 o’clock, 7 o’clock in the morning. For six hours, broke down everything. We have the morning skate, Red doesn’t say a fucking word. We have the pregame meal, normally we have a meeting right after. Red comes in, he goes, “If you are men, and I mean men…with balls and a fucking cock and some sense of yourself…then you will fucking play tonight.” He turned around and walked out of the room. We won 4-3 in overtime. It was unbelievable. The bus ride back from the Sault was like 20 minutes. Talk about people who hate to lose.
Three: Before I wrenched the radio dial down to silence yesterday, I heard Bill Trainor delicately ask Red what had happened. Red said some stuff about getting poor goaltending early and being "snakebit" in the third. Seriously. He seemed as placid as ever.
I don't know, man. Maybe he got in that locker room and ripped each and every one of them from top to bottom, Mark Mangino style. Maybe. If he did it's clear no one in this locker room is listening.
UPDATE: I forgot to link Yost Built's recap if you want more detail on the debacle. My favorite was the goal where two BGSU players were at the goalmouth without even one guy trying to check them.