3/20/2014 – Michigan 1, Penn State 2 (2OT) – 18-13-4, season over
I already wrote up what this hockey team was before the Penn State game: chaos. February it had become clear that Michigan was a hockey equivalent of Indiana's football outfit, a team capable of doing literally anything on any given night. Beat BC? Ok. Lose to Penn State? Ok ok ok.
In the aftermath of a third loss to one of the worst teams in the country and the subsequent failure to reach the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive year, Michigan's season went from just good enough to absolutely not good enough. If they had beaten Notre Dame in the CCHA final last year, their season would have been just good enough instead of absolutely not good enough. If Michigan gets one more game this year they have an opportunity to do something of note.
Instead they're just a 10-8-2 Big Ten mediocrity that went out in the first round of the tournament. If that seems harsh, it's probably not harsh enough if you ask Red:
“Not yet, but I’m getting closer [to retiring]. I can’t handle losing. I can’t handle a team underachieving -- that’s the most disappointing part, and this team definitely underachieved during the second half of the season.
“But, yes I’ll be back.”
The last two years are wearing on Red Berenson, the rock of Saskatchewan. Red told the NHL to wait until he had his degree, leapt directly there, played for 16 years, scored 6 goals in a game, was the NHL coach of the year, and revived a moribund Michigan program. He's almost more crag than man these days, a living monument, and this is eroding him.
I'm not sure he can get it back before the timer goes off. More distressingly, it kind of sounds like he's not sure either. I look down the roster, though, and Copp and Compher and Motte and Hyman seem like they are the kind of guys to pull where others need to be pushed. I hope to God they get it together this offseason and say there's no way the old man is going out like that.
[After THE JUMP: a look at the recruits coming in versus what Michigan lost and a wild-ass guess at what the future holds.]
Aaand Alex Guptill took about 30 seconds to follow Phil Di Giuseppe out the door:
— Mark Edwards (@MarkEdwardsHP) March 26, 2014
Guptill was the bar-none most frustrating player I can remember in 15 years of Michigan hockey. Talent coming out his ears that he displayed on nearly every shot; a useless slug without the puck. The former saw him score about a PPG for his career. The latter made Red scratch him on the regular despite the PPG thing. I thought that having Copp as his center would force him into something approximating defensive responsibility. This was not the case.
You can directly trace this season's failure to reach the tournament to Guptill cluelessly poking his stick in the general direction of a Penn State player he had every opportunity to stop from having a breakaway and did not. One Penn State goal later they were back in a game they would later win in OT. That specifically prevented Michigan from reaching the tournament and emblematically represented the lack of give-a-shit that characterized Guptill's career, an attitude that bled over into various other players on the team.
I'll miss that guy's hands. Not so much the rest of his game. Next year will be a fascinating test to see how extreme the anti-leadership emanating from the two departures was.
Winger Phil Di Giuseppe has signed with Carolina:
Michigan's Phil Di Giuseppe has signed with the Carolina Hurricanes, voiding his final year of eligibility.
— Michael Spath (@Spath_Wolverine) March 26, 2014
It's something of a blow to lose a senior-to-be who had a 13-11-24 line and some talent, but I'm putting together a post on the hockey team that inevitably looks at what they should have next year and it's obvious that Michigan was anticipating some attrition. PDG in particular was the subject of OHL rumors after his first year and never really seemed that into the whole Michigan thing.
Ah, hell. Might as well say it: whatever problems Michigan had that caused Red to say that this team had underachieved and it drove him nuts fall squarely on the scoring-line type wingers who were outpaced by Copp, Motte, and Compher not only in the scoring department but the defensive responsibility one. Unfortunately, Michigan doesn't have a Corsi stat or anything like that so your one potential indicator of defensive GAF is blocked shots. And that's pretty stark. Compher + Copp: 56. Moffatt + Guptill + PDG: 32.
Attempts at stats fail. The eyeball test had me groaning about giving a crap for large sections of the year. Whatever culture issues the team has seem centered in an older cohort, and I'm not sure losing them is much of a blow. And now I don't have to figure out how to spell his name 50 times a year.
Michigan is still waiting on a decision from Guptill; no one else seems like a likely departure.
3/14/2014 – Michigan 2, Minnesota 3 (OT) – 17-12-4, 9-8-2 Big Ten
3/15/2014 – Michigan 6, Minnesota 2 – 18-12-4, 10-8-2 Big Ten
Michigan is barely ahead of the pack. [Bill Rapai]
Imagine a man tied to a pole with a bungee cord in zero-G. Grip this man with an enormous metal arm and pull him until the bungee cord has no more give. Let go. Watch as the man flies back and forth at maximum amplitude forever, occasionally bonking his head on the pole.
I've just saved you 500 bucks for a hockey season ticket. You are invited to give me a cut with the donate button at right.
What can Michigan's hockey team do? Anything. They can beat Boston College, they can run out to a 10-2-1 start, they can thoroughly dominate Wisconsin in a weekend series, they can beat Minnesota by sniping the water bottle four times.
What can Michigan's hockey team do? Anything. They can lose to Penn State, lose to Michigan State, lose to Penn State, lose to Michigan State. They can let Western Michigan waltz, or possibly tango, through the slot a dozen times in a single hockey game. They can try some sort of center-ice pinch that was months ago but still remains crystal-clear in my memory as the most insane decision I've seen since Jack Johnson was around, making insane decisions seem like good ideas.
Yeah, actually. This hockey team is Jack Johnson, the hockey team.
But they have just about done it, with an assist from Minnesota's backup goalie. They have waddled their way into the NCAA tournament. Since they're on the bubble, their tournament starts one weekend early and has a very strange structure where one loss is permissible in most situations as long as it doesn't come against Penn State.
You may think this doesn't quite count. I do. I will be turning on a television at three on a Thursday to watch Michigan play a hockey game in front of 14 people as I try not to have a panic attack. If that's not the NCAA hockey tournament it's close enough.
If—if—if—ifffffffffffff Michigan does in fact get past Penn State, a possibility I am absolutely not taking for granted because this would be like taking a spiderweb for granted as you clung to it over the Grand Canyon, they will be in barring specific clusters of results. And that will be fine. Just making the tournament was everybody's first and only goal in a year when the second defenseman on the depth chart was terrifying—let alone the second pairing—and the goaltender situation was a cloud of question marks.
Even when they were rushing out to a blazing start, nobody who was watching them play was harboring delusions of grandeur. They're rickety on the back end and only flash their talent at forward often enough to drive you crazy when they go a month without scoring a goal on purpose. As the man said, they are who they are.
And since they are who they are—a man careening endlessly from one extreme to the other—they've got as much of a shot as anyone does in the barely-weighted plinko that is the worst championship format in sports. Once their spot is secured they could roll out onto the ice against the top two teams in the country and hold their own, as they did against Minnesota and Boston College.
They could implode in a pile of sawdust, yeah. Everyone can implode in a pile of sawdust. One seeds get plunked on the regular by random collections of initials that happen to have a hockey team. We've got one, and you don't want to face us, no way. Unless it's one of those days where you really do. But it might not be one of those days. It might be one of those other days. Nothing is certain, except that after it is over you will sit down and hold your head and wait for the room to come to a full and complete stop.
We're in! Ish! [Rapai]
Despite being a three seed if the season ended today, Michigan is not safe with a win over Penn State. Unfortunately, there are a number of scenarios that leave them the first team out if they go 1-1 at the Big Ten tourney. That's because the margins are tiny this year. The RPI gap from 11th—where Michigan sits—down to 17th is less than a point.
Michigan can't get passed by #17 Northeastern since they're out of the HE tournament, but Minnesota State, North Dakota, Vermont, Cornell, and Colgate are all within striking distance. All save Vermont are active in their conference tourneys. If Michigan beats Penn State they will finish ahead of the Catamounts; the rest is up for grabs.
Teams are so tightly packed that changing a single result has surprising and inexplicable consequences. In one scenario, Minnesota State beating Ferris in the WCHA final is the difference between MSU-Mankato finishing outside of the tourney or getting a three seed. It also knocks Colgate out as Michigan passes them for obscure opponents-opponents-win-percentage reasons.
But here are some things I can tell you:
Michigan is (almost certainly) safe if they reach the Big Ten final. Even in the worst case scenario where somehow they face MSU and lose to them, thus crushing their RPI along with my skull and providing MSU a bid, they sneak in over the line unless there are two additional bid thieves. If it's Ohio State or Minnesota their RPI will land them as a three seed even in the event of a loss.
They could sneak onto the two line by winning the tournament. A low two is their top end.
1-1 is very likely good enough. It would take some seriously bad luck for every bubble team to man up in the fashion necessary to boot M from the tourney.
0-1 is not over. BUT LET'S NOT EXPLORE THAT OKAY.
Teams you hate. Life gets much, much easier for Michigan if Cornell and Colgate lose their ECAC semifinals to Quinnipiac and Union, respectively. Both of those latter teams are already in. The two C outfits are right on Michigan's heels. Their performance is almost more important than Michigan's—they can get in with a Penn State loss as long as the ECAC results fall right.
Bid thieves are always a bubble team's foe. Those are UNH in Hockey East, BGSU and Alaska-Anchorage in the WCHA, Denver, Miami, and WMU in the NCHC, and any Big Ten university with "State" in the name.
Teams you like. Root for North Dakota in the NCHC and Lowell in Hockey East, the former because it's the only current at-large from that league, the latter because every bit of schedule strength is going to count down the stretch here.
Ballpark. Michigan is 99% to make it with a 2-1 record this weekend, 80% to make it with 1-1, and 50% to make it with 0-1.
So frustrating. I kind of get why Minnesota may have relaxed on Saturday after securing the conference title, but it's not like they had nothing to play for. The #1 overall seed gets the Atlantic Hockey opponent that is generally far worse than any other in the field (but will still have a goalie who makes 60 saves because goalies are all far too good these days). BC and Minnesota were competing for that.
It in fact turns out that they had nothing to play for because Boston College got knocked out of the Hockey East tournament, guaranteeing Minnesota the top seed in the tournament.
Minnesota didn't know that on Saturday, though and by the time their backup goalie had ceded his first truly bad goal he'd been beaten on a procession of perfect water-bottle pops that comprised the prettiest set of goals seen in Yost Ice Arena in a long time. And the previous night, when Minnesota was going all out for the title, Michigan played them dead even.
So if they'd done what a team that plays Minnesota dead even does against some of the worst guys on their schedule…
And the avatar of that. Alex Guptill came off his healthy scratch in the aftermath of one of those horrible losses and Got The Message for about the fifth time in his career, playing impressive hockey. Some of the stuff he does is NHL-level.
There was one particular rush on which he repositioned himself in just the proper way so he could snap a shot past the defender's leg. That shot was whistling towards the top of the net before the goalie managed to snag it. It did not go in, but I muttered "Jesus" under my breath because the move and shot were so nasty.
I just hope he doesn't run out of attention before the end of the season here. If he comes back for his senior year—no idea—with the intention of getting an NHL contract for serious he could be a Hobey finalist. Or he could just be the most frustrating player in the last 15 years of Michigan hockey. Enormous wild card.
Sinelli emerging. The crazy thing about Andrew Sinelli these days is that he couldn't manage to find his way onto the ice as a forward during his first two years. He seems so assured with the puck as a defenseman that it's hard to envision him as a healthy scratch. Now that he's settling into his new role he is activating himself on offense more, not only for his hat trick against MSU but also several times in the Minnesota series he found himself in a dangerous position with the puck after making a nice read as to how the play would develop.
Is he Michigan's #2 defenseman now? With Kevin Clare playing his best hockey, probably not… but it's close.
The Hyman breakout. Happy to be right about this:
Inexplicable player enthusiasm of the year. Always one guy on the team who does nothing statistically but I find a way to advocate anyway, and this year it's Zach Hyman. Hyman's 1-2-3 line is obviously bleah. I still manage to think that he's much better at coming out of the corners with a purpose than anyone else on the team and should be flanked by two skilled players to take advantage of his ability to create offense off the cycle.
He seems like a different player, even if the stats aren't showing it. Remember this if he blows up in the next 20 games. Forget it if he doesn't.
After starting out with that 1-2-3 line in 13 games he put up 7-8-15 in his next 21.
Shuart's potential. Max Shuart has a nice combination of size and speed that hasn't really done much in his limited opportunities, but he seems like an intriguing guy to keep an eye on for next year. Could develop into a third line/PK guy.
Post game celebration. Confetti ho.
Morgan's singing voice is not the strong point of his game, but we'll forgive him.
Beilein said he will give away the coach of the year award as a trivia door prize at the radio show.
The first words out his mouth when asked about the award were about Tim Miles; he seemed almost annoyed he'd been handed a plague.
Meanwhile, Nik Stauskas is your Big Ten player of the year, Caris LeVert is second-team All Big Ten, and Derrick Walton is on your all-freshman team. On the snub side of things, Jordan Morgan is passed over for all-defense and Irvin for all-freshman.
It was probably tough for anyone to look at Michigan's defense and provide an all-D nod to them, even if most of the things going on weren't Morgan's deal. Irvin losing out to Purdue's Kendall Stephens is hard to defend since they were the exact same player and Stephens hit 37% of his threes to Irvin's 41%. But whatever, man.
Mmm, foreboding. John Gasaway puts together a list of the top players in college basketball($) that includes one Nik Stauskas, and sums him up from the opponent's point of view well:
At the moment, I'm not sure there's anything else in Division I ball quite like the deep foreboding experienced by opposing fans when the first 3 falls for Stauskas.
He's an Illinois fan, so he may be extrapolating from his most recent Stauskas experience.
Major blow to a contender. Kansas's Joel Embiid has a stress fracture in his back and is a "longshot" for the first weekend of the NCAA tourney. He's just plain out for the Big 12 tourney. If Kansas maintains their spot on the two line the toughest seed they can face before the Sweet 16 is a 7, but they just got beat by WVU in a game that would have been a blowout if WVU could handle a press.
For Michigan, a Kansas loss in the Big 12 tourney helps them in their quest to scoot into a Nova/Wichita region, and possibly Indianapolis. It would at least take a Villanova loss before anyone starts talking about a potential one seed for Michigan.
It's desperation time for hockey. [Bill Rapai]
The other bracket. Michigan is just about hanging on to a spot in the hockey tournament despite their inability to beat some of the worst teams in the country. They are 14th in the Pairwise at this moment; current hockey bracketology has them matched up against Union in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
At 14th, Michigan could withstand one bid thief but not two. There is an extra conference this year, and thus an extra tournament to worry about. At 14th, there's probably a 50-50 shot at a bid. Ferris State is the only WCHA team in the top 16; St. Cloud and North Dakota are the only NCHC teams in the top 16. The ECAC has three teams slated for the tournament, as does the Big Ten. Bid thieves are everywhere.
That's if Michigan maintains its current position. The bad news: this weekend's opponent is an excellent Minnesota team. The good news: a split will be massively helpful thanks to the new quality win bonus. Get swept, though, and Michigan will be either right on the bubble or right outside it.
These are the wages of going 5-4 against Penn State and Michigan State. If Michigan ends up on the outside looking in again, that is 85% of the reason why.
Worst best mascot ever. I see shots of old mascots that seem designed to engender years of nightmares and pine for their return. South Dakota School of Mines and Technology has my back.
His name is Grubby. Seriously. If Dave Brandon could guarantee that hypothetical Michigan mascot would be a homeless Wolverine named "Diseasy" I would support a mascot for M. Alas, it will just be a wolverine in a bread bowl.
Well that's (partially) random then. If you were wondering if student sections could affect free throw shooting, the answer is probably no since Northwestern crushed all comers in this department while MSU finished last.
While most of this looks like random variation, those gaps down to Nebraska and Northwestern are pretty wild. I wonder if that's repeatable. 148 attempts is kind of a lot for that to be totally random.
Next year's schedule. Michigan's preseason tourney next year will take them back to Brooklyn. They'll play a couple of warmup tomato cans at Crisler before taking on one of Villanova, VCU, or Oregon at the Jay Z Center in the "Legends Classic"*. I'd imagine they'll split Michigan and Villanova with the hope the two meet in the final.
*[Which sounds like a fictional tournament hosting Generic State, East University, Ivy Tech, and COLLEGE COLLEGE.]
Well, yeah. By FOIAing the Ann Arbor Police Department, MLive discovers that Michigan's Office Of Institutional Equity asked them for the Gibbons police report in October, which doesn't clarify anything as to when the athletic department knew about what was going down. The most interesting bit of the story is actually a comment from an MLive person:
For context, the Ann Arbor News has been requesting several documents and communications via FOIA from U-M, but they have declined all of our requests citing sections of the Freedom of Information Act that allows U-M "to refrain from disclosing information that would constitute an unwarranted invasion of an individual's privacy." We continue to file FOIAs with U-M, but it appears in this case our best bet for information is requesting it from other sources that U-M has communicated with in regards to this case, including the AAPD.
Other FOIA-covered organizations offer up their data. Michigan has a culture of secrecy that has nothing to do with the privacy of individuals, but rather seems to be focused on covering for people who may or may not have screwed up, whether that's in taking four years to act on the Gibbons information or as part of the massive PR debacle that ensued after actually acting.
Etc.: Scouting Jeremy Gallon. McGary and Robinson on list of folks whose draft stock has slipped. Kam Chatman named to one of those basketball all star type things. Lax getting competitive this year. Sloan Sports Analytics conference suffers fate of all things. Jordan Morgan's top moments.
2/21/2014 – Michigan 4, Penn State 5 (OT)
2/22/2014 – Michigan 5, Penn State 2 – 15-10-3, 7-6-1 Big Ten
They did call this. [Bill Rapai]
I just don't know, man. Michigan came out on Saturday and did what they should do to a team with six wins on the season—blow 'em out of the water. On Friday they blew a 3-0 lead, re-took the lead with 2 minutes left, and then proceeded to lose in overtime. That was no fluke. Penn State—the team with zero seniors—put up 40 shots on goal.
Michigan announced that wasn't going to happen again by holding PSU to five shots in the first and then put on the gas in the second. That they did this almost entirely without the services of Mac Bennett, who left the game early in the first period with some sort of arm injury, only reinforces the fact that Friday's effort can only be described with terms ranging from "pathetic" to "sad."
Since last year happened, Friday wasn't the ugliest thing I've seen transpire in Yost. Not by a longshot. It was still a disturbing callback to that grim Tuesday against Bowling Green. There are reasons the team isn't competitive with the Minnesotas of the world, but they don't include whatever Alex Guptill was doing on his shorthanded backcheck Friday. He's the last guy back and barely moves his feet; goal; healthy scratch the next night despite potting a goal that coulda/woulda won the game.
Rumors flew about bad apples last year bringing other folks down, and it seems like not all of them were shed in the offseason. It is a frustrating counterpoint to the basketball team when you see zero development from the vast majority of the upperclassmen.
Who's better this year? Hyman. Bennett. And I guess Sinelli, though it's tough to tell since he wasn't playing D before this year. The drafted forwards are all stuck in neutral, occasionally doing something that flashes their talent but failing to pick up on the reasons Compher and Copp are outdistancing them in points. If not bailed out by the goaltending this year, Michigan would be well adrift of even the tenuous tourney spot they claim now.
Before the season I asserted it would be tough for the guys who don't like to skate to maintain that level of laissez faire because Copp and Compher would force them to act right. That has not been accurate. The guys without buckets of talent play hard; the ones with soft hands float around the perimeter of the ice, and always shoot on two-on-ones.
If the team's going to play like they did Friday with Guptill and like they did Saturday without, it might be time to move on. Unfortunately, Michigan cannot scratch everyone except Compher, Motte, Copp, and Hyman—I have worked this out on paper and there are not enough people—so they'll have to skate some frustrating guys. Nailing the king of coasting to the bench at least sends a message about, you know, trying when the puck's not on your stick.
Pairwise update, AKA RPI update. Michigan's RPI survived the series at Minnesota because Minnesota's real good at the RPI now downplays road games you lose. It did not do so well after the Penn State split. Michigan is 14th, which is right on the cutline. At the end of the year whoever's in that spot is watching the conference tournament results in a panic.
I know I said they were in good shape, but they blew a rather comfortable margin over their current spot with two losses to a team with four other wins on the year. Given the difficulty of the schedule they're facing, they are probably okay if they go 4-2 down the stretch, but that requires either sweeping the next two weekends (home and homes against Ohio State and Michigan State) or taking something off Minnesota.
Given how they're playing, I bet Michigan goes into that Minnesota series really needing a split. Old Yost would know something like this and be a-rage. New Yost will probably not.
Hyman's point totals are beginning to match his play. [Bill Rapai]
It's happening. Zach Hyman was out there being impossible to take the puck off of on the boards and generating chances off the cycle for the whole season; he was still stuck on like three points. That has changed as Michigan pairs him with guys like Motte and occasionally Compher. He is on a five game point streak and has a 2-4-6 line over the past three weekends; he's now up to 14 points, nipping on the heels of the guys in the second group of scorers behind Compher and Copp.
The Kile check. It looked bad live but on the GIF you can tell that the contact is not severe and happens at the dot. A two minute penalty to be sure, but didn't rise to the level of (another) five and a game.
The check on Bennett. A hard check directly to Bennett's chest where the opponent stopped striding well before the hit; clean. No idea why Bennett was not aware of the guy coming in; someone's got to yell at him about it.
Bennett is out this weekend, making it hard for Michigan against a decent OSU team with a somewhat fearsome back line. He may be back the week after.