Mount St. Mary's hired a private equity CEO to be their president. You'll never guess what happened next.
2/5/2016 – Michigan 2, MSU 3(OT) – 16-4-4, 7-2-2 Big Ten
2/6/2016 – Michigan 4, MSU 1 – 17-4-4, 8-2-2 Big Ten
Hey. I don't really have a column this week that's not the thing I keep saying about this rickety deathwagon of a team. This is that take again. I'm sorry, but both teams crested 40 shots in Friday night's game. There's only one take to have.
Let's drill down from the weekend series to a smaller bit of it wherein the crux of our hope and frustration with this bonkers hockey team is made clear: Michigan came out on Saturday and blew MSU's doors off. They only got one goal but outshot the opposition 20-3. It's hockey, it happens, this is why one-game neutral site single elimination is dumb, etc.
The next period was spent in a rearguard action against one of the worst teams in the country; MSU got off something like 13 of the first 14 shots and finished the period 17-8 to the good. That fairly reflected the play on the ice.
The scoring not so much. Michigan extended its lead when the rampant top line scored a goal worthy of the eventual all-Michigan Hobey finalist trio, because that's how they do. Then Michigan scored a couple more times and like fine okay let's just ignore the bit when they just about fell off the surfboard.
It's tougher to do that when the previous night was an actual loss against the aforementioned very bad team, and not even one where luck had much to do with it. MSU played Michigan dead even for much of the weekend. This is our concern, dude. Michigan's performance did not feel any more like a "throw out the records" rivalry performance any more than Michigan ending up down multiple goals in back-to-back games against Wisconsin did. It's just who they are.
After three years out of the tourney I'll take it, and because it's a weird year in college hockey (Quinnipiac is your #1 overall seed if the season ended today) and the playoff format remains a one-game free-for-all we might as well get back in with a team straight out of the 1980s. It's hard to see anyone stopping Michigan; it's equally hard to see them stopping anyone. At least there will be fireworks along the way.
This weekend amply demonstrated my fears going into the Big Ten schedule: Michigan slid two spots after the Friday loss and went nowhere despite geting the road bump after the Saturday win. MSU is RPI quicksand that only allows you to go down. Michigan is mercifully done with them, at least.
Anyway: Michigan is sixth. They are secure barring a complete collapse (ie, < .500) down the stretch. The remaining schedule is reasonable. There are four games against the league's top half and four against the bottom half with an odd one-off against Ferris thrown in the mix.
It's all but impossible to predict the way things shake out this far away from the end of the season but if Michigan drops 2-3 games they probably stay a 2. The one seed doesn't matter much since Michigan is far away from grabbing #1 or #2* and the (somewhat) easier road through an Atlantic Hockey or weak autobid opponent. Meanwhile as per usual the committee barely has a Midwest regional; it's in Cincinnati this year.
*[The gap between Michigan and Quinnipiac is about as big as the gap between Michigan and the bubble.]
As per usual I can't tell you why Michigan is so bad on defense. The lineup shuffling induced by Cooper Marody coming down with mono didn't help, as it stuck Selman out there as a center when he'd played wing for most of the year. But that's a minor thing that does not explain why Michigan likes only one thing as much as scoring, and that's leaving guys wide open in the slot.
Is what it is ever since Mel left.
The second line. The second line is Warren-Marody-Calderone, at least when Marody is healthy. That's why Dancs went to the Nieves line and Selman filled in for Marody. Michigan did miss Marody quite a bit, I think.
Downing playing better. Yes, he did dive to take away a passing lane and ended up disrupting Racine on one of MSU's goals over the weekend. Yes, there was a 2-on-0 on which he shot. Even so he was much more settled than he has been recently. When he's not taking five-minute penalties or offering up free odd-man rushes with low upside decisions you can see why he was a hyped draft prospect. He's big and smooth with the puck.
I'm not expecting him to suddenly be Mark Mitera; some level of error is a guarantee with him. It is nice to see him go most of a game without doing something that causes me to write and delete tweets.
Ferreal, all Michigan Hobey finalist list. The top ten in PPG:
Points Per Game: GP G- A- P P/GM 1 Kyle Connor (WPG) Michigan 25 20-24-44 1.76 2 Jimmy Vesey (NSH) Harvard 22 18-17-35 1.59 3 Andrew Poturalski New Hampshire 28 21-23-44 1.57 4 Max French Bentley 25 18-21-39 1.56 Tyler Motte (CHI) Michigan 25 25-14-39 1.56 6 JT Compher (COL) Michigan 25 10-28-38 1.52 7 Tyler Kelleher New Hampshire 28 7-33-40 1.43 Zac Lynch Robert Morris 28 20-20-40 1.43 9 Colin White (OTT) Boston College 25 16-19-35 1.40 Jake Guentzel (PIT) Omaha 25 12-23-35 1.40
That is and continues to be absolutely bonkers. Michigan has never done that, even when they were pairing Hesick and Porter.
Where did Piazza go? He got scratched this weekend despite Marody's absence, and right after his best moment of the season. Best I can figure is Michigan didn't want to double-shift on the fourth line with Marody out of the lineup and he got the axe. If Downing is having a pleasant phase I'm hard pressed to say who should sit amongst the six guys who did play in favor of Piazza; the optics there are still weird.
Just another day in the life.
— angelique (@chengelis) February 5, 2016
Hackett on WTKA. Jim Hackett stopped by The Michigan Insider today for a 30-minute long interview that wandered through a bunch of news. He of course kicked things off by sounding like your kindly grandfather trying to relate to 13-year-olds in board shorts:
Hackett anticipates ‘cool surprises’ for UM schedule
In other news things:
- Hackett does not think that the MSU flip is fixable.
- The Big Ten is going to go to more of an SEC model with conference scheduling after the move to nine games: "…because of the nine-game Big Ten season, we’re going to have to have an early Big Ten game as the season opens."
- All games going forward will be sold by the Big Ten Network, so Michigan's ability to schedule Notre Dame is further compromised. So that sucks. On the other hand, no more Jerryworld. I might take that tradeoff.
- Despite that both head coaches in the M-ND rivalry want to see it return, and people are working towards making it happen in some capacity. This is the first public confirmation that the series might return.
- Michigan will be forced to play more night games from 2017 onward.
SOTS on the tubes. In case you missed it:
Signing of the Haters. A lot of Michigan State folk have spent the last couple days talking about something that doesn't have a damn thing to do with them. Par for the course, but once they start yelling about how "Signing of the Stars" was some sort of unethical boondoggle designed for hype and recruiting I have various fuses in my head blow and can only reset them by typing this on the internet.
1. Yes, it was designed to put Michigan in the news. It worked so spectacularly that UCF is complaining about it. It will hopefully boost Michigan's recruiting going forward.
2. It also raised 120k for pediatric cancer research. I shouldn't have to even bring this up because having a goofy variety show where you introduce recruits does not need to be justified. The correct answer to "Michigan had a Signing Day event" is "so what?", not "but it was for cancer." Michigan could have raised zero dollars and there would be no valid complaints outside of corniness.
3. But they did raise some money for cancer.
5. Michigan State fans just can't stand a coach who yells at referees like a maniac and does everything he can for media attention. If they had such a coach they'd tar and feather him and shoot him into the sun.
Or maybe they wouldn't.
This is virtually identical to Alabama lizard people moaning about Michigan's satellite camps, attempting to cloak pure self-interest in concern trolling.
Hello, IMG, we are to be in your base. Rumors that Michigan was going to go outside of the box for spring practice have come to fruition:
Harbaugh confirmed Wednesday that the program will spend its first week of spring practice at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida during Michigan's spring break week -- which begins later this month (Feb. 27).
"Our plans for spring football are to go to Florida our first week while the university here is on spring break," Harbaugh said. "We'll go to Florida and have four practices down there. We're going to work hard but we'll have fun doing it."
IMG will be familiar to Michigan fans as the home of TE Isaac Nauta in the previous cycle. This time around they've got…
"Why would Jim Harbaugh want to hold spring practice at IMG Academy in Florida?"
*Pulls up 2017 rankings*
— Scott Bell (@sbell021) February 3, 2016
…a few guys.
This is going to be fun. Ian Boyd on Rashan Gary:
The numbers on Gary are jaw-dropping, no matter how inflated high schooler measurables can be. In a partially laser-timed SPARQ test before his junior year, he produced the following results, blowing away all other 2016 stars tested at the national event.
Height Weight 40 time Shuttle time Vertical leap Rashan Gary as a high school junior 6'4" 287 4.74 4.38 32.1" Average 2015 NFL Combine defensive lineman 6'3 1/2" 286 4.96 4.5 32.2"
Boyd believes Gary can play as an end and will bounce across the defensive line throughout his career but his highest upside in the future is as a defensive tackle, where his pass rush ability should maintain more of its value as he moves up to college and eventually the NFL.
Assuming that Michigan slides Matt Godin out to the SDE spot he was effective in early last year and starts Taco Charlton at WDE, Michigan's biggest need on the DL in 2016 is indeed three-tech, where Willie Henry's absence leaves Michigan with (probably) Mo Hurst and Brady Pallante backing up.
Harbaugh media tour. Michigan appears to have sent Jim Harbaugh on a tour of every radio show in the country. They're conveniently located in one place—wherever the Super Bowl is—this time of year, and Michigan's taking the opportunity to have Harbaugh around, seeming (largely) sane and repeating that he has no intention of exiting Ann Arbor any time soon:
On future NFL opportunities: "This is where I want to be. I'm having the time of my life." Mentions 2015 most fun year in football.
— Zach Shaw (@_ZachShaw) February 5, 2016
Coaching moves. After a one-year pitstop as an analyst at Michigan, Erik Campbell gets the WR coach job at UConn. With Partridge moving up and TJ Weist also getting a WR coach job, his with South Florida, Michigan has three open analyst/recruiter type spots if they maintain the same level of staffing as they did last year. One of those spots has been filled:
Prattville assistant Bam Richards (@cadillac98) tells me he is joining the Michigan Wolverines as an offensive analyst.
— Stephen Gunter (@Stephen_Gunter) February 4, 2016
Michigan has of course gotten to know the Prattville staff pretty well over the past couple years.
Flanagan's Devin Bush Sr. is widely expected to get the second opening. Who might fill the third is unknown, but it'll probably be someone who ends up at loose ends after the NFL season.
Etc.: Good to know, Jourdan Lewis. Trevor Siemian will throw-god in the Super Bowl. Jehu Chesson is still on crutches a month after the bowl game. Doubtful it'll be an issue that affects him in fall, could hold him out in spring. The Players' Tribune as new-world press releases.
1/8/2016 – Michigan 9, MSU 2 – 12-3-3, 3-1-1 Big Ten
1/9/2016 – Michigan 6, MSU 3 – 13-3-3, 4-1-1 Big Ten
The denigration of the Michigan State hockey program happened gradually and then suddenly, like bankruptcy. After Ron Mason retired he hired his buddy Rick Comley from Northern Michigan; he turned the Spartans into Northern Michigan. Comley retired and Michigan State hired a program alum whose most recent coaching experience was something along the lines of girl's high school hockey 20 years ago. I forget what it was exactly and, following Mark Hollis's lead, decline to look something like that up.
This has gone about as well as you might expect. MSU has made the tournament once since 2008, that from a 19-16-4 season in Tom Anastos's first year that saw a quick first round exit. Anastos's brand of hockey—Ron Mason, except defensive—has imploded into itself, leaving MSU one of the very worst teams in the country. At the moment they are 54th of 60 D-I teams in RPI. They've been headed in that direction for a decade.
And Michigan keeps losing to them.
Since Michigan's own slide began, time and again they have encountered the Spartans in the second half of a season spent on the bubble and dropped games to crappy teams that came back to haunt them. The collection of problems that killed Michigan's tourney streak is large and frustrating, but the second-most infuriating trademark of the drought squads has been their ability to get your hopes up just before a NO WHAT ARE YOU DOING loss to Michigan State.
Oh, hell, here you go:
- 2015: Michigan goes 3-2, losing a pair of 2-1 games in which a dude with 8 goals all year scores the GWG early in the third. The crippling final loss sees Michigan outshoot MSU 38-19.
- 2014: Michigan eats a humiliating 3-0 loss in the GLI, then blows a 3-1 lead to lose 4-3 on the penultimate weekend of the final season. They miss a bid by one game when they lose to PSU in the opener of the Big Ten Tourney.
- 2013: A night after whipping the Spartans 5-1, Michigan loses 7-2. They do win the subsequent three games in the series. /waves tiny "punt" flag
It is very painful to lose to Michigan State because when they do score they spend the rest of the game stacked up like cordwood in the crease. Watching these things happen while envisioning big red down arrows next to Michigan's pairwise ranking has been an unpleasant experience, to say the least.
So here's to that not happening, even a little bit, last weekend.
I've spent most of this year disengaged, as you do when you aren't expecting much. I have been waiting for a sign that I should allow my emotions to get involved with this hockey team, and this weekend might have been it.
It was another rote walkover of a bad team, but let us not turn up our nose at rote walkovers of bad teams. There have been plenty non-walkovers of bad teams in the recent past. There turns out to be something to the art of not losing to teams you should not lose to.
I admit I was worried early on Saturday. @YostBuilt kept tweeting "don't lose 2-1" and I was like "please stop tweeting that" in my head. MSU came out with save-our-season energy; Michigan got one shot in the first ten minutes. MSU scored.
The script goes one of two directions then. It goes either to another hat-eating, silent-cursing loss that looms over your season, or Michigan limbers up the machine guns and makes Jake Hildebrand look like he's singlehandedly fighting World War I again. 18 of the 19 players chose Door Murder Hildebrand, and Michigan has no arrow next to its RPI at all.
That's all you can ask for when you play a team as bad as Michigan State. On to the next opportunity to not blow it.
Player nineteen. If you follow me on twitter it will not be a surprise to you that I thought Michael Downing had a really bad day. Downing gave up two breakaways in the first 21 minutes, one on a bad change, the second when he made a very inadvisable D-to-D pass, managed to recover from that due to MSU incompetence, and then got stripped of the puck at mid-ice anyway. Later he took two penalties, both of which I thought were legitimate; MSU scored on a 5-on-3 resulting from one to bring the game sort of close.
In between he did more of those Downing things where he decides to go nail a player coming out of the zone. A couple of these worked but he gave up at least one odd-man rush as a result. I will never understand why he chooses to do that or why he hasn't been screamed at until he stops doing it—the upsides there are so low and the downsides so high.
Downing is a bad decision machine and I find it inexplicable he hasn't been benched for a wake-up call. That goes double because Michigan skates seven defensemen most nights and there wasn't a detectable dropoff in play during Downing's three-game suspension.
No line shuffles please. Red loves to throw his lines in a blender from time to time just to see what happens. He usually lets it ride when things are going well, and so we've had a long period where the forwards are relatively settled:
Where X is whoever they're double-shifting with the fourth line. I'd like to see Michigan stick with this going forward; Motte and Compher have always seemed to play best together, Connor really benefits from their workrate, and the third line is playing really well together. I'm kind of meh about the second line but with the other two rolling and Dancs and Shuart bringing speed and size to the grinding corps it works.
Penalty for hitting too hard. While I though the penalty that put Michigan down 5-on-3 was a legit call, the charging penalty that preceded it was… well… on the one hand, as soon as I saw it I expected a call. But I also thought it was not a penalty.
Hockey's fallen into a situation similar to the one college football finds itself in with targeting. Some penalties get called simply because something legal and impactful looks bad. CFB reviews things, which doesn't help in any way whatsoever because nobody knows what targeting is. College hockey does not.
I dunno. I know we want guys to be safe but to me the pendulum has swung too far the other direction when Kile can plow a guy in the chest and the ref 200 feet away immediately puts his hand up for no other reason than "that looked hurty."
Pairwise bits. As always, it's basically RPI these days. Michigan is 8th. This is relatively good news. Michigan's nonconference opponents have been surprisingly good in conference play, which has kept M's SOS level despite the nature of the Big Ten. They don't have much opportunity to move up into truly secure territory unless they just don't lose the rest of the way; it's more about holding serve and generating a buffer.
This weekend against MSU did little other than help Michigan tread water; anything but a sweep would have been a hit. So, despite being a two-seed this instant, a bad weekend or two puts them right back on the bubble. It will be precarious going forward. So far so good. They are scoring an awful lot.
Friday, January 8, 2016
MSU 2, #8 Michigan 9
MSU 1 UM 0 EV 09:26 Appleton from Draeger & MacEachern
Selman comes up to the point to try and check Draeger, but he avoids Selman and skates deeper into the zone. Nieves sees this and steps up to cover.
Appleton is in the opposite faceoff circle banging his stick on the ice and Draeger obliges, passing through the empty part of the slot.
Appleton one-times the puck and it hits Cecconi's skate, changing angles and easily beating Racine. There's nothing he can do about a deflection off of a skate that close to the net; it's also worth noting that this play is otherwise well defended.
[After THE JUMP: Jake Hildebrand stars as Devin Gardner in "Oh. Oh Wow. We Are So Sorry."]
IT'S THAT TIME OF YEAR AGAIN, EVERYBODY. They've let Tim Beckman out of his tiny pool, gently removed the arm floaties, and put him in front of reporters. Let's see how that's going!
DID YOU THROW THE BALL OR NOT AHHHHH
Illinois kept this person because he led their football program to a better than average performance for them, which is usually why you keep a football coach. Funny ol' world.
OKAY BUT SERIOUSLY. Whenever I see Tim Beckman put in a low-pressure situation and asked softball questions he looks like a dog that doesn't know whether you're going to throw the stick or beat him with it. How does this person get past a job interview, let alone a Head Football Coach job interview?
That is a high pressure situation in which questions like "why on Earth would we pick a guy with one good season in the MAC with an outlying turnover ratio to coach our team?" get asked. Was the answer Illinois sought "uh, team performance leads to excellence in all our endeavors"? Did they not notice when he repeated that when they asked him what he wanted for lunch?
Help me understand. I do not understand.
Also at Big Ten Media Days. Harbaugh finna get himself shivved bae*:
— Sean Churchill (@SeanChurchy) July 31, 2015
Also, and always, Beckman.
*[I think? I may have just said "Harbaugh I fart on myself" in teentwitterese.]
Also also at Big Ten Media days. Never let it be said this is not journalism.
"Saade is a self-taught taxidermist and says that the job can actually be quite lucrative." Got a lot of dead chipmunks around the house. Dunno why. Mother keeps saying something about mah sleepwalking. Mother says she don't wanna say when I ask why such a thing would happen. Mother says waste not want not. Mother don't remember which team won that crazy overtime game from a few years back on account of her blackout. Mother is pretty sure though. Mother is always right.
Mother says this is how it's always been and how it always will be, mother and the chipmunks and the always recovering on-side kicks and never ever havin nobody named Braylon she knows about, no nothin. That ain't even a name she says. Who ever heard of a name like that. Who ever heard of that.
Sometimes I think I ain't sleep-murderin no chipmunks but I know better than to say so.
You know, for a turkey that's on the lam there seem to be a lot of photos of it in the same place. God, I wish this had happened when I was in college.
If I could fight a turkey on my way to discrete math I would be so happy.
"Do not try to approach the turkey," she said. "We've gotten calls from people who have been trapped and unable to move because he's cornered them."
The symptom. It's hard to blame Devin Funchess for his occasional lackadaisical play last year. If I was suffused with ennui it's hard to imagine what he was going through. But that's the thing about coaching: it is your job to get people to play to the best of their ability. Brady Hoke did not do this, and Funchess was the best example last year.
Here is confirmation of that from what's annually the best thing to come out of Big Ten Media Days, Mike Spath's article where he offers anonymity in exchange for real talk:
"They had a guy that on paper was just a nightmare because he was so tall, and big - he was supposed to be a tight end but they played him at wide receiver [Devin Funchess] - and man all week our coaches just kept saying, 'We've got no one that can match up with him. No one that can stop this kid.'
"It was motivating and I was foaming at the mouth, but I built him up into this goliath that was going to take my best effort, and he took a lot less than that. He didn't seem to care at all about helping his quarterback out.
"Everything about him was half-speed. It was sort of like what they used to say about Randy Moss - when he knew the ball wasn't coming his way on a play, it was like he wasn't even out there."
Randy Moss made it work, and Funchess ended up a second-round pick. But you read that and it's just like… I knew that. And I knew that it didn't come from Funchess, it came from the program.
Ferentz finally under the gun. Matt Hinton surveys the situation at Iowa, which is still technically part of the same conference Michigan is:
“It’s been five years now of unremarkable football, is probably the best way to put it,” says Marc Morehouse, who took over the Hawkeyes beat at the Cedar Rapids Gazette in 1999, the same year Ferentz arrived in Iowa City, and who has seen more than his fair share of unremarkable football. “I’ve covered Ferentz since he’s been here, and the ‘hot seat’ concept has come up in the past, but I’ve never taken it seriously. … I’ve never bought into it, but this year, even in November, even in January after [the bowl game], I’m buying into it. OK, this is a real hot seat now. This is a hot seat year, no question about it.”
Ferentz has doubled down here by letting his starting quarterback depart for a team technically in the same conference. If Rudock does well and Iowa remains Iowa-esque, Ferentz will go from "can't afford to fire" to "can't afford to keep" in a flash.
All of this makes for a fascinating alternate history in which Michigan goes with the coach Lloyd Carr recommended if they were making an external hire. Things probably go better for a while. Does Ferentz take better advantage of Michigan's ability to recruit? Are they again that kind of 8-4, 9-3 team that Michigan was for big chunks of the 90s?
The end of civilization. Not with a bang but with a pun.
— Adam Jacobi (@Adam_Jacobi) July 31, 2015
Etc.: They promise to actually pay attention to the illegal men downfield rule this year. Now I like it when the Onion writes something about Michigan! A whopping 37% of top-100 players who aren't one-and-done transfer. Kellen Jones has been to Michigan Oklahoma Clemson Wisconsin Tampa Panama Mattawa La Paloma Bangor Baltimore Salvador Amarillo...