Back in the day I had a brief period as an Edmonton Oilers fan. (Long story short: never had much of a Red Wings connection since I grew up in pre-Avs Colorado and Edmonton had Mike Comrie.) This was at the point where they had one of the most bizarrely popular players in the league, Georges Laraque.
The French-Canadian was more province than man, kept on the team to grind on the fourth line and facepunch people. He had one more skill than that, though. If provided the puck along the boards in the offensive zone, he could keep it there indefinitely.
This had almost no utility. Laraque couldn't do much of anything once he had established possession. He was too slow to threaten to take the puck off the boards himself and not skilled enough to pick out his teammates. Even so it was a thing to see: Laraque fending off increasingly enormous piles of opposition players as the arena got more and more fevered about something that would never, ever lead to a goal. In this it was like his fighting, there to entertain in a way totally orthogonal to the stated goal of hockey.
When Zach Hyman started doing this at the outset of last season, it had a Laraquian feel to it. He was stuck on three points a third of the way through the year and no amount of cheerleading from this space made a difference. At that point Hyman was a guy who had a great season as an overager in junior but had done nothing to suggest he was going to replicate that through 60% of his career at Michigan.
And then he started walking into the slot.
Michigan's weekend was a rote walkover introduced by a penalty-induced hangover. I've been on both sides of games like Friday where the ice tilts towards the losing team and no lead seems safe, and by the time Michigan scored to pull within 1 late in the second period that game felt like a Michigan win.
The way it transpired is quickly becoming familiar. Hyman walked off the wall again, flicking the puck to the far side of a goalie worried about a wrap-around attempt. Then Michigan marauded through the slot for the go-ahead goal and the double-tap to make sure Wisconsin's zombie upset bid was well and truly dead. They'd solved prominent goaltending issues by removing them from the relevant section of the game. An empty-netter felt appropriate as an extra-point exclamation mark.
Saturday's game was over two minutes in when Michigan had scored twice and chased Joel Rumpel to the bench in world-record time. By the time Michigan scored to go up 5-0 early in the second period they were barely celebrating. After two periods shots were 37-9.
Even Wisconsin's frustrated after-the-play Standard Hockey Goonery felt obligatory. It takes a remarkable mental state to shove someone without meaning anything by it, but by the third period Wisconsin was doing it solely by reflex, thinking about what they would watch on Netflix after the game.
Eliminate Tony Calderone's five minute major and this weekend wasn't a hockey series. It was a reason that Michigan should be forced to wear body cams when on duty.
Hyman's surged into serious Hobey Baker contention in a way I don't think I've ever seen a Michigan player do so. Previous dominant Hobey types have mostly been the little puck wizards that felt like Michigan's birthright for most of the 90s and aughts. Brendan Morrison was an NHL-sized version of those guys, Kevin Porter a gentleman who scored buckets of goals without being dominant in any particular facet of the game.
All of these guys reached the point where you look for them to hit the ice because they are generating chances every shift. Most of them did so by having the puck on a string. A guy like Hyman, who is so physically dominant he creates most of his chances off the cycle, is a new thing.
He's a good metaphor for the team as a whole: eventually overwhelming. Michigan shoves line after line at you—they have eight guys on or within a couple points of a PPG, and that doesn't count NHL Draft second-rounders Boo Nieves and JT Compher. Every time they go for a line change someone you don't want to see is coming over the boards.
They do have to get their act together on defense. The goalies' flagging save percentages are not entirely their regression. Michigan's giving up grade A scoring chances with alarming regularity. Not so much this weekend, but Wisconsin is truly, bogglingly bad.
Even so at this point you have to wonder if they can outscore anyone. The 80s called, offering their hockey again. All aboard the firewagon.
Michigan's sweep did count for something, as they moved up about four tenths of a point despite Lowell and Minnesota (teams that give them quality win points) having bad weekends. Wisconsin has a solid SOS (4th in RPI terms) and that helps them remain somewhat relevant. Then the road multiplier kicks in.
That four tenths of a point corresponded to a whopping five-spot move in RPI/PWR because the teams immediately in front of Michigan had horrible weekends, with three getting swept and a fourth taking just one point.
Michigan is now solidly in the tournament but vulnerable to backsliding. They're barely a point above the 16 slot which is guaranteed doom.
Suggestion: keep winning. Michigan has 12 games left in the regular season and probably has to go 8-4, maybe 9-3 to feel secure entering the Big Ten Tournament. Given the way they've been playing and the way the rest of the Big Ten has, that's not too tall an order.
Pile 'em in. Michigan has surged to an enormous lead in scoring offense, a full six tenths of a goal past #2 Robert Morris. Last year's leading offense, BC, was at 4.1 GPG; Michigan is at 4.4. BC got their piles of goals thanks to 80-point Hobey winner Johnny Gadreau.
PPGs. Those eight(!) guys at or a couple points away from a PPG: Hyman, Larkin, Copp, and Motte are past that pace. Kile and Werenski are one and two points short, respectively. And after a five-point weekend featuring a Friday hat trick, Justin Selman is at 5-6-11 in just 11 games.
This goal was rightfully disallowed. Kile got a little bumped here but yeah:
I wasn't expecting that to stand after one replay.
Goalie issues. The BTN announcers made a great deal about Michigan's goalie issues this year, which I thought was pretty simplistic given the sheer number of grade-A chances they'd faced but then both goalies gave up horrendous goals on Friday and now that I'm poking at the numbers… yeah. Nagelvoort is 50th of 80 qualifying goalies on CollegeHockeyStats and Racine is 74th.
These things can turn around quickly—Racine was horrible the first half of his freshman year and put up a .920 the rest of the way—because you need a pile of shots before save percentage becomes statistically meaningful. Michigan's going to have to hope someone steps forward as we approach the stretch run. It's Nagelvoort's turn for a while, it seems.
Selman? Selman's been one of my argh-play-him-more favorites. Sometimes these work out (Hyman), sometimes not so much (Lindsay Sparks), but a five point weekend on the wing of Selman and Larkin probably buys him a few more weekends as the third wheel there. Selman brings a net-driving presence on a line that generates a lot of chaos and rebounds, and he seems like a good fit there.
Already prepping to pump Selman as next year's upperclass breakout forward, which has been an annual tradition (Rohlfs, Scooter) until recently.
Larkin. Hyman is carrying that line and has been all season but Larkin is obviously contributing, and he's contributing on a higher level since the GLI break, where he was one of the best forwards on the WJC team. Larkin reminds me a bit of Max Pacioretty, who wasn't particularly noticeable during the first half of his only year at Michigan but absolutely blew up in the second half. Larkin's adding some flair to his game now that he's comfortable with college and his line.
Sinelli on defense? Michigan listed Andrew Sinelli as a defender this weekend, leading to weird things like a box score featuring "XD" as a position for Nolan De Jong. Michigan rotated through its centers for extra shifts on the fourth line—when those guys are Compher, Copp, and Larkin that's not a bad idea—and played with what they were going to do on the back end.
I liked Sinelli as a defender last year. I actually thought he was a top four guy for them. He's not great shakes as a forward with the puck but for a defenseman he's very capable in that department, and while he's small he was generally in the right spot. That would be a large improvement for Michigan's defensive corps.
I'd keep an eye on that going forward, especially since Michigan is going to plug Lynch back into that fourth line center spot when he gets back. Given the Michigan offense a solid senior like Sinelli might be preferable to a guy who has more upside but offers up more WTF moments.
When can we fire this apparel company?
What do you think will happen when the Adidas contract runs up? It's no secret around these parts the quality of garments that Adidas has put out have been sub-par to say the least. I know the majority of MGoBlog would prefer to go back to Nike, but there's a faction that would like Under Armour. Where do you see this going? Especially since I would anticipate the Nike contract not being nearly as lucrative as an Under Armour signing or a re-up with Adidas. Does Hackett (assuming he's still around) or a new AD listen to the fans or do you think they go for profit here?
I don't know. Nike isn't willing to spend bucks as huge as Adidas and Under Armor, which was a contributing factor in Miami's recent switch to the only incompetent Germans. Adidas has the four most expensive (FOIAable) contracts in college sports, with Michigan's whopping 8.2 million at the top of the list. That number is double what OSU gets from Nike.
Part of that premium is because Adidas isn't as cool to the whippersnappers and you have to weigh that, but this isn't a few hundred thousand a year Michigan is weighing. Switching to Nike would be a decision that costs Michigan a significant chunk of change.
The ideal situation may be Under Armour stepping in with an on-par offer. UA's done some wacky stuff with Maryland but they've been extremely reserved with Auburn's classic look. (An extensive Googling reveals no alternate uniform horrors.) I'm a huge fan of what they've done with Northwestern, incorporating a historical design element in a unique way.
Aside from the excessive logo frippery* that plagues everyone these days, that is a fantastic, distinctive look. Even the font is on point. I'd rather have UA take a swing at—or just, like, sit quietly by and not do anything weird with—Michigan's uniforms than Adidas.
But I don't wear the stuff so I don't know. It seems like the players are gung-ho about Nike and Hackett is listening; plus it seems like there is some real recruiting impact in basketball.
*[The best thing Dave Brandon did with Michigan's brand is render the mandatory Big Ten logo in Crisler as faintly as possible.]
Rate the get
How big of a get is Harbaugh compared to Ohio state landing Urban? Obviously OSU's down time was smaller than Michigan's, and Urban won national titles at Florida, but in terms of hires it has to be close to comparable, right? Recruits lining up and all that.
In terms of difficulty of acquisition it's a much, much bigger get. Meyer was momentarily retired and looking to get back into coaching, and his preferred style of offense makes him unattractive to NFL teams. It probably took the two sides about a half hour to come to an agreement after Tressel got axed. Michigan was in a much more difficult situation with Harbaugh, who could have coached at about 20 NFL teams if he wanted to.
In terms of impact and probable success, it's close. I would still go with Meyer, who had already won two national titles, over Harbaugh. Harbaugh's done kickass things in his tenure as a coach but he hasn't had the kind of sustained run on the mountaintop that Meyer did at Florida. That's splitting hairs in any case.
[After the JUMP: manball an aid? best coaching combos, NFL reporters, Milhouse.]
HARBAUGH HARBAUGH HARBAUGH. All silent, aside from random NFL scouts lambasting the search and asserting that Harbaugh is not leaving the NFL ever-ever. It's a leap to go from "Michigan seems to be taking an exceptionally long time" to "there is no reason this could be, therefore Michigan is clownfraud."
The very fact that Michigan hasn't hired, or come close to hiring anyone, is evidence enough that they are waiting for definitive word on Harbaugh. And then you have everyone who talks to anyone inside the Michigan program saying that very loudly. Michigan may not get the guy, but it won't be because he turned Michigan down two weeks ago.
The only movement yesterday was a brief explosion of optimism last night based on a post from the very edge of the internet that got deleted once it was passed around, but not before the echo chamber went into full effect. No idea how seriously to take that. It does sound like certain people on the inside are beginning to believe it's really happening.
ON WHITTINGHAM. With the exception of Sam Webb, listening to talk radio guys is never advisable. 97.1's Jeff Riger just re-confirmed that yesterday by asserting that Kyle Whittingham was literally in Ann Arbor, a claim debunked a few hours later when Whittingham showed up at his previously-scheduled team meeting.
Like the Brandt thing, this was obviously untrue on its face: Michigan was never going to fire off an offer to Cutcliffe at this stage of their search, and sitting head coaches do not fly to towns with open jobs. These meetings take place in airports until it's time for a press conference, and again there is no way Michigan fills this job until they get a definitive answer from Harbaugh.
ALSO IN RE: WHITTINGHAM. I've heard there may have been some actual family issues involved with Gary Andersen's departure to Corvallis: namely, Andersen is Mormon and it's possible they were having a tough time adjusting to Madison. That's a reason Michigan and Mendenhall or Whittingham are unlikely to hook up.
I mean: these are two very successful coaches who haven't had so much as a sniff at bigger jobs. Utah blew out Alabama to go undefeated in 2008 and then went 10-3 the next two years and nobody so much as flirted with the guy. It is really hard to get coaches out of the state of Utah.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE HOT DOGS? Sean Payton strongly denied any rumors that he'd be somewhere other than New Orleans, correctly dubbing them "silly":
Asked at his press conference today about the possibility that he might step down following this season, Payton said, “Absolutely no way.”
Payton said he is aware that there’s been speculation that he wants to leave New Orleans, but Payton added, “It’s silly. It won’t happen.”
I don't care what insiders said X or Y about Payton's availability. The ghost of Bo could appear to me and tell me Payton was the guy and I would say "he has an eight million dollar contract until 2018, Bo—y'all be crazy." If the Saints decide to pull the ripcord on the best coach in their history thanks to one bad year and eat what I assume is a simply massive buyout, then we are getting to the realm of vague plausibility. Until that highly unlikely event transpires, "silly" is the kind way to put it.
These last two items are me getting exercised about people reporting things without considering how likely they are outside of "I herd it from mah dudez". I heard the weirdass Marvin Lewis thing and told you, but I also mentioned it was weirdass and I didn't expect anything to come of it.
NEVERMIND THE CHEESEOFF. Wisconsin takes under 24 hours to hire Paul Chryst, removing the admittedly remote possibility Michigan and Wisconsin would go after the same guy. Hilariously, a source says "I thought this would be the scenario from Day 1" on Day 1.
Alvarez is going through the "public posting" kabuki but it's done, according to everyone.
THIS IS NEWS FOR SOME REASON. Michigan sent out a release this morning stating that they've hired Korn Ferry as their search firm for 80-250k. Why Michigan would tell people this now (they've been working with the firm since Hoke got cashiered) and why people would repeat it out loud remains a mystery to me. Hackett said he'd be employing a search firm and everyone pretty much knew who that would be once he said said search firm would be familiar with Michigan.
It's a thing you can tweet, I guess.
Reactions have mostly fallen into one of two camps. One: "let me google that for you." Two: "lol these guys hired Brandon and Hoke." I agree with #1. Not so much #2. Brandon was a locked-in insider candidate after being a regent and helping hire Mary Sue Coleman (see Coleman's going-away present of a six-year guaranteed contract); Hoke was a locked-in insider candidate that Brandon was going to hire no matter who the search firm was after Harbaugh went with the 49ers.
All those guys do is give you a list of vetted names; Michigan's screwups are their own. That was supposed to be more reassuring than it ended up being.
WE MIGHT EVEN PASS ON JAY GRUDEN. ESPN Insider's rumor mill thing picks up the RealGM "nugget" on Jay Gruden's supposed interest in Michigan, then mentions that there's another guy out there:
Former UM quarterback and current San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh is another name that has come up often for the Wolverines job in recent weeks, and given Harbaugh's ties to the program and the likelihood that his days in SF are just about over, it's reasonable to believe that he could be the school's No. 1 coaching target, even ahead of Gruden.
This insight is available for just a few dollars a month.
FAN PECKING ORDER. 24/7 ran a series of polls asking their users about whether coaching candidates would be okay. The results:
- Harbaugh (95% yes)
- Stoops (89%)
- Miles (81%)
- Mora (77%)
- Mullen (69%)
- Herman (49%)
- Bielema (46%)
- Narduzzi (41%)
- Cutcliffe (41%)
- Whittingham (34%)
- Gundy (29%)
- Schiano (14%)
- Addazio (12%)
Gundy is a huge surprise down there. Addazio not so much.
Etc.: More on the role this advisory committee thing is playing. Sam says Les Miles's age isn't going to be a hindrance($) to his candidacy and that the search is apparently narrowed to four guys($), though which four is unclear. Miles and Harbaugh are amongst them; past that nobody knows.
INSIDER BITS TODAY: MEH. Holding pattern time. I don't have anything specific to tell you that isn't out there already, just continued opinion that Harbaugh is very much in play and Michigan is still focused on him, with everyone else Plan B. I think we might see some movement over the weekend or early next week, especially if the 49ers are officially eliminated from the playoffs (a 49ers loss and Lions win will make it 100%).
Expect Michigan to start reaching out to potential replacements in earnest soon; that won't mean that Harbaugh's definitively out, it'll mean that he hasn't definitely said yes. Harbaugh won't have a truly clear picture of his options until the NFL season is over. He does not know what he wants to do now.
If Michigan doesn't get deeply involved with a short list over the next couple weeks that's a good sign.
WE THOUGHT THIS WAS ASHLEY MADISON DOT COM, NOT MADISON, WISCONSIN. SEEYA.
BARRY ALVAREZ MUST SMELL LIKE ROTEL THAT'S BEEN IN THE FRIDGE SINCE THE BIG TEN WAS RELEVANT. Oregon State's shock hire of Gary Andersen after just two years—two quite successful years—at Wisconsin moves a coaching opening much closer to Michigan in both geography and prestige. Well… probably, as far as the latter goes. Wisconsin's now had coaches bug out for the post-Petrino wasteland at Arkansas and the 10th best job in the Pac-12*. I can't see that happening at Michigan.
I don't buy most of the explanations out there for Andersen's departure. Wisconsin doesn't pay its assistants like a program with their success level would be expected to, but Oregon State doesn't either. Family reasons cited by Alvarez are transparent bunk. Everyone's talking about academic issues, which I guess could be jarring as you move from Utah State, but Wisconsin's done just fine with whatever standards they've had forever. It kind of looks like Alvarez is a Brandon-esque figure hovering over his coaches. In his defense, he was a really successful football coach instead of a guy who sold cardboard disks purporting to be pizza.
Will Wisconsin's search impact Michigan? It's doubtful but not outlandishly so. After getting burned by consecutive outsiders, Wisconsin may prefer a Wisconsin Man and go for Pitt HC Paul Chryst, NC State HC Dave Doeren or Seahawks OC Darrell Bevell. If they eschew those options they might promote DC Dave Aranda, who had very shiny stats before OSU bombed them, or go with a mid-level HC not currently on Michigan's radar. It's probable that Wisconsin finds a guy without pinging anyone Michigan would ask after.
Any impact would come if both teams end up hunting coordinators, and even then it seems like the teams would split the two obvious Big Ten candidates and be happy with it. Pat Narduzzi makes more sense than Tom Herman for the Badgers: Wisconsin knows what it is on offense and wouldn't want to change it. Herman makes more sense for M because they need offensive repairs desperately.
BUT SERIOUSLY. Wisconsin should hire Bo Pelini.
NO SERIOUSLY. I'm serious. This is not just for the epic trolling it would set up.
*[Colorado and WSU are worse. Probably.]
ONE OTHER POSSIBLE EFFECT. Herman and Aranda were in fact teammates at Cal Lutheran back in the day. If M does end up going for Herman and Aranda is cut loose at Wisconsin that would be an obvious option for DC.
never not funny
HARBAUGH HARBAUGH HARBAUGH. Tim Kawakami had an interesting piece on parallels between the Harbaugh-49ers rift and that between Mark Jackson and the Golden State Warriors, a post that also roped in Chris Mullin. This bit is the most directly applicable to you:
Harbaugh will not talk about the strife. Not publicly or–I believe–privately.
He tried to deny that there were any true tensions this off-season, because that’s his usual tactic, but as the stories have piled up starting from the early weeks of the regular season, Harbaugh has just generally refused to comment on the meaning of all this–and he won’t deny the possibility that management is doing it, either.
He’s not doing this as a zen practice, Harbaugh is doing this because he’s hunkered down, fighting through every day, and if management wants to conduct a campaign against him, that’s only going to sharpen his wits for the next move (while staying silent about what it might be).
Another similarity: Mullin naturally took the quiet high road because he knew he’d succeed elsewhere. I guarantee you that’s what Harbaugh feels now. …
This is all–I firmly believe–coming from 49ers management.
We know Harbaugh is talking a bit privately, but even then he plays his cards very close to the vest. He gave Charles Woodson a press conference answer when they talked…
"I spoke to him briefly, just said 'what's up,' and I almost started to get into the conversation but he kind of game me the same line he gave everybody at his press conference," Woodson said Tuesday on The Rich Eisen Show. "The well-being of his team and the well-being of his family. That was about as far into it as we were going to get."
…(since that press conference answer made the press, that was a good move). Meanwhile he's refusing to mention anything other than the next game, and he was relatively circumspect with the former M players he watched the OSU game with. I've gotten reports that he is cagey with everyone, with small cracks that may let people in on his intentions. A few people who've known him forever get Harbaugh's unvarnished thoughts—and even they don't know what he'll do.
This would explain a great deal of the disconnect between NFL reporters and the Michigan guys. Everything the NFL guys get is coming from management types who have a vested interest in Harbaugh staying in the NFL, either because they want him or want to trade him. Guys who talk to him personally get a different take.
BUT NOT CHARLES. Woodson continued:
"The way it sounds to me there's not even that one in a million," he added. "It doesn't sound too good to me.
"I guess you do have a slight chance. But man. It ain't looking good."
This is still not the opinion of people who have spent a lot of time canvassing all available information. Yikes all the same.
ON ASSISTANT SALARIES. USA Today published a database of assistant salaries, which promises to be more useful than the head coach listings. Head coaches have erratic, large bonuses that cause big swings. Those kinds of things are much rarer with assistants.
Michigan was 9th in overall assistant compensation with a relatively unbalanced structure: both coordinators were 800k+, recruiting coordinator Jeff Hecklinski was just under 300k, and everyone else around 240k. LSU was #1 in overall compensation with both coordinators at 1.3 million and their lowest-paid dude at 310.
M is almost two million dollars behind LSU in annual compensation(!). They're right on par with OSU, FWIW. Mississippi State is a million dollars back of M, on par with Colorado, Maryland, Rutgers… and Wisconsin.
Upshot: unless there's a big shift Michigan is going to be able to pay on par with everyone else. There's enough money to pay a big time coordinator for the other side of the ball if M goes with a Narduzzi/Herman type.
PLAN B. Here's a weird-ass name I don't fully believe but know they're kicking around at some level inside the department: Marvin Lewis. The Bengals are currently at the top of the AFC North but Lewis has been on precarious ground for a while now—he got a one-year extension just before this season and would likely have to be extended again. The Bengals have been on the verge of a change there for a long time. Lewis comes with all the usual NFL hangups but at his age (57) he would likely be retiring at a hypothetical college job.
Wouldn't put too much into that since a boatload of names get kicked around, but if Cinci does fire the guy keep an eye on him.
Beyond that, I've heard that you shouldn't take reports that so-and-so college coach isn't interested at all seriously. That's a good general rule. It is a better one in this specific case. I know that people who have supposedly ruled themselves out have done no such thing and would welcome sincere post-Harbaugh interest from M.