so much for that
Sophomore Robbie Czarnik, sort of. Czarnik signed with Plymouth approximately a third of the way through the season. In the twelve games he played he had a 3-3-6 and was +1. Michigan was actually just 5-7 with him; they were 21-11-1 without him.
Senior Brian Lebler. Lebler (playing daddy right) was the latest in Michigan's parade of seniors who improved radically in their final year at Michigan, racking up 14-10-24 in 42 games while providing the proverbial physical presence. He combined with freshmen AJ Treais and Chris Brown during the second half of the year on an effective third line.
Senior Anthony Ciraulo. Walk-on Ciraulo skated in seven games, picking up one assist.
Various Flight Risks. Now begins Michigan's annual watch for NHL departures silly or justified. First, allow me to pick up a clover as I pound every bit of furniture in the vicinity. Ah, there. Now: Michigan shouldn't lose anyone this offseason. Kevin Lynch, David Wohlberg, and Ben Winnett haven't played at a level that would see an NHL team jump on them. Chris Brown is a Coyotes draft pick; the 'Yotes have let their last three Michigan prospects play four years. They're also owned by the league and cheap. If they can let Brown develop free of charge, they will.
Then there are the three juniors. Carl Hagelin is an academic All-American from Sweden. He's likely to want his degree. Matt Rust and Louie Caporusso. Louie Caporusso was a third round pick of the Senators and may be a guy an NHL team would look to sign after his blazing finish, but Mike Spath of the Wolverine was asserting that Caporusso was likely to stay even before the Senators swooped in on UNH free agent Bobby Butler, another smallish offensive forward and one the Senators have put directly on their NHL roster. This makes it more unlikely Ottawa will press hard for Caporusso to sign and reduces their ability to sell a potential NHL opening.
All three flight risk juniors have unambiguously stated they will be back, so… yeah. Michigan Hockey Summer happened midseason this year.
Moffatt's rise and fall has been documented on this blog in a series of increasingly puzzled steps as he plummeted from the #2 overall pick in the WHL draft and a certain NHL first-round pick to 95th in the latest CSB rankings. What happened? You've got me. Some hints can be found on this USHL scouting blog:
Behind Zucker, Moffatt was the most visible offensive threat among the 2010 eligibles. Moffatt had the knack of being in the right spots and had several opportunities to create offense. However, once he had the puck, he did not always make the right play. He forced a few bad angle shots from the boards that were easily turned aside and transitioned by Ohio State. On those occasions, Moffatt had more time to survey the play and wait for support. Moffatt is a kid who will benefit from the coaching at Michigan and should play out his eligibility.
Insert Dean Lombardi joke here.
There's not much to say in Moffatt's favor, unfortunately. He's been healthy. He's been heavily scouted. He had a couple of okay years with the NTDP, but did not play anything like the star he was supposed to be. At the latest U18 World Championships, Moffatt finished with one goal and one assist on a USA team that won the title and scored buckets of goals along the way. No one even mentioned him as a disappointment.
All that said, we're talking about a fall from uber-hype to moderate hype. Moffatt is not Tristin Llewellyn, who committed to Michigan incredibly early as a potential first-rounder and didn't even get drafted. He'll go somewhere in the second to fourth rounds of the draft; Michigan's had plenty of stars who have fared worse. Carl Hagelin, for one, was a sixth-rounder. Moffatt will come in battle-tested and should have a shot at earning a spot on a scoring line.
Jacob Fallon, Indiana Ice/USNTDP.
Fallon's also been falling, but for reasons other than his talent level after getting booted from the NTDP midseason for the ever-popular undisclosed violation of team rules. He'd been serving a suspension that almost got him kicked off the team before that—rumored to be a drinking incident, FWIW—and had only six games to his name before he moved to the USHL's Indiana Ice. In 24 games since the move, Fallon has a 1-8-9 line and is minus six. He's done nothing on the ice this year; off the ice he's raised a bunch of questions.
So… yeah, it's a little weird that Fallon was invited to the NHL combine (Moffatt wasn't), was 50th in the Central Scouting midterm ratings (he fell a bit in the final edition, but not much) and is picking up positive scouting reports as recently as April 1st:
First off, Fallon is quick. He can burn defensemen outside, and if he has a teammate with him, the chances are, they're going to score. Fallon has great hands with which he can make crisp, tape-to-tape passes that set up his teammates with great chances to score. His speed, mixed with his ability to make great passes, draws comparisons to Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane. So, he is definitely highly regarded in the NHL community. Fallon doesn't have the best shot, which can bring his value down, and his below average size, 5'10"/180, also brings his draft value down a bit also. But you really can't argue with his raw ability, it's just that he has developing to do as he gets older and plays in college. He will be a great player someday, he just needs to develop his great potential and he'll be in the NHL someday.
Here's a February report from a different source:
Fallon seems to play and look bigger than 5’10 180. He’s a powerful skater with good balance and he uses his edges well. He is also very strong on the puck whether he is handling it in traffic or if he needs to make a hard pass or dump-in. Fallon played well without the puck and was a very responsible player in all 3 zones as well as a physical presence. At times, he seemed tentative in getting to open ice in the neutral zone….possibly a result of becoming acclimated to his new team. When he had the puck, Fallon possessed another gear and was able to take the puck hard into the zone while protecting it. Fallon certainly looks like a hockey player and stands out with strong techniques in all facets of his game and a player who does the little things well. Whether or not his offensive skills develop will dictate Fallon’s role as a second liner or third liner in college and beyond.
On the other hand, Fallon falls to 37th on College Hockey 247's top 50 list—not bad, but a big dip from being the 50th best skater in North America to the 36th best* headed to college—and WCH trashed Fallon's midterm CSB ranking, declaring he'd be lucky to get drafted at all.
Fallon did have a productive year with the U17s in 2008-09, scoring 15-23-38 in 55 games. He'll probably kick around the second and third lines as a freshman.
*(One goalie, Cornell-bound Andy Iles, is ranked ahead of Fallon.)
Hypothetical 2011 Accelerant. Michigan has three forwards committed for the class of 2011: Lucas Lessio, Derek Deblois, and Alex Guptill. With Czarnik's departure there is a potential opening for one of those guys to end up in the class of 2010. Given the depth chart it's not a necessity; it is a possibility. If it's anyone it will likely be Guptill. There's no buzz around Deblois leaving early. Cedar Rapids play-by-play guy James Stachowiak provides an inside look:
There has not been any talk around here lately about his plans for next year. The way that he has been used it seems as though he is being groomed as a team leader for Cedar Rapids next year. He and Mac Bennett are the only first year guys that the RoughRiders coach has included on his "leadership group".
He has also spent the majority of the season playing on the Riders top line. This line happens to have the teams two leading scoring forwards and many of Derek's points have come either feeding them or cleaning up rebound goals. Derek has not been used much on the powerplay during the second half of the season but has become a very valuable asset on the penalty kill. He has very good speed as most RoughRider forwards do and plays very smart on the kill.
As I said, there has not been much talk about plans for next year with the team getting ready for the playoffs, one thing that may or may not sway a decision is that DeBlois and Bennett are very good friends and have been for a long time, in fact, i believe they have always been on the same team growing up and now in Cedar Rapids, if there's a chance to do that at Michigan next year, it might be enough to convince Derek to move on, however, that is just speculation. I think that he would benefit from another season in the USHL where he is a top scoring option.
Lessio is a 2011 draftee and seems content at St. Mike's. Guptill, on the other hand, is a guy who will get drafted this year, has good size guy, and is currently toiling in Canadian Junior A. If anyone comes early, it will be him.
The left wing here is a guess. The top line is Hagelin, Rust, random assortment of wingers who will change at Red's whim and possibly stop rotating wildly the second half of the season. If Luke Moffatt had torn up the USHL like his hype suggested he would, I would have guessed he goes here by sheer dint of talent. If it turns out he's Brett Hull with crappy linemates he'll probably end up on Hagelin's wing, cackling.
That does not seem in the cards. The tentative guess here is that Chris Brown improves enough from year one to year two to displace Kevin Lynch from his spot on the top line. Brown didn't actually score much more than Lynch at even strength (six and five goals, respectively) but Brown brings a physical element that should help Rust and Hagelin's dangerous cycling and provide either or both targets for goalmouth passes.
Just like the first line, you can pencil in Caporusso and Wohlberg as inviolable components of the second line and pick a name out of a hat when it comes to the third guy. My tentative guess is that whatever faults exist in Moffatt's game he's still likely to be a decently high pick in this year's NHL draft and that talent will translate quickly enough for him to find a place here.
Or something? The bottom six forwards are up in the air. With the addition of Fallon there will be at least one extra body next year, which will push the 49 total games from Ciraulo, Sparks, and Rohrkemper into the press box. The six players left are:
- AJ Treais, a tiny skilled center who needs more strength and speed to become an impact player.
- Fallon, who was discussed above.
- Kevin Lynch, who spent a large chunk of last year as the other guy on the Hagelin-Rust line and was a second-round pick.
- Luke Glendening, who was the other guy on the Wohlberg-Caporusso line and wore an A as a sophomore.
- Ben Winnett, a senior who was the point guy on the PP last year.
Only Scooter is a lock to be a fourth-liner. He established himself a reliable forechecker and penalty killer but with a 2-4-6 in 35 games and a 4.5% shooting percentage he is unlikely to work his way onto a scoring line. The other guys could end up anywhere from the top line to the fourth. As you can see above, I'm guessing the offensive talent of Fallon and Treais will outweigh the seniority of the fourth line.
Winnett was the fourth-liner who Red had the most faith in. Until Glendening took his spot, he moonlighted on the second and third lines; he also spent most of the year driving me crazy on the point on the power play. Hopefully Michigan manages to find someone else at that spot. Winnett still brings a modicum of skill and size the other guys hovering around the end of the roster don't.
Glendening spent most of last year on the second line after Czarnik left and Winnett failed to make a leap forward; dropping him to the fourth line might be excessively harsh but it's hard to see how he doesn't fall out of the top six with Moffatt and Fallon arriving.
Rotating Cast Of Scratches
There's actually an interesting guy at the tail end of the roster: Lindsay Sparks. Sparks lost his role on the fourth line to Jeff Rohrkemper at the end of the year, but for a brief stretch in the middle of the season when Michigan was really struggling he brought a little pop to the lineup. Once he stopped getting on the scoresheet his deficiencies in size and defense couldn't justify his place in the lineup, but he ended with a 4-4-8 in 23 games without much playing time. During his time on the ice he showed better dangles than anyone else on the roster; he's got way higher upside than any of the other guys around here and will be a guy to watch early next season. He might have the skill to play himself into the lineup.
Rohrkemper didn't do much in his 19 games; he's a guy at the end of the lineup who will draw in when injury or the World Juniors deplete the roster.
Will a previously obscure player have a Lebler-like breakout? Over the past few years, Michigan's seen a number of players make significant leaps forward after two or three years in the program. Brian Lebler went from 8 to 16 to 24 points. Travis Turnbull went from 17 points as a sophomore to 27 and 28 as a senior. David Rohlfs spent a productive season on TJ Hensick's wing, going from 2-10-12 to 17-17-34. Jed Ortmeyer went from 24 and 21 points as to 38 and 34.
These leaps tend to come from big, grinding forwards who get to hang out on the wing of Michigan Offensive Star Du Jour. (Lebler's advancement is all the more impressive for being almost entirely self-generated.) Michigan doesn't have a Hensick or Cammalleri next year—Caporusso needs more help to generate his offense than any of those guys—but Carl Hagelin threatens to become a Hobey candidate and led the team with 31 assists. Hagelin ended the year on a playmaking tear with 16 assists in his last 18 games, Michigan could decide to lift Kevin Lynch, who had just 6-10-16 as a freshman and endured a 7.6% shooting percentage, for a player more likely to convert the opportunities a rampant Hagelin leaves in his wake.
The two guys who could potentially benefit from this are not exactly obscure. The player on the roster with the closest resemblance to a coke machine is Chris Brown, whose freshman year ended with a 13-15-28 line and seven power play goals, most of them on deflections and dirty crease mucking. If he can improve his skating enough to stay in the same zone as Hagelin and Rust, he could make a PPG-or-better living on tap-ins. The lumbering senior on the roster is Ben Winnett, who came to Michigan as one of those guys who lit up the BCHL but hasn't gotten off checking lines in three years at M. Red likes to put promising kids in high pressure positions, so I'm guessing we'll see Brown get the call on the Wing of Free Points.
Which Caporusso? Louie Caporusso spent the first half of his junior season on a tear. Over the next year he played like a nondescript third-liner, not a upperclass third-round pick. Then he blew up again. Which one is it? If Michigan's going to continue playing like they did during their run to the NCAA tournament Caporusso is going to have to produce. Not at the level he has during either of his tears—Michigan's forward corps should be way better since they only lose Lebler and add two potential top six guys plus a year of experience for everyone on the team—but he can't revert to the form he showed in his lost year.
Will a skilled midget make a leap? No one is going to mistake AJ Treais or Lindsay Sparks for Mike Comrie, but both flea-sized freshmen had their moments last year. As they adjust to bigger, stronger competition one or the other could turn into a solid playmaking center. In Sparks' case that wouldn't have much impact five on five but he showed enough last year to suggest he might be a useful power play specialist.
Treais, on the other hand, is likely to be the third-line center and could have some skilled wingers like Moffatt, Fallon, and possibly Glendening or Lynch. A dropoff from one of the top two lines could be covered by the third line emerging into the sort of unit that obliterates iffy third pairings in the CCHA.
How awesome is Carl Hagelin going to be? So awesome.
Zeigler: no. This won't be news but anyone who hasn't seen it already should know that Trey Zeigler is headed to Central to play for his dad, which I find a deeply immoral decision that places family above my favorite sports team. In obviously related news, Isaiah Sykes is going to be on campus this weekend. Hopefully his transcripts are not a bloody mess of entrails.
Michigan's also going after Iowa decommit Cody Larson, a 6'9" 230 pound guy with a number of Big Ten schools after him; he could probably contribute more quickly than Jon Horford and his little pencil arms.
Side note: the NCAA has legalized "talking" to recruits when they're hanging around your campus. This is a win for common sense in general and Michigan in particular, since Michigan was guaranteed to be adhering to this rule as strictly as you possibly can and other schools… weren't.
Tate Forcier: mildly dinged. Forcier was spotted in a boot. Angelique Chengelis says it's a minor ankle sprain, the boot is precautionary, and Forcier is expected to practice today. Carry on with your panic about other matters.
You are all geniuses. There is a website that measures the overall stupidity of any particular account's twitter followers. It is called Stupid Fight. It thinks you, the MGoBlog readership, can assemble cars with your minds:
Suck on that, Stephen Hawking. (Also owned: Eleven Warriors, Black Heart Gold Pants, EDSBS, and Doctor Saturday.) When TSB colleague Chris Littman ran a bunch of folks yesterday, MGoBlog came out with a dazzlingly low score of 3. Someone must have posted something about American Idol today. No matter: you are America's only hope.
I’m basing this purely on the drills but Denard looks solid tossing the ball. Ins, outs, slants, deep – anyway you want it. Will be watching to see how he throws into coverage but I’m buying that RR’s got a decision to make next season. … More of what I saw last week, but Gardner’s arm just isn’t on par with Forcier and Robinson right now.
That's based on a couple quick glimpses from the open sections of practice, so take it somewhat lightly but that's another tentative, caveat-laden vote for Robinson. In certain situations.
Meanwhile, Rodriguez is talking up the safeties on the Big Ten conference call:
"What we found more than anything else," he said during his Big Ten teleconference, "was a couple of guys, defensively, in the back end. … I feel better about it now than I did a few weeks ago."
MLive has the whole thing if you want to hear more Gardner panting.
Welcome to 2001. You know, I thought it was weird that the SEC didn't have high definition televisions in their replay booths. How hard is it to get a television in the press box? You tell me. These games are live. Stick a DirecTV dish on top of the stadium and maybe you won't make six soul-crippling errors a season.
DVSport, Inc., the leader in state-of-the-art high definition (HD) sports replay technology, announced today its new contract with the Big Ten Conference to upgrade all DVSport Standard Definition (SD) replay systems in the Big Ten to DVSport HD Replay™ systems for the start of the 2010 football season. As part of the agreement, DVSport will also provide its SD replay systems to the Mid-American Conference (MAC).
Guh. It's not like this is important to anyone.
Patience? Anyone? I'm about ready to proclaim any and all former players' opinions of Rich Rodriguez to be not worth bothering with, whether they're good or bad. A couple of old Michigan players have knocked Rodriguez in the past couple days, and it annoys me. Amani Toomer:
I don’t think the spread offense has worked that well in the Big Ten. I think Ohio State runs a version of it successfully, but not the straight zone read of Rich Rodriguez. One problem I have with Rich Rodriguez is this. He comes into a situation and he tries to put his system in. And I always thought the main point about being a coach, was going into a situation, seeing the players you have, and adjusting your system to your players to fit the talent. That’s what Lou Holtz was good at, but he comes in there and tries to adjust the players to his system. And to me that is not a sign of a good coach
Toomer had issues with Lloyd Carr for whatever reason. He just beefs with everyone. Someone send him a link to The Golden Age of Tin and a valium. There is so much wrong in that statement that I've already shot down; I'm tired of it. But I do love this radio guys' follow up to Toomer's comment:
That year with Chad Henne, Mike Hart, Jake Long, players that you would kill for to run a pro offense. There are so few schools that can get those guys. But to go against those principles and make the system easier on the lineman and not utilize the tremendous wide receiver talent that you guys have had at Michigan just boggles my mind.
Behold the stunning ignorance of the average talk radio robot: Henne, Hart, and Long were gone. So were Adrian Arrington and Mario Manningham. The offensive line in 2008 was a wonky mish-mash with maybe seven halfway plausible bodies, one of whom was a guard that had been a defensive linemen just weeks before the season. I don't know why I bother disputing this stuff. It's self-evidently not the work of someone who cares whether he sounds like an idiot or not.
Meanwhile, Dhani Jones "blasted" Rich Rodriguez on Jim Rome:
"I'm not cool with him. I'm at my wits end right now. I mean, you can't come in and explain that you're going to do all this, and then your first year? Terrible. Second year? Alright -- but then terrible. You have to be able to change something if you're really going to make a statement. You have to do it within the first two years, and this is his third."
If you're inclined you can annoy the moderator at Jones's "livechat" on Saturday with questions about why he can't have a little patience that won't get through.
None of this helps. Dave Brandon is an adult and won't be swayed by talk radio, so all speaking out like that does is provide another PR hit against the program. It's juvenile. Suck it up and wait until this year is over.
Michigan Hockey Summer came early. For those unfamiliar, "Michigan Hockey Summer" refers to the hockey team's uncanny ability to have painful, unexpected departures in between the end of one season and the beginning of the next. Michigan sort of had its MHS midseason, when Robbie Czarnik left and Jack Campbell didn't sign over the course of a week. Having already paid their debt to the hockey gods, it sounds like Michigan will escape this summer unscathed. An AnnArbor.com article on Carl Hagelin and Louie Caporusso certainly seems to kill any idea either would sign:
"We want to be the leaders on this team and we want to lead our team to the championship," Caporusso said this week. "We're going to take that responsibility and we're fine with that. That's the position you want to be in. You want people to count on you.
"That's pressure, but pressure leads to excitement."
If those guys come back, which sounds more than likely, the next most likely guy to go is Brandon Burlon, a Devils draftee, and Chris Brown, a Coyotes draftee. Neither is likely to go given those franchises' history with collegians.
Knock on wood, salt, ladder, etc.
Missed an "in before" opportunity. WCH took in the OHL 1 vs 2 matchup in Plymouth en route to the Frozen Four and commented that he didn't think the level of play was particularly high and that an OHL team would probably fare about as well as the USNTDP against college opponents, and I thought "how long before some nearly illiterate CHL fan calls WCH a 'looser'?" Turns out it's approximately eight hours, most of which came between 1 and 8 AM:
You are so full of s--- it scares me…….most OHL teams would hammer the usa u 18 team,Id like to see them play the Windsor,Barrie,Missy,Kitchner,
What is it with major junior that makes defenders so pissy? Whenever I bring up something like "the USHL is on par by the numbers" or "the CHL education package is basically a scam" I get a number of emails in the inbox that amount to long-winded nuh-uhs with zero supporting evidence. It's vastly out of proportion given the tiny number of people who care about hockey period, let alone college and major junior.
Etc.: The Mathlete breaks out the most valuable defensive players last year. Surprise! Brandon Graham is a landslide #1. RVB is the top returner. GQ asks "Do Football Writers Really Know Their Xs and Os?" Attn GQ: no. I don't know my Xs and Os that well and I've been trying for five years.
Bork. Daily photostream.
Currently in Fort Wayne and about to go explore the wonders of central Indiana—as indicated by my mysterious tweet, the War Memorial Coliseum is hosting the Indiana Alpaca Invitational next weekend, which I would totally go to if it was in Jackson.
Bork! Good thing the enormous Swedish flag made it out here. It would have been a shame not to have it during the few minutes in the third when Hagelin took over and turned the game from terror incarnate into a pleasant victory. It was retroactively weird to watch Hagelin wind up on his own blue line and think "this can be a breakaway" when two Beaver defensemen were a good twenty feet in front of him, but that's exactly what happened. There were a couple other shifts when he was just flying all over the ice. He's equaled Ortmeyer in my book.
Apparently he's a lock to come back next year, which is good. Not getting a senior year out of him would be heartbreaking.
Ice conditions: wack. Apparently the Miami players laid into the ice quality at their postgame press conference and in the stands you could tell something was wrong by the number of people plain falling over. At first these were mostly UAH players and given the rest of their play it was within the realm of possibility that their skating just included a lot of falling over, but when a bunch of Miami players got in on it that was proof enough. In the second game it seemed a little better but not much.
Refereeing: thoroughly wack. My favorite was the crosschecking call when a BSU guy was on a partial break and no one on Michigan could have cross-checked the guy if they had go go gadget arms, but the chintzy roughing penalties paired with an uncalled boarding on BSU that could have been five were second. Third was Hagelin getting two for getting hit after the whistle. He's Swedish, man.
This John Gravallese guy is one of those refs who makes his calls like he's bringing Truth and Justice to hockey. Just make the calls like a robot, thanks. This goes double when the calls in question are questionable to outrageous.
Hunwick: !!!. I thought "that's a goal" like four times in that game and Hunwick made three saves (the other whistled over the net), most of them impressively agile reactions to rebounds or passes. That was an excellent game, and not "for a walk-on." There was even a significant reduction in the number of shots kicked into the slot to linger and terrify.
Turnovers: guh. I didn't really mind Llewellyn's penalty since it seemed to be one of those that get called for hitting a guy too hard, but he was the culprit on a couple of late-game turnovers that would be considerably worse if they happened against Carter Camper. Burlon was the other guy who seemed to struggle. He let a BSU guy wide on their first real scoring chance and Hunwick had to make two quick saves in succession. No one should ever get around a guy who skates like Burlon.
Miami: flat? I don't know. They dominated according to shots and play but they didn't score an even-strength goal against a bad team, only got their second PP goal because of some hilariously bad play from the UAH goalie, and didn't seem to have a huge territorial advantage at 5x5 after the first ten minutes. Miami resistance in the neutral zone was minimal in the second and third during the brief stretches UAH wasn't killing a stupid penalty. Maybe that was a strategic move… but their performance didn't make me think the CCHA semi was a fluke.
Not that I expect 5-1, Temporarily Benevolent Michigan Walk-on Tolerating God. I'm just saying that I don't expect the ice to be slanted much either way and this is way more of a coinflip than you'd think given the season-long metrics on both teams.
NCAA: lol. There are video boards at the arena. They never show replays of anything.
Fitness? The Miami game was at least close enough that the Redhawks couldn't take the third period off, but I'm slightly worried that all those penalty kills will take their toll. At points late in the second Michigan looked really tired and the fourth line took considerably more shifts than I expected in a game with an extra 2:30 of commercials every period. A lot of people were complaining about fourth lines being nonexistent with the extensive TV timeouts, but Michigan's took a regular shift. Diabolical plot to be fresher today or penalty-kill-induced damage mitigation?
Atmosphere: meh. I really like the War Memorial Coliseum, as it's one of those buildings where the seats go straight up and the sight lines are great, but announced attendance yesterday was 4k. I can't wait to see the dozens of people who make the trek out to St. Louis next year.
It's time to go to home sites for top seeds. As I was flicking through the channels on Friday to see what ESPN2 was televising instead of NMU-SCSU in overtime, I struck upon a Division II women's basketball game between Emporia State and Fort Lewis. It was packed out. It was in a 2,300 seat arena. It had way better atmosphere than frickin' Albany. The Frozen Four can fill an NHL building. The regionals obviously can't.
The NCAA should got to a system where schools submit bids at whatever arenas they want as long as they meet certain standards and the top seed in each regional to submit a bid that meets approval gets it. This avoids the "what if Huntsville gets a one-seed" problem.
Please win tonight. K thx.
3/19/2010 – Michigan 5, Miami 2 – 24-17-1
3/20/2010 – Michigan 2, Northern Michigan 1 – 25-17-1, CCHA
One. When I was in high school my AP English research paper was a no doubt ham-fisted comparison between Winesburg, Ohio and Bridge of San Luis Rey. I don't remember the former whatsoever, but the latter is a novel by Thornton Wilder in which a selection of lovelorn 18th century Peruvians pitch headlong to their deaths when the rope bridge they are crossing gives way.
This event fascinates a local monk who sees the tragedy happen. He tracks down the life stories of everyone involved and concludes this was merciful act of God since each victim suffered from a love so powerful and unrequited that the last thoughts of the victims was probably something a long the lines of "yay it's over yay yay yayyyyyyy—."
For the monk's troubles, the Inquisition burns him at the stake. He was looking for proof of a just and loving God, which is heretical when you're supposed to take that on faith.
Two. At some point in a gas station or at Meijer or some other place where bad or obscure movies are put on sale for five dollars, I happened across a movie version of Bridge of San Luis Rey. I still remembered the book. Inexplicably, the movie starred Gabriel Byrne, Kathy Bates, and Robert DeNiro(!). I was obviously compelled to purchase it. This did not extend to actually watching it.
Three. My satellite setup is shared with the landlord and sometimes when we want to watch TV he is instead taping every procedural crime drama or nature documentary set in the Far East on television. Yesterday in the afternoon it was Wild China. So my fiancée put on this movie.
Four. The reason we were stymied by Wild China instead of watching the NCAA tournament in Vegas was because Spirit Airlines, which sucks immensely, oversold our flight to Las Vegas and bumped us. This sent me into a rage, destroyed the cost-benefit ratio of going, saw us cancel the trip entirely, and caused me to spend Thursday sulking like a five year old.
Five. On Friday I went to a hockey game. Saturday, too.
The number of Michigan fans that would gladly have seen their sports fandom pitch headlong to its doom has to be hovering near its all-time high right now. You can't voluntarily abandon it because suicide is a sin but, man, that bridge is looking pretty rickety and maybe if I just take all these things I care about and put them on the bridge and go attend to cargo down by the river I'll come back to find no trace of them and I can go be interested in crochet. There's no such thing as unrequited crochet.
As reactions to this year of Michigan sports go, turning off the hope and settling down into a prolonged malaise is obvious. I was planning some sort of gallows-humor-laden celebration when the three major sports seasons had finally expired and kind of hoping the hockey team would gack it up against Lake State just so it would over sooner. This was always hypothetical. Once the team got on the ice I was pulling for them, but without much fervor and with an eye on the silver lining if they did what they'd been doing all season. I was thinking about a mock funeral.
Then… that happened.
Putting the spurs to Lake Superior State was one thing, as they were a tenth-place team with some fatal flaw that made Michigan's numerous fatal flaws irrelevant. A dominant sweep was a rare occurrence for Michigan this year, but it could be explained away. Following that by stomping Michigan State in a series that redefined both teams' seasons lit a tiny little flame, though. When Tristin Llewellyn (of all people!) blasted a puck past Cody Reichard, it was on: the terror of a high-stakes game you are fully invested in. It had been a long time since one of those went the right way.
Something did flip on this team when Shawn Hunwick was forced into the starting lineup. The relentless defensive intensity from Hunwick's first game, when he saw maybe two shots with any hope of going in, has been a constant feature since his insertion. That's equal parts insult and tribute: the team both needs and wants to protect their miniscule walk-on goaltender. In doing so they've found the formula for success that eluded them so painfully the throughout the season and given Michigan fans reason to believe in heretical things like Benevolent Michigan Walk-On Tolerating God.
I guarantee you this: no group of people has ever been as excited about Fort Wayne, Indiana, as Michigan hockey fans are right now.
Yost Built is doing a round of apologies in the aftermath and I have a couple to offer up of my own:
Tristin Llewellyn not only scored but avoided any penalties that meant something (he took one with a few seconds left in a 5-2 game against Miami) and failed do anything that made me mentally exclaim "Llewellyn!" in the same tone of voice Jerry Seinfeld says "Newman!"
That latter is the way I usually judge individual defense: number of "Newman!" plays where someone's obvious error leads to a scoring chance versus number of anti-Newmans where something that looks threatening is snuffed out by a good play. (I know this is far from a complete evaluation but it's the best I can do live.) Llewellyn had a half Newman early in the Northern game when he came up too aggressively as NMU broke the zone, but he had backcheckers and nothing came of it. He had two or three anti-Newman plays against Miami, which is That Miami. Best weekend of his career? Probably.
Louie Caporusso came in for repeated criticism this year as he and David Wohlberg failed to even approximate their 2009 production. At a couple points I suggested that this was the real Caporusso, a decent second-liner and nothing more, and that the blazing hot start to his sophomore year was the aberration. Yeah… Caporusso is now two points off a PPG. Yost Built has details:
When Caporusso was a Hobey-finalist a year ago, he had 24-25--49, but scored just six goals after the first of the year--and five of those were against LSSU, WMU, and a dreadful FYS team. This year it's the opposite. After just 7 goals in his first 30 games, Caporusso has now ripped off 13 goals and 20 points in the last 13, which includes five multi-goal games and a playmaker. He also hasn't gone consecutive games without a point this calendar year.
Theory as to what happened: Caporusso's okay but not great at stickhandling, crazy Hensick goal against Michigan State nonwithstanding, and he spent large chunks of the year attempting to do everything himself. This resulted in a lot of lost possession and not much else. When the team picked up its play, Caporusso had more faith in his teammates to get him the puck in dangerous areas, which has shifted the focus of his game from his stickhandling to his lethal wrister and ability to get open in dangerous areas. Both of Caporusso's goals against Northern resulted from that, as did the shot that zinged off the inside of the post immediately before his second.
Shawn Hunwick. By the third period of the Northern game, Shawn Hunwick-specific terror had dissipated and was replaced by a slightly lower-level General Oh My God panic. His team is helping him out immensely, but after eight full games his save percentage is .912. I admit that I'm still waiting for the other shoe to drop here, but at this point you have to let it ride.
- At no point have I said anything about Carl Hagelin that would require an apology, but I should probably mention that if either of his linemates takes a step forward or they throw an offensive-minded player on his wing, his points could blow up next year to the point where he's a serious Hobey contender. There are only six players who 1) have more points than Hagelin this year, 2) play in a Big Four conference, and 3) can return next year. A couple of those guys play for RPI and UMass, teams that aren't likely to be good enough to get their guys into the Hobey top three, and none of them can possibly be as spectacular two-way players as Hagelin. The big problem is fellow Swede Gustav Nyquist, a sophomore for Maine who has 61 points.
Hoo boy did I hate a number of calls this weekend. I did not see the Miami guy clock Wohlberg into the boards and can't offer an opinion on whether that was two or five. I did think Glendening was done as soon as that hit was delivered, FWIW.
However, how the hell does a Northern guy plow Michigan's Happy Meal toy of a goalie without so much as a shove and not get a goal interference or charging call? How does the Miami game turn into a throwback where penalties are only called when there's bone showing?
Also, I've seen this call often enough to assume that it's actually the correct call but it's immoral: when a defenseman (Steve Kampfer in this case) lays an open-ice check on a guy who's about to receive a pass and that guy has just whiffed on a puck he could easily have touched, that gets called as interference. That drives me crazy. It should be like the NFL rule. If the defender gets there after the pass has gone through a small area around you it's a good play.
- I still don't understand why Winnett is playing the point on the power play. Michigan has Langlais, Kampfer, Burlon, and either Summers or Moffie available on defense. Three of those guys have more points than Winnett; Burlon is equal with him and Moffie is just two back despite playing only 29 games. Some of those guys aren't spectacular defensively but I'm betting they're all more comfortable there than Winnett. Winnett's a fourth line forward on a team with a ton of offensive defensemen. I don't get his usage there at all. Last weekend he shot numerous pucks into defenders and set up a couple shorthanded chances for the opposition.
- Scooter got pulled up onto the third line when Glendening went out and did well; in the third period I don't think the fourth line got more than a shift. I don't think he'll move up in the pecking order since Michigan is adding at least one more forward than they lose (this perhaps foolishly assumes no NHL departures) but I'd be comfortable with him as an energy guy wherever he ends up.
Daily story and gallery. Also a CHN article, attention from Puck Daddy, AnnArbor.com coverage Rivals promises "Swedish trash talk" in a Hagelin interview. 2011 recruit Lucas Lessio is projected as a first-round NHL draft pick. The Wolverine Blog on the game.
Michigan P Zoltan Mesko ruined the punt return drills by being unable to kick the ball far enough to allow a return more often than not (my rough count was 2 returnable out of 7), and his kicks consistently bounce backwards or straight sideways.
I'm sure this person meant to say Mesko ruined the drills by punting the ball into low Earth orbit. Either that or Jeff Risdon—if that is his real name—of RealGM is a compulsive liar who lies. These are the only two options.
That goes for you, too, "Chad Reuter":
This year's class of specialists is not very strong, and Michigan's Zoltan Mesko has been rated as the top punter on the board most of the year. However, his punts have lacked height and spirals, rarely turning over to gain maximum hang time and distance. He'll need a strong game performance to regain the confidence of scouts.
During the game on Saturday, Mesko will shank a punt that nails both of these fellows in the head.
Yost Hall of Fame. You know the monster Swedish flag that's taken up residence in Yost?
Yeah… it's homemade. Engineering sophomore Rob Eckert's mother is a hero of the people:
“I asked my mom around Christmas time when I saw her if I could borrow her sewing machine," Eckert said. "She was like ‘What are you making?’ I (told) her I was making a Swedish flag, a big one. And my Mom made it for me for my Christmas present.”
I assumed that someone had purchased it off EBay or something, but it was a modern-day Betsy Ross. Someone get her a medal.
Expansion bits. Nominal Chicagoland/Illinois sports blog "Frank the Tank's Slant" has turned into an all-Big-Ten-Expansion-all-the-time sort of place, and it continues its long-running series with an analysis of the main thing: money. The Slant is a weird combo of useful information and totally bats conclusions like "Pitt is a ridiculous idea" and "a 14-team conference is worth spending 1000 words discussing."
I think the bats conclusions come from an excessive focus on money and only money. Pitt doesn't expand the BTN footprint but does make sense in a zillion other ways from academics to providing Penn State an actual rival to geography. A 14 team conference might make more money on average but is a nightmare on the field. Money is important—it's one of the many reasons Iowa State is not a candidate—but it's not everything.
Elsewhere, evidence that Missouri will give the Big Ten a good hard look continues to mount with a KC Star article on Mizzou's willingness to make a move. The main issues are Mizzou's century-long membership in the MVC/Big 8/Big 12 and the hit the Tigers would take in Texas, one of their main recruiting hotbeds, when they don't make regular trips to Tech, A&M, etc.
As always, it's dolla dolla bill ya'll making the most compelling case in favor:
“Illinois and Indiana will make $9 million more from its televisions contracts this year,” Alden said. “Arkansas and Mississippi will make even more. That’s our comparison. In five years, they’ll have generated almost $50 million more than us without selling a ticket.”
If Mizzou is willing to go, I think the additional markets they bring outweigh Pitt's superiority in basketball and academics.
You find a playlist 100,000 people can agree on, we talk. Maize n Brew Dave makes a case for improving the Michigan game day experience re: piped in music. My solution is simple: find Special K and have him transfer to Michigan State. His solution is removing stuff like "Lose Yourself" and "Don't Stop Believing" because while he likes piped in music "only when it's good." He suggests this playlist instead:
Guns n Roses: Paradise City, Nitetrain, Welcome to the Jungle
Motley Crue: Kickstart My Heart, Dr. Feelgood
AC/DC: Thunderstruck, Back in Black, Shoot To Thrill, Highway to Hell, Hells Bells (Defense only), Rock n Roll Train
Motorhead: Ace of Spades
Quiet Riot: Metal Health (opening scream only)
Metallica: Enter Sandman (Defense only)
KISS: Detroit Rock City
Problem: all this music sucks so hard. It's generic. It's played out. It's being RAWKED at an ECHL arena right now. And oh my god:
So how bout "Breakin the Law" by Judas Priest for penalties? "Why can't we be friends" for personal fouls? "Mama's little helper" when the refs screws us? "Sympathy for the Devil" when Tressel's around? "Play that Funky Music White Boy" for Tate Forcier and the "Speed Racer" Theme for Denard Robinson? This stuff isn't rocket sciene.
Dave is Special K. I can (barely) tolerate Don't Stop Believin'. When Special K plays Bob Seger at ear-splitting volume during a critical review I want to die. If he started making stupid little jokes about on-field events when I am on the verge of a panic attack it would make me want to stay home and that would make me feel terrible. The arrow on this points exactly one way: Joe Louis.
Dave makes this argument for piped in music:
The best example I can give is the Jagr-led Washington Capitals* … whose PA dude put together the most awesome montage-collages of heavy metal/death rock this pathetic planet has ever known. That Caps intro would melt your face right into your beer cup. … They knew their target audience and they fed it guitar heavy ROK like you'd feed makrel to a trained seal. We ate it up.
So… let's think about knowing your audience. At Michigan Stadium you have a vast variety of Michigan fans, students, and alums ranging from 18 to 80. Maybe 5% of them grew up driving a Camaro and rocking a rat-tail. "Knowing your audience" this is not. Keep the eighth-grade sense of humor ("boners!") and your 1985 hair metal where it belongs—everywhere else on the planet—, please, and let's go back to the things Michigan fans can actually agree on: Temptation, War Chant, Let's Go Blue, The Victors.
The thing that bothers me is that I really loathe the piped in music and, from the reactions I've gotten it seems like a lot of people do. For the people who hate it, the music ruins one of the few pristine sporting events luddites have left. For people who like it, it's just another opportunity to hear the same fifteen seconds of that one song you hear fifteen seconds of everywhere else. The cost to one group greatly exceeds the benefit to the other.
Rooting interest. I admit that I have no plans to watch ice dancing no matter what personal connection I have to it—I could be actively participating in a routine and be screaming "SWEEP" at my slingbox-enhanced smartphone—but others might be less curling-obsessed so it's worth mentioning that two current Michigan students are the sequined Brandon Graham and slightly-less-sequined-but-still-pretty-damn-sequined Brandon Graham of ice dancing. They are Meryl Davis and Charlie White:
White and Davis, both native Metro Detroiters, are University of Michigan students and die-hard Wolverine sports fans.
They're about to become very famous, as they head into the Olympics as the No. 1-ranked ice dancers in the world. White, a sophomore who has not chosen a major yet, and Davis, a junior in cultural anthropology, could become the most famous Michigan students in the Olympics since star swimmer Michael Phelps.
That's pretty remarkable. This bit goes beyond remarkable into the bizarre, though: the third-place team at nationals, and therefore the third Olympic qualifier, consists of fellow Michigan students Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates. Four of the six competitors for the US at the Olympic ice dancing competition will be Michigan undergraduates. Bates and White are freakin' housemates. I bet one dollar the four hit the ice at Yost during an intermission sometime before the year is out.
So, yeah, Tanith Belbin and Anonymous Partner can fall in a ditch. I want big, sequined block Ms on the medal podium.
Ask Vlad Emilien anything! Seriously. However, he will sometimes answer incorrectly:
Who wins: Mike Barwis or Chuck Norris?
i dont really know maybe chuck norris
Has Barwis ever brought his wolves to workouts?
There's a couple of interesting responses, though. Molk is the "strongest, hardest working" player on the team, and this oddly grammatical question shoots down the idea that a lingering knee injury kept Emilien off the field:
Hey Vlad, Just curious, did a lingering injury keep you off the field last year? Did it affect your play? A lot of us expected to see more of you and that was the rumor. I'm looking forward to seeing you play next year. Thanks for making Blue proud!
to be honest i dont know why i wasnt playing... my coach told me he felt i wasnt ready yet
Sammi Sweatheart or Jwoww?
who is these people lol
So there you go.
1/8/2010 – Michigan 4, Western Michigan 3 – 11-10, 6-7 CCHA
1/9/2010 – Michigan 6, Western Michigan 1 – 12-10, 7-7 CCHA
So. For the first time since November—when they swept the Showcase—and the second since October—when they swept Lake Superior—Michigan has come out of a weekend of hockey having inched closer to an NCAA tournament bid.
The emphasis should be on "inch." Western Michigan is one of two terrible teams in the CCHA, currently tied with Bowling Green with ten points, eight behind a great messy pack of basically .500 teams stretching from 10th place Northern Michigan to 4th place Alaska. Michigan doesn't need to win 82 percent of its remaining games to have a good shot at an at-large bid… they need to win 80. There is still a very long way to go. But this is a Michigan team that's handed Bowling Green one of their three wins on the year. Any fully deserved 6-1 win is a step in the right direction.
Yes, Michigan had their a requisite terrible breakdown when Steve Kampfer stepped up to check one of the Broncos and came up with air. Yes, this lead to the usual good scoring chance on which you can't exactly blame Hogan for the goal even if you'd like to try. And yes, there was the usual array of dumb penalties. This time the feature was deserved five-and-a-game for boarding to Lee Moffie.
If those were the only problems the team had, though, this would be just another year of questionable defensive decisions and frustrating penalties that melt from your memory in the aftermath of territorial superiority, crazy goals and Hobey Baker candidates. Red Berenson's teams have taken lots of bad penalties and made lots of bad decisions on defense for as long as I've been watching Michigan play, and no one's cared much because the other end of the ice looks like those nuts in Texas having Christmas.
Michigan is lacking in Trans-Siberian Orchestra-worthy flash this year and currently idle 23rd—barely better than average in a 58-team D-I—in scoring offense. That, and maybe some terrible luck, have been the problem. Would you believe that Michigan is 9th in scoring defense? You probably don't. Scroll down. They are.
I think Red coaches his charges to assume their superiority and play like the hockey equivalent of last year's Oklahoma Sooner's squad: fast and lethal, with lots of opportunities each way. The assumption is that increasing the number of opportunities for each team to show their quality will benefit Michigan. Too many times this year the plan has worked just fine except for the part where the shots on goal become shots in the goal. The aggression has led to a lot of B-grade chances either way. Michigan doesn't have the skill to finish those, or the goalie to stop them.
On Saturday, Michigan looked like you'd expect a Michigan hockey team to look against Western Michigan. Sometimes if you squint your eyes and Carl Hagelin is on the ice—all over the ice—it's possible to see the hazy outline of the team that earned a #1 seed in the tournament last year instead of the one that peppered the Air Force goalie to zero effect while kicking off kick off the most random tournament ever played.
If they can do that the next two weekends against steadily increasing competition from Alaska and Ferris State, then it might be time to dust off the hopes everyone stuffed in the basement and told to shut up after that Bowling Green game.
- Tristin Llewellyn continues his vacation on the bench, which is probably for the best. I'd have to start assuming I just knew zero about hockey if he kept seeing time. Moffie might get a rest for next weekend after his major, though.
- Also: Brandon Burlon (I think) had one of the outright dumbest penalties I've seen at Yost when he was coming off the ice and checked the hell out of a Western player on the way. He was killing the Moffie major and was a fifth guy on the ice: hello too many men. Hello 5-on-3 for two minutes. Western didn't score, but that was pretty nervy. (For the record, I still think Mike Komisarek grabbing a puck and throwing out of the defensive zone is worse. One: that was an NCAA tournament game at Yost. Two: the opponent (SCSU, I think) scored on their 5-on-3. Three: Komisarek could have dropped it and used that stick thing they give the players.
- Moffie was livid after said major, angrily jawing with any official who came within 10 feet of him. He would have gotten a misconduct if he wasn't already being shown the gate. Bonus points to the off-ice official who kept the door to the Michigan locker room open long enough for Moffie to turn around and scream several more indeterminate things before finally disappearing.
- A friend of mine thinks AJ Treais has a huge tell: he lifts his left leg before he starts doing fancy stuff. That makes his stuff less fancy.
- About halfway through the last game, Berenson put his lines in a blender, looking for any combinations that seemed to work. It's clear at this point that the #1 line is whichever one Hagelin is on, and his partnership with Rust puts a ton of pressure on opponents trying to break out of the zone.
- Caporusso's tendency to shoot through four opposing players was actually fairly effective against Western, but for the bulk of the year it's just resulted in lost possession. Against better opponents I fear we'll see a return to form.
- No offense to Ben Winnett, but the fact that Red has put him at the point on the power play is symptomatic of the lack of star power on this year's team. Previous forwards on the point have been guys like Hensick or Cammalleri, real hockey ninja types. SAT analogy time: Winnett : Michigan PP point :: Chauncey Billups : NBA finals MVP.
- Sparks is the winner of the fourth-line-walk-on-be-Danny-Fardig battle; he and Glendening are getting serious amounts of time now. Sparks has been playing on the power play—another symptom—and Glendening was Red's second choice on the Moffie major after Hagelin.