[KIDS: IF YOU READ THIS POST YOU WILL BE EXPOSED TO SWEARS AND PROBABLY DIE]
I had only stayed because I had come up with a fun game for myself: see how long it would take Michigan to get a shot in a third period where they trailed Bowling Green 4-1. So I was there when BGSU kept Michigan pinned in their own zone for about two minutes and finally slipped one five-hole on Racine. And I was there for The Shot, which happened with about 15:30 gone. 15:30.
Since there were four minutes left in the game I figured I might as well stick around to pick up a hockey version of the Fandom Endurance III badge. I'd long since disconnected from any emotion save extreme hipster irony, so like whatever man. But this team does still have the ability to pull emotion out of me.
With a minute and a half left, a Bowling Green player went low on Mac Bennett, dangerously so. His body went directly into Bennett's knee, and Bennett crumpled to the ground holding it. It looked bad, ACL bad.
I remember Ferris lighting up a Michigan player who I can't recall right now so badly that the entire arena was baying for blood. I remember Travis Turnbull losing his shit after a period and getting kicked out. I remember Bobby Hayes. I remember Bob Gassoff, who shouldn't have been issued a stick and is now a Navy SEAL. All of these men were mean. They ascribed to the hockey code where any offense, no matter how slight, is reason to do some meaningless shoving and maybe facewash a guy. There is a code, and in its simplest form it is "don't go after a goalie or anyone's knee, ever."
A guy who caused a major injury in a game already decided would have spurred a line-brawl with any of these people. It should spur a line brawl. It should do something. Anything. Michigan shrugged and went back to its bench.
That was it for me. I found out there was one last emotion this crew could pull out of me: pure rage at them.
This hockey team with eleven drafted players got outshot 34-20 by Bowling Green, with zero. I'm not sure BG has more than four players taller than six-foot. 5'10" BGSU freshman Dajon Mingo—from Canton, so sadly not related to Barkevious—was the most interesting player on the ice. They have blown the tourney streak already, in early January, and they can't even be bothered to defend a guy wearing an A on his jersey. Not one of them gave a shit, and while a few—Trouba, Merrill, Copp, Hyman, maybe a few others—do actually look like they are trying and improving, as a group this is a leaderless crew that doesn't backcheck and gets outskated by team after team with a tenth of the talent they have. Every game is a new way to be infuriated.
So whatever. I'm done. I'm not writing another word about this hockey team, because all the stuff I put down I have to delete lest the athletic department, readers, PETA, and local law enforcement become alarmed. What a shame it would be to waste time on these [delete] [revise] [delete again] fellows when the basketball team is such a joy.
Before I go, three things.
One: several years back a friend and I got dinner before a game against Notre Dame, then in their year-one resurrection under Jeff Jackson. We noticed a crew of folk decked out in ND gear who were obviously parents, and asked them how Jackson had effected such a turnaround with almost literally the same set of players his predecessor had led to the bottom of the league.
They said that Jackson had challenged them when they had come in: they could either be the losers they were, or they could work their asses off. And that was it.
Shand: You haven’t seen fuckin’ Red after a loss. There’s actually a story in John Bacon’s book Blue Ice. We’re up in Sault Ste Marie, and we’re playing Lake State. I think the previous 27 times we’d played them we beat them twice. This was 90-91. Lake State were defending national champions. They were big, physical and they’d bang the shit out of you, especially in their own building. I think we lost 10-0.
It’s just Red and I up there–Mel’s on a recruiting trip. I thought Red was going to fucking explode. He comes into the locker room, throws shit around and he goes, “That was unbelievable. You guys are wimps and fucking pussies. You’ve got no fuckin’ guts and no fucking balls.” He stomps out of the locker room. I’m the assistant coach so I follow him out.
So the team’s getting on the bus to get back to the hotel, it’s about three miles from the rink and it’s 25 below zero. As the team’s getting on the bus Red goes, “I ain’t fuckin’ riding with those losers.” So we walk back from the hotel in a snow storm, at 25 below zero, I’ve got Italian loafers that I bought when I was in Europe. They were $250 shoes, they were ruined. I get back to the hotel and just throw the shoes in the garbage because they’re done. I had to go back to my room and run a tub of hot water because I thought I was going to get frostbite.
So Red calls and tells me to come down, he’s got the tape from the game. We looked at the tape ‘til 6 o’clock, 7 o’clock in the morning. For six hours, broke down everything. We have the morning skate, Red doesn’t say a fucking word. We have the pregame meal, normally we have a meeting right after. Red comes in, he goes, “If you are men, and I mean men…with balls and a fucking cock and some sense of yourself…then you will fucking play tonight.” He turned around and walked out of the room. We won 4-3 in overtime. It was unbelievable. The bus ride back from the Sault was like 20 minutes. Talk about people who hate to lose.
Three: Before I wrenched the radio dial down to silence yesterday, I heard Bill Trainor delicately ask Red what had happened. Red said some stuff about getting poor goaltending early and being "snakebit" in the third. Seriously. He seemed as placid as ever.
I don't know, man. Maybe he got in that locker room and ripped each and every one of them from top to bottom, Mark Mangino style. Maybe. If he did it's clear no one in this locker room is listening.
UPDATE: I forgot to link Yost Built's recap if you want more detail on the debacle. My favorite was the goal where two BGSU players were at the goalmouth without even one guy trying to check them.
2. BGSU's 3rd period goal was indicative. Michigan lost about 5 individual battles in a row. They did not win any 50-50 pucks on the night. They were out worked.
3. The hit on Bennet:
A. Play continued for a while. There was ample opportunity for someone on the team to stand up for him. No one did.
B. What shocked me wasn't just how no one went after the guy who hit him... but also how no teammate went to him after the whistle was blown. He lay there writhing until the trainer got down to him. Not one teammate came over. Teammates usually come over to check, carry a stick, helmet or gloves for the guy, be with him until the trainers get there. There was nothing.
You know how when you watch basketball you can tell if teams care? Especailly in the NBA, a guy gets knocked down, coaches talk about how you want to see all 4 other guys running to help him up. With bad NBA teams, no one goes over to the guy.
Michigan Hockey is playing with all the gumption of a bad NBA team right now.
"Over? Did you say, over? Nothing is over until we decide it is!"
I invited Coach Harbaugh to my wedding. He did not attend.
When I read Brian's original post, and now yours, both times the first thought that came to my mind was that there is an internal rift on this team that has to do with leadership, either lack thereof or not liking the leaders.
I flipped back over to the game last night BG had another goal on the board. Same thing happened the last game I tried to pay attention too vs Northern. Makes me greatful the Wings are coming back. Because that sad excuse for Michigan hockey just upsets me. Idk if it's that Red is getting too old, or his message is too stale, but we have way too much talent on the ice for this season to be going the way it is.
I turned on the game last night on the BTN and thought how great it was to have the BTN and to be able to see Michigan Hockey in HD even though I'm no where near Ann Arbor. For a moment, it almost made it worthwhile to have Rutgers and Maryland in the B10.
Halfway through the second period, I was sad that the BTN exists. What an awful game and an awful team.
Thanks for the update. I finally recored a game on the DVR but will delete instead of watching it with the kids. No need for them to see this. I've been wondering what is the deal with the ice hockey team this year. Kind of feels like Oregon after The Horror..
It's been strictly verboten in Michigan hockey circles to call Red into question, well, just about since the beginning of time. You don't do it, you don't hint you want to do it. You just blindly assume that if The Unit is behind the bench (blazer, sweater, shirt, tie, stoic expression), things are probably better than you think they are.
Yet for over a decade now, we've watched Michigan teams go into tournaments looking like world-beaters, then head home on Friday night of the regional, or blow it in such spectacular fashion you can't help but wonder what the hell these guys were thinking. We've watched teams sleepwalk through October through December, then decide it's time to play like they're supposed to. We've seen guys who don't seem to give a shit they're playing for Michigan, a far cry from guys like Brendan Morrison and Bubba Berenzweig and Billy Muckalt and Marty Turco. And Red isn't that guy who would walk home in the snow anymore, like it or not.
Flat-out, this program has become entitled, and the fanbase has groupthought its way out of objectivity. We've taken things like tournaments for granted. Leadership has been on a steady slow-burn decline, and it starts at the top. Red has earned his meal ticket. But watching the way these teams have handled themselves as the years have gone by, I wonder if he's beginning to lose his touch. What we're seeing this year is a combination of everything that hasn't worked in the past few years, without the things that went right that pulled everything out of the gutter. It's -all- bad.
Long story short, this is the year we can look objectivley at this team, at this program, at this coaching staff, and say something has to fundamentally change. Enough with the excuses, enough with the "but, we went to umpteen straight tournaments!" "but, Shawn Hunwick!" Enough. This season didn't just magically emerge. It's been coming for a long, long time. I would go to the ends of the earth for Red, but at some point, questions must be asked.
I said so further down, but I do have to reiterate that I reject your "long decline" theory. 22 months ago Michigan was playing for a national title. Had a chance to win it in regulation. Made it to overtime. Couldn't quite do it. But that's hockey. Last year there were leaders on the team and it performed well, and don't forget how flukey the loss to Cornell was (I know, I was there).
I'm not sure what sort of "fundamental change" you're talking about. Red will retire soon, perhaps after this year, and Michigan will probably try to hire Mel Pearson, and that would be fine. Beyond that, what more do you want?
I also believe Red has too much pride as a man who has dedicated his entire life to the sport of hockey to go down on such a low note. I'm not saying he won't but I can't imagine he wants to go out with that taste in his mouth. This team is not representitive of his career as a legendary coach and I hope for his sake he at least leaves after a year the team is competitive.
I'm not suggesting that Red is ready to retire, but those contract extensions are more about being able to give the impression of coaching stability. Of course, Red has also pretty much stated that this is his last extension.
"...what do you say, is it the new Bluesmobile or what?"
Thank you. I know we all are not happy with some of the recent playoff performances but yes, we were so close to a national title only two years ago. To conclude there is a long-term fundamental problem in the program just ignores reality. This team however definitely has problems for whatever reason.
but really, the only reason the team was in that game and the only reason the team made the tournament the year before was because Shawn Hunwick existed. And Shawn Hunwick didn't exist in a 'Red's a genius for picking up this sleeper guy and offering him a scholarship'. Shawn existed in a way that he was meant to warm the bench and never play. He may not have still been here if Jakiel had flamed out. Hunwick was a huge stroke of luck and no one can really take credit for that other than Hunwick and maybe Blackburn.
So minus Hunwick, we're had a bunch of pretty 'eh' teams since Porter, Kolarik, and Patch were lighting people up.
Rudy watches inspirational movies about Shawn Hunwick
This is absurd. Hunwick played very well, but his skill level was not exactly dwarfing the rest of college hockey; in fact, despite taking the team to the NCAA tournament the previous season, Hunwick was performing less impressively than Hogan early that year and only took over the job for good when Hogan was hurt again.
Against North Dakota, he was brilliant. But to suggest that he was the only reason the team advanced that far is complete hogwash--the whole team played a great game against a super-talented opponent. That teams entire success was built on playing with effort and playing strong team defense. And did they ever. The win against North Dakota (not to mention advancing out of the region of death in St. Louis) was a team achievement, and to suggest that it was merely a stroke of luck that Hunwick was there and played at a superhuman level is to completely misinterpret what actually happened on the ice.
What was remarkable was that Michigan was capable of succeeding at such a high level playing a style and with a roster that was so unlike previously successful Michigan squads. And the credit for that must go to the coaching staff, for adapting to the players they have, and to the players for taking the ball and running with it so well. It is that character, exemplified by guys like Matt Rust and Carl Hagelin, that is missing from this year's team.
Your last paragraph is also quite objectionable. I'll turn it around: But for Paul Martin's glove and a poor 2-on-1, Michigan has won two titles in the last ten years, exceeded only by Jerry York. But for the OHL's corruption, Michigan is skating Lucas Lessio and John Gibson right now and has the most talented team in the NCAA. etc.
After BG got the lead, they pulled back into a 1-4 forecheck. With 4 across the blueline the strategy was too keep Michigan from rushing in, they would have to dump and chase to gain the zone. Instead our forwards tried to gain the zone by themselves, hit the wall of forecheckers and were turned back. On the off chance we did chip and chase, we lost the battle on the boards.
It was painful to watch. Most of the team just sat back and expected good things to happen. There wasn't much work out there; it looked like only a few players were trying, and most of those players weren't the ones with As on their chests.
I could see that Merrill was trying at the beginning of the game, but by the end, it seemed like he was exhausted. I imagine he was, since he couldn't do much with the brace on, and he's only had it off for a few weeks. There's a huge difference between what one can do in a no-contact not really practice situation and getting thrown into a game and being expected to play half of it. Every time he came off the ice, he looked wiped out.
My dad (MTU grad) called me mid-way through the GLI this year. He said Tech had made it to the finals. I asked if they were playing Michigan. "Nope. They don't look too good this year." I told him red lets the guys play on Nationals teams and figured we were just missing a bunch of our guys. Reading this makes me believe that isn't the problem. It's a shame, but silver lining for me is my dad got to see his favortie team win the GLI for the first time in, like, 20 years. He was ecstatic.
or uh, Duder, or El Duderino if you're not into the whole brevity thing.
Red's been riding this team extra-hard for months. He simply has nothing left he can do. Remember reports of when he stopped practice and chewed the team out? That was months ago, when a decent PWR position was still in reach. He's chewed them out. He's changed goaltenders, again and again. He has scratched good players, he has scratched bad players.
He has simply run out of things to do.
I reject Bando's assertion that this is the conclusion of a decade-long trend; throughout college hockey only BC has escaped the long-ish periods of disappointing postseason performances that Bando is griping about. North Dakota, Denver, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Notre Dame, Boston University, Maine, UNH... all of them have had just as many issues as Michigan. You are undermining your argument by expanding it to include a large period, one in which, but for a few bounces in a sport defined by random bounces, could include a national championship or two.
That's not to say that Red's age and the depleted coaching staff might not play a factor here. I don't know. Perhaps he has lost the energy. Perhaps (probably?) losing Mel Pearson has had more of an effect than we would like to think. I do think that it's a shame that Red didn't retire a year or two ago if only because this is one of his last seasons coaching regardless, and it may be the least enjoyable team he has ever coached here. At least in the 80s the teams lacked the talent to be competitive.
This is a heartless team. It has the talent to go to the NCAA tournament, but there are serious, serious problems in the locker room. It's easy to see in the product on the ice, but it's also evident in other areas--for example, the noise made on twitter by former Michigan players, calling out the team. Even guys like Shawn Hunwick, who was playing here only a year ago, can see that there are problems.
Program isn't in disarray. This is a team that has been playing without a decent goalie. A freshman goalie is like a freshman QB--you can't expect to have an outstanding season when the person upon whom your season depends is inexperienced (and, frankly, maybe just not all that good). When your team's best player is out of the lineup, it's bad; when he's a defenceman (defenseman) who can help alleviate some of that pressure on your inexperienced goalie, it's worse.
I just don't buy all the doom and gloom. This team is not what we've come to expect, and that's on the fans (and the idiots who voted us to a preseason #3 ranking) for having unreasonable expectations. Two freshmen goalies and a walk-on, none of which have any experience...we should have expected something like this.
I think we'll learn a lot this weekend. If we take two at home vs. Alaska, there's a possibility of righting the ship. Not necessarily to get an at-large NCAA bid--looks like that's going to require winning the CCHA tournament--but getting things going in the right direction heading into postseason play.
It hurts to have freshmen goaltending, but this is a deeper problem than that; Michigan is getting seriously outplayed by teams like BG. If goaltending were the only problem Michigan would be outshooting everyone and getting beaten by bad goals. They would also have a better record.
But this team is getting smoked by mediocre competition. It's not good.
We won't learn a lot this weekend. We already know everything there is to know about this team. Even a six-game win streak going into the playoffs won't get them a CCHA playoff bye and it won't get them in NCAA tournament position, and nobody who has paid close attention believes any such streak is possible.
Agree with you completely that this team just isn't that good. But I do think getting hot heading into the conference tournament is the only hope. Hockey teams get hot at the right time and watch out. It's our only hope.
and scream my favorite line from Blue Ice (which I can't quote accurately) but it goes something like "[grabs M hockey jersey] This jersey is like another layer of skin to me. Either those guys are gonna take it off you or you are. Who's it gonna be?"
Rudy watches inspirational movies about Shawn Hunwick
Since the aughts, we've often seen the NC team have either an (eventual) NHL starter or back-up goalie in net during the drive to that trophy (witness MSU with Miller in net). Michigan has had several of those goalies, but only Turco was a long-term NHL starter. Montoya and Shields did their parts in the majors, but Hogan was more indicative of typical M backstops. Baby Jesus was awesome, but time will tell his place in the bigs.
Miller did not win the national title, and national championship goalies are just as likely to be "just a guys" as future NHL players. Adam Berkhoel, Travis Weber, Jeff Lerg, Kenny Reiter... there have been some good goalis in the NCAA, but few of them have won it all.
I agree that the goaltending is a tire fire,but Michigan hasn't scored more than one goal in a loss since the 7-2 beatdown by FYS on Nov. 10. We're not losing 5-4 shootouts -- the average score in a loss is more like 4-1. This unfortunately extends a goal-scoring drought from last year, when we had Hunwick to keep it close. And let's not even talk about Michigan's so-called "power" play -- another trend that extends to well before this year. I know it seems crazy to talk about a "decline" in a program that was playing for a national championship just two years ago, but some of the current problems are not unique to this year's team. Other teams seem to have figured out how to shut down our offense, usually limiting us to one-time shots from the perimeter.
We've had freshman goalies in the past with fairly good results, other than perhaps Billy Sauer, who crashed and burned about about 10 games. Even then there was enough fire power to carry the team and outscore opponents. But even Billy showed his junior year he could be really good when the team in front of him is doing their job. That's not the case this year.
This year's goalies weren't highly touted and missing out on Jack Campbell and John Gibson certainly caught up to us. With recruits committing so early these days, missing out on Gibson just a few months before joining the team already puts you behind the eight ball because most of the top recruits for the following year have already committed somewhere. Same issue we got right now because the early signing period has already come and gone and most, if not all, of the top goalies for next year have already been snapped up. So don't expect any help in the crease next year, either.
However, the problem this team faces goes deeper than the goaltending (which, admittedly, has had its up and downs). All you have to do is watch Bowling Green's third goal last night in which not one, but TWO Falcons were left all alone in front of Adam Janecyk. That wasn't some one-time fluke; that's the kind of poor defensive breakdown the goalies have had to deal with all season. Maybe Shawn Hunwick can bail us out of a few of those situations, but with the guys we have now, that isn't going to happen.
The offense lacks the firepower. There's no Hensick, Porter, Tambellini, Pacioretty elite forward types. There's no one with a 110% work ethic like Ortmeyer or Hagelin flying around all game chasing loose pucks and laying the body on opponents, who the team can rally around and raise their games. The defense is still in disarray. I wonder if Red might split up Merrill and Trouba to balance out the other defensive pairings (Bennett was on the ice for four goals against last night and Moffie for three). The goaltending is, well, the goaltending.
I definitely felt it could be a down year, thinking middle of the pack CCHA. I never thought it would be this bad, though.
Going in to the season the defense was considered this team's strong suit. Then Merrill went down. Even with him injured, there's enough talent there they should have at least been decent. And now with him back taking up seemingly 30 minutes last night (and not allowing a goal while he was on the ice), it was brutal. I wonder if he can play all 60 minutes...
Just to throw in a little more bad news, the rest of the season is going to be tough. It's the last year of the CCHA, Michigan is a big dog, and teams smell blood in the water. A club like BG knows it has a chance to beat Michigan and gets up for the game even if they're a bad team, and Michigan doesn't play with the energy to fend them off.
Sure, Michigan isn't good this year, but they still have Yost and the winged helmets. The sharks are circling. Last chance to get your licks in before Michigan's gone.
I always think about that speech Bruce Boudreau gave in Washington. To paraphrase, I've never seen a group of guys look so down once something bad happens. They have no response when faced with adversity, they just look beaten.
This is the first time I can remember not having a Glendening, or a Rust, or a Jack Johnson type of attitude on the ice to fix this problem. They just have no fight.
Jack Johnson is an interesting case, and one of the reasons I am reluctant (especially at such great distance) to assign blame to individual players for this sort of thing. The teams Johnson played on were ultra-talented but never really national title threats, and seemed to have effort and character issues. Nothing compared with this year, but they always felt a bit off to me (granted, I lived in California at the time). That this period of mediocrity and talent coincided so neatly with JJ's presence raised an eyebrow with me, but it was also the peak of TJ Hensick's skill and influence on the team, and he is just as likely to have had an influence as Johnson. Perhaps they were both great guys and the team just didn't gel. I don't know, but I can't speculate.
And I won't speculate on who in the locker room is the problem now. But there is a problem.
Having watched those teams up close, they played their asses off to my eye. They didn't lack for heart and defended the hell out of Yost and each other. Goaltending was their big issue and iirc Brian and others talked about how Montoya didn't seem to want to be there for his final season. Sauer obviously never really figured it out.
That said, I was a novice watching those games and I'm still no expert.
...the Canadians make up for it with their emotion and classic ice-dancing skill.
BTN talked about a shot I think by Trouba in the 2nd Period where he sent his elbow to the BG player's head and the BG player went down in a heap. Commentators said Trouba was lucky he didn't get 5 minutes at a minimum. No onslaught by the BG players in retaliation. Shot to the knee, shot to the head. It's a tough game and not every shot leads to retaliation.
That call was awful. So was the one three minutes later that broke our momentum and ended the game. Trouba braced himself for the hit and he's just bigger than everyone on BGSU so the guy ran into his elbow. Bleh.
But yeah, this team has no leadership and no goaltending and that's not going to work.
Not so sure Truba was "bracing himself" and just happened to have his elbow hanging out there at head level, but we each see what we want to see. Obviously the BTN, which spent the next 2 minutes talking about it, didn't see it your way either.
One of my favorite memories from a two seasons ago was against UNO. We had totally wrecked their shit (I believe it was a 7-2 game) and they were getting chippy. They slashed at Matt Rust's feet, and that spurred a line brawl, which ended with Chris Brown throwing a guy to the ice. Those guys stood up for each other.
I don't know what's happened to the people that are left, but I can't help but think that one of the biggest losses last offseason was Brownie. The kid did some dumb things when he was on the ice, but he stood up for his teammates. He didn't always dangle through defenders (except that one time) to score goals, but he sure as hell gave a fuck.
I haven't been able to watch many games this year. I've tried to follow along with every game on Twitter and I've listened to a few games on the radio. This team seems like the most frustrating team that's existed since I've started following Michigan hockey. It's depressing. Brian, I don't blame you at all for being finished. It's not worth the agony.
that we don't play BGSU again unless it is in the CCHA playoffs. I'd like to see Michigan avenge their fallen comrade much like McCarty did to Claude Lemieux in 1997. Now that was a fun hockey game to watch.
But this team is just a bit of a disappointment, they just seem to have no heart, especially in the way that they weren't caring about their fallen teammate. What a shame.
a lot of hockey in my time and it seems to me that the game is more about flow and motivation than raw talent. We are heavy on talent and lack any kind of flow, there seems to be no motivation, and from what my untrained eye can see, a total lack of leadership. It is almost as if these guys are just biding their time til they can cash the NHL paycheck. I hope that is not the case but damn, it is hard to watch such a talented group of kids get spanked night after night. Maybe this is just what the program as a whole needs, a year of pain to put things in perspective for the future. <grasping at straws>
They don't look like a team, they look like a collection of individuals.
I posted this on a friend's wall half-jokingly but I feel there could be merit to it. Usually the team has their Alaska road trip in the beginning of the season where they bond and come together. Well they didn't have that this year.
Any incredibly talented team not giving a crap and losing games they should easily be winning. I don't know what the heck the problem is, but this team is really hard to root for. We're not sad and losing like those early Beilein teams that had a lot of heart but was just bad or RichRod teams that at least had BG, Denard, and Kovacs.
This team just looks bored and entitled and like they do not give a crap about trying. I mean, I'm a fan but I'm tempted to hang it up for the season because this team is awful for no reason other than that they don't appear to care
Rudy watches inspirational movies about Shawn Hunwick
I argued with you above. I can't argue with this, though the analogy that strikes me is not so much USC (though that's pretty good) as 2002 MSU football. Not that anyone is in Jeff Smoker trouble, but it's a similar-looking meltdown.