So, that Trouba guy left
Yeah, and now Michigan’s defense is in pretty sad shape.
I heard he was good at the hockey thing
Uh, right. A little better than good, actually. Only defenseman besides Jack Johnson to have an expletive seamlessly integrated into his name in recent memory.
Isn’t there somebody to replace him? I mean, this is Michigan fergodsakes
No. I was going to say not really, but let’s not lie. No. No no no. The answer is no.
Let’s start with his basic stats. In 37 games Trouba scored 12 goals and had 17 assists for a total of 29 points. That puts him third on the team in total points, behind only Alex Guptill and the also-departing AJ Treais. The next highest pointgetter on defense? That’d be Mac Bennett with 18. Trouba was fifth in assists, third in goals, and first in powerplay goals.
His offense will be sorely missed by a team that is losing its two best defensemen in Trouba and Merrill, and though Merrill missed a large chunk of the season and didn’t generate an earth-shattering stat line because of it those two were still key parts of Michigan’s powerplay. There isn’t a stat to quantify what a hard point shot like Trouba’s means on the powerplay, but the best proxy (best does not equal good, but still) is probably powerplay goals. Trouba had 7, which as previously noted was enough to lead the team and was also two more than anyone else. That accounts for 22.6% of Michigan’s powerplay goals so yeah, powerplay man. In total Trouba scored 9.3% of Michigan’s goals which means that he didn’t score 90.7% of them. I am desperately grasping for something positive here. Unfortunately, looking at Mac Bennett’s goal total (6) and realizing that it translates to 4.65% of Michigan’s total goals coupled with the fact that all other Michigan defensemen combined contributed 3 goals was not the ray of sunshine I was looking for.
There isn’t a good way to analyze defensive performance without advanced statistics, and even then the link between things like Corsi (which looks at shots generated versus shots allowed while on-ice) and a player’s defensive abilities is tenuous at best. College hockey isn’t exactly a haven for stats nerds so I have no advanced stats to trumpet here, which means we have to rely on the ol’ eye test. These ol’ eyes think that Trouba was pretty good in the defensive zone. He displayed greater hockey intelligence as the year progressed, understanding where pressure would be coming from and making the right pass to avoid it while also learning that sometimes going headhunting provides a super fun adrenaline rush until you get scored on because you were out of position, which is in fact a total bummer. I think that plus/minus is a hopelessly flawed statistic because it’s so reliant on how the team as a whole performs, but we might as well look at Trouba’s anyways. He was a –8 on the season, which sounds bad until you realize that we’re talking about a team that scored 129 goals and allowed 130 while posting a collective plus/minus of –45. Players tend to have negative plus/minus scores when they play for teams that allow more goals than they score, and even then a plus/minus score is so heavily dependent on who you play with that it’s practically impossible to tease out who was responsible for the goal (either for or against) and who deserves the plus or minus.
The one element of Trouba’s play that was less than stellar was his penchant for racking up penalty minutes. He finished the season with 29 penalties for 88 minutes, though 17 of those minutes came in one game at Northern Michigan early in the season when Trouba committed three penalties and got a game misconduct for a hit on NMU’s Reed Seckel. Trouba committed three penalties in a game on four separate occasions in 2012-13; once in November, once in December, once in January, and once in February. The ol’ eye test may be failing me here because I really thought he toned it down a little as the season went on but it looks like instead Trouba just went all non-potty mouthed Mike Rice on people once a month (sorry, too soon?).
Is there some Troubanian uber-recruit that can replace him?
The best of the incoming defensemen is Michael Downing, a self-described defensive-defenseman who can contribute sparingly at the offensive end. He’s likely to have more value on the penalty kill than the powerplay, and that’s according to himself. In the grand scheme of things this is good, as defense was clearly Michigan’s weakness in 2012-13 (see: more goals allowed than scored). I don’t expect Downing to replicate Trouba’s offense even if he is given a shot on the powerplay, and I don’t expect any of the defensemen currently on the roster to have as significant an offensive impact as Trouba did. After all, Trouba did win the GONGSHOW’s offensive defenseman of the year award, which sounds like something I would have created in NHL 02 if they let you create trophies but accolades woo! I think that the only way Trouba’s offensive production gets replaced is “by committee,” which is an athletically oriented way of saying we don’t have a replacement.
As Center Ice put it in Seth’s Exit: Jacob Trouba post, the inclusion of multiple freshmen and the promotion of seldom used players to regulars will either work, or it will be a disaster.
You’re not a very optimistic person, are you?
Typically I am pretty optimistic but in this case DOOM. I’ll close by recycling a joke I already used in Seth’s Exit post because if you’ve read this far you probably like hockey and muppets and Michigan or something.
What's that picture?
Well that's just weird. I don't think that's how they're used around here either....
I beg to differ. Trouba and Merrill left and that deserves an anti-celebration. Those two decided that, like the oft celebrated Muppets that are so beloved by perusers of this here blog, you can’t have one without the other.