This list is completely arbitrary and not a genuine analysis of the relative merits of state fossils.
Michigan men represent excellence academically and athletically. At least that's what they represent if you believe the two statues above the doors to the Union. Milford men, on the other hand, are adept at being neither seen nor heard. Buster Bluth was a Milford man. The 2012-13 Michigan hockey team played like one.
The 2012-13 Michigan Wolverines took the ice in October ranked #3 in the country by USCHO.com and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine. That preseason poll was the highlight of the season. Things went downhill quickly, and if you've been reading this blog for a while you'll remember that this team didn't do much to endear itself to the Michigan faithful. Now that we've had time to let the healing power of the basketball team's run to the title game and football recruiting goodness to soak in I think it's time to go back and try to figure out what went wrong for the team that broke The Streak™.
For comparison, let's look at the stats of the 2011-12 Wolverines versus those of the 2012-13 squad. This idea was inspired by Ron Utah's excellent post comparing the 2011 and 2012 football teams. The 11-12 hockey team lost in the first round, so we aren't exactly starting with high expectations for success here. Shawn Hunwick, Luke Glendening and David Wohlberg were the most significant departures from the 11-12 team.
2011-12 Michigan Hockey: 24-13-4 overall. 15-9-4 conference
Home: 15-5-1, Away: 4-6-3. Neutral: 5-2-0
|Faceoff W-L Pct.||.497||.503|
2012-13 Michigan Hockey: 18-19-3 overall, 10-15-3 conference
Home: 10-8-1. Away: 5-8-2, Neutral: 3-3-0
|Faceoff W-L Pct.||.514||.486|
I highlighted the things that really stood out to me. Everything is open for interpretation, but let's start with the basics. The 11-12 team scored 43 more goals than they allowed, while the 12-13 team scored one fewer goal than they allowed. Ouch. If you're wondering how shot volume impacted things, it doesn't get any prettier. Michigan had very similar offensive output in 11-12 and 12-13; their total shots were about the same and their scoring percentage was an identical 9.6%. The real fluctuation from year-to-year occurs when you look at the opponent's shots; 1242 allowed in 11-12 versus 1126 in 12-13. Even though the 11-12 team allowed more shots opponents only scored on 7.2% of them, compared with 11.5% in 12-13.
Special teams can't be used to explain away the year-to-year differences. Michigan actually scored more power play goals in 12-13 (31) than they did in 11-12 (23). Looking at it from the perspective of the penatly kill, MIchigan allowed fewer power play goals in 12-13 (24) than they did in 11-12 (27). Michigan spent less time on the penalty kill in 12-13, but they also spent almost two minutes less per game on the power play that season. It appears as though Michigan was outmatched at even strength throughout the 12-13 season, so much so that they missed the tournament and won six fewer games.
What does it mean for next season?
I wish I knew. Steven Racine established himself as the starter going into 2013-14, and that's more than you can say for the 12-13 team. There are some good prospects coming in (highlighted by former US NTDP forward JT Compher), but is that enough to replace the mass exodus of point scoring that Michigan will suffer this offseason? It doesn't seem likely. Michigan loses AJ Treais' 31 points, Jacob Trouba's 29 points, and Kevin Lynch's 27 points. Those were three of Michigan's top six pointgetters in 12-13. On the other hand, Michigan's problem in 12-13 was clearly one of defense and not offense so anything is possible. All it takes are guys who are willing and able to forecheck and backcheck, and as a sport hockey still lacks the sophisticated statistics that are able to capture the more esoteric elements of the game.
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.
Every morning I wake up and go through the same process. I head straight to the Keurig and start making coffee. I use the make-your-own filter because it saves money and lets me choose from different types of ground coffee, but it doesn't taste very good. There's always grit in the bottom of the cup, like the ugly duckling cousin of french press coffee.
I'm a creature of habit, you see. Sure, the coffee I make admittedly isn't very good but I continue to make it. It's just what I do in the morning. At some point I think hockey slipped into that domain for me.
I love hockey, always have and always will. At some point, though, it just wasn't as exciting as it used to be. I watched all season long but couldn't bring myself to write one of these goal-by-goal analysis posts from November to February because it just isn't much fun to write about how it feels to get punched in the face repeatedly.
I started writing again because there was a storyline besides misery to write about. Either The Streak would come to a screeching halt or it would be miraculously continued. What came of this was more than I could have hoped for in some ways and a bitter disappointment in others.
The second period of the Miami game reminded me why hockey became part of my routine in the first place. Those four goals were an adrenaline bomb to the system, the crescendo of a symphony writ by composite sticks, metal blades, and a black rubber sphere. I can't remember the last time I was that excited about hockey, and in that way the tournament run demonstrated just how far this team had come.
At the same time, I don't see how this season can avoid being labeled a failure. Sure, the team came on strong when its collective back was against the wall. They also finished below .500 and broke The Streak. Lessons will undoubtedly be learned from this season, and as Brian said in his post the future does indeed look bright. If anything this season will be remembered for both utter ineptitude and the kind of performance that can only come from seeing the prospects of your future in front of you and fighting like hell to avoid them.
At least, that's how I'll remember this team. They were both the team that sleepwalked through being bludgeoned by the Bowling Green Falcons at home and the team that obliterated the No. 3 Miami Redhawks in the CCHA semifinals.
CCHA Semifinals: Michigan vs. Miami- March 23, 2013
I'm not going to lead with a story this week. No trip down nostalgia lane, no personal anecdotes, no waxing sentimental. Instead I'm going to let the Michigan players speak for themselves via what they tweeted Saturday night after sweeping Western Michigan out of the CCHA playoffs.
If you haven't already embraced this team I'd recommend doing so right about now.
Friday, March 15, 2013- Game 1
H/T to the Daily's Zach Helfand and Paul Sherman for the Trouba photo
A cursory glance doesn't reveal many similarities between Michigan basketball and Michigan hockey these days. After all, one team took the court this weekend with a share of the B1G title on the line and fans that lined up something like 22 hours before tip-off. The other team took the ice this weekend with no title on the line and not even a live televised feed of their games.
Take a closer look, though, and some broad similarities appear. Basketball and hockey are both games of runs. It's just the way the game goes when there are no pre-established offensive and defensive turns. You hit and you'll get hit back. You exert pressure and that pressure will eventually be exerted on you. Michigan basketball ended on the wrong side of a run, suffering a knockout punch that was one part bad luck and two parts missed opportunity. Michgan hockey, on the other hand, survived the inevitable pressure Northern Michign exerted after Michigan took a 3-0 lead.
A 3-0 first period lead wasn't something the Wolverines could rest on. Too many times this season they've taken an early lead only to be swept away by the undertow of another team's run, late goals and late pressure that were too much to overcome. With their postseason hanging in the balance Michigan responded on Friday, doing what was sufficient and holding serve in the third period to weather the storm and in the process made that dim glimmer of hope we hold that Michigan can extend its NCAA tournament streak to 23 consecutive seasons a little brighter.
I'll try to get a GBGA of Saturday's game up....sometime. Not sure when, but I'm working on it. Look forward to more pictures, more laughs, and most importantly moooooooooore goals.
(Burke photo cred: Julian Gonzalez, Detroit Free Press)
It's amazing how easily we take things for granted. We become acclimated and everything turns into background noise, only to gain our attention when things shift unexpectedly. It's how I felt when I graduated and moved out of Ann Arbor, and it's how I've felt about this year's hockey team.
I was introduced to Michigan hockey in 2006. Having grown up in a house with a die-hard Michigan State alum for a mother and a father who cared more about what went on in the philosophy and astronomy world than the sports world I had some catching up to do. I remeber reading the Daily's hockey season preview and thinking that becoming a fan of Michigan hockey was just a natural extention of my love of the Red Wings. I folded up that newspaper insert and stuck it in my backpack so that I could re-read it whenever I wanted. My conversion to a Michigan hockey fan had begun.
I never made it to a game that season. Instead, I had to rely on keeping up with the team through Daily articles and watching the few games that I could find on TV. Jack Johnson became something of a folk hero to me, a player that I still regret not seeing play while he was wearing the winged helmet. I vowed to myself that I would not make the same mistake twice.
Fall 2007 rolls around and mini-season ticket packages go on sale. A few friends, my girlfriend (who's now my wife) and I decide to get a mini season ticket package. I'll never forget going to my first game at Yost. If there's one arena in the world that can't possibly be done justice by TV this is it. I remember walking in through the cramped corridors and past the ornate woodwork. Then you walk into the stands and it's a fluorescent blast of white exacerbated by a sheet of ice. The corridors scream history while the inside of the rink just screams. If Michigan hockey is powered by a fuse box it only has one switch and that switch, which is permanently flipped, has "ON" printed above it on label tape.
I went to a CCHA playoff game that season and was struck by how the regular season atmosphere is essentially the same as the playoff atmosphere. There's no way for it to get louder and rowdier than it already is, especially when you're in the student section. At the time that seemed hard to believe. Again, I wasn't used to Michigan hockey just yet. Having been a Red Wings fan for so long you get acclimated to regular season games with half empty lower bowls that switch to rabid sell outs when the second or third round of the playoffs roll around.
The energy of Yost spoiled me, and I didn't realize that until this season. When things are about to be taken away from you, that's when you realize just how good you had it. I didn't think there would be a CCHA playoff game at Yost this year. Not after watching a team that had block M's on the front of their jersey but looked oh so unfamiliar otherwise. Now I realize just how amazing the atmosphere at Yost is. Now I realize just how important the CCHA playoffs are. These aren't throwaway games anymore, this is our ticket to the tournament. And, finally, I'm watching a Michigan team that I recognize. This is a team that somehow, someway dug deep and emerged from the shell of...well, whatever that was that took the ice from October through February. Maybe they realized what I realized; it's easy to take things for granted until you're about to lose them.
There aren't many goals to breakdown here, but that's a good thing. A team that was allowing almost four goals per game gave up two this weekend. Two! And I can't even make a joke about only giving up two and it not even being non-exhibition play because they gave up more than that to like Windsor, man. Let's analyze: