mgoblog, hockey edition
Recruiting summaries start tomorrow.
Braylon's going to shoot you. No. Seriously.
Don't make Shegos joke... don't make Shegos joke... check.
Gentleman Joe. Joe Tiller's just pissed because he can't move snake oil:
According to coach Brady Hoke, [Ball State commitment] Briggs Orsbon was offered a scholarship by Purdue Wednesday morning after Michigan stole WR Roy Roundtree from Purdue. However, Orsbon had already sent in his LOI.
Oh, so ethical, Joe.
Meathead, strike! I neglected to put Bret Bielema on the list of Big Ten coaches who had gone "avast!" and pirated recruits away from conference foes. Also, helpful readers pointed out Zook's fevered recruitment of cornerback Boubacar Cissoko before and after Carr's retirement and his boarding of the SS Hawkeye to plunder RB Jason Ford. This brings the total count of Big Ten coaches who know nothing of any "gentleman's agreement" in the Big Ten to nine, and essentially ten since Indiana temporarily picked off Jerimy Finch from Michigan.
Congratulations, Lake The Posts: if anyone picks off a Northwestern recruit your indignation can be righteous. Everyone else should probably check themselves.
What was I talking about? Oh, yeah. It's frickin' amazing the sort of rationalizations people will go through when it comes to Most Favored Team. For an example, see this morning's post where I'm like "we can still get Pryor!" Also:
We've seen how University of Wisconsin football coach Bret Bielema doesn't take no for an answer in recruiting by the way he's convinced prospects who had committed to other schools to change their mind and play for the Badgers.
That persistence apparently also works when it comes to assistant coaches.
Herein Bielema's "persistence" in continuing to recruit committed players is framed as a positive character trait! This is the same paper -- based in Wisconsin, natch -- that published the thousand-year-old man's silly thing about how Rodriguez is going to get run out of the conference on a rail because of his swashbuckling ways.
It's a coach's responsibility to do right by the kids he recruits; opposing coaches can go swing.
Re-rebuttal. Black Shoe Diaries' response to this blog's Friday post on the recruiting ethics, or lack thereof, at Penn State already got smoked in its own comments by an alert Michigan fan:
The small lie: "While his former team was playing in their bowl game he was sneaking into the office to shred documents."
The truth: While Rodriguez was discarding documents, it was a workday about a week before Christmas, and he was cleaning out his office in full view of an office full of people, none of whom found anything unusual in what he was doing.
If you tell a small lie like like that to bolster your story, what else might be false?
An excellent question. Ironic, then, that BSD's post is titled "Success With Honor." It individually debunks each of the questionable recruiting hijinks cited here earlier, none of which I think is particularly compelling. It amounts to empty public relations, something JoePa specializes in.
The prime Shaw complaint:
I can't hold it against a kid for changing his mind, but I can hold it against him for the manner in which he does so. All indications were that Mike Shaw was going to Penn State right up until signing day.
Even after he made an official trip to Michigan the Penn State insiders didn't seem worried.
"I am visiting another school" is an indication the kid's verbal is less than solid. Heck, Penn State should have known for a solid month that Shaw's verbal was shaky, as he announced($) he would visit Tennessee and Michigan on January second. Solid verbals do not visit other campuses. The Penn State "insiders" lack of worry is the only data point to offset the fact that Shaw made an official to another school that had a scholarship offer out to him and then immediately went off the grid, refusing to speak to anyone from reporters to coaches.
I know JoePa is old and addled (and JayPa is young and addled) but this is not a solid verbal even to applesauce eaters, and Penn State should have been making other plans. Hell, Penn State ended up three commits short of a full class and had a crying need for RBs and WRs, they should have been looking for kids anyway. Applesauce is delicious, though.
The main point: Black Shoe Diaries has no goddamn idea what went on in the Shaw recruitment, because no one did. Shaw didn't say anything to the media for the last month of his recruitment. We do know that Penn State was directly informed on January second that Shaw's verbal was not secure (yes, even if he said "I'm 100% to Penn State" or whatever empty boilerplate he provided). If Shaw announced his decommit in a dickish fashion (which he did, for the record), that reflects on Shaw, not Rodriguez. Michigan called the kid and asked if he would like to be recruited. He obviously said yes, and found a place he'd rather go to school.
Suggestion: deal, because this guy...
The best idea. I referenced this in my Fanhouse post on the wizard hat thing, and now Vijay has fleshed out what may be the best idea ever for an early signing period. The issue at hand through the lens of the Roundtree commitment:
this is exactly why we shouldn't have an early signing period. Roundtree described a Michigan offer as a dream come true. He said he always wanted to play for Michigan. He got the offer, he gets his chance, and that's a happy ending for Roundtree. If he committed to Purdue, changed his mind and then decided to play for Michigan, it's the original commitment to Purdue that was a mistake, not his change of destination. Put Michigan's and Purdue's views aside, what Roundtree wants is to be at Michigan.
An early signing period does not prevent kids from making mistakes, it locks them into their mistakes. Instituting an early signing period to prevent kids from changing their minds is like keeping families together by outlawing divorce.
Word. Vijay's s
olution is an early signing period, as many coaches are advocating these days, but with a twist:
Allow recruits to sing a non-binding LOI any time from, say, July 1st leading into the senior year. Once they file the letter, their scholarship to that school is secure, and in return for that guarantee, the recruit agrees to have no contact with coaches or recruiters from other schools and not to make any official visits to other campuses. It also has the benefit of preventing other coaches from calling recruits who filed these papers (contacting them would be a violation). But, if a kid were to change his mind, he could simply file paperwork to rescind the NBLOI, at which point it's like he never filed one, and recruiting is back on.
He explains the advantages of such a system in further detail at IBFC; I am 100% sold. The NBLOI solves most issues with persistent recruitment of kids without restricting their ability to change their minds. The only change I would make is to forgo the idea of an early signing period entirely and just allow any recruit to sign a NBLOI after, say, June.
Explication. Kevin Quick was dismissed from the hockey team suddenly; we now have an explanation:
Sources said the defenseman stole a credit card, used it as a personal piggy bank and spent thousands of dollars.
I read somewhere -- where, I don't remember -- that his roommate, Carl "Bork" Hagelin, was pretty upset about the situation, so it was probably his credit card. (Via Kukla's Corner.)
Quick's dismissal, though unfortunate, isn't that damaging as long as the rest of Michigan's defensemen remain healthy. Michigan planned on bringing in potential first-round pick Brandon Burlon from the St. Mike's program that's provided Andrew Cogliano and Louie Caporusso in recent years, but didn't have any money available and thus couldn't sign Burlon to a LOI. Now they've got a slot for him even if Mark Mitera decides to return for his senior year. If Mitera leaves Michigan will bring in near-walkon Greg Pateryn, who's had an excellent year in the USHL and finds himself ranked 162nd in the CSB rankings. Either way Michigan should be seven-deep again on D in 2008, a welcome change from poor JJ Swistak and Danny Fardig taking shifts.
Yost Built has your Saturday recap, a frustrating 5-5 tie against the Redhawks. Michigan fans are paranoid about the refereeing when linesmen aren't setting up 2-on-1s by tripping Mark Mitera.
The three-point weekend still moved Michigan into first place in the CCHA, RPI, and Pairwise with three weeks left in the regular season. Michigan has a one-point edge in the standings but is going to have to finish with a blaze of wins if they expect to hold on:
- Idiotically, the first tiebreaker is league wins instead of head-to-head.
- Both teams have two games against mediocre Ferris State left and two games against one of the CCHA's three terrible teams (10th place Lake State in M's case, 11th place Ohio State in Miami's), but...
- Michigan's other two games are against Michigan State. Miami's are against last-place Western.
It's hard to see Miami dropping more than a point or two the rest of the year. Michigan may have to sweep State in a Munn-Joe weekend to lock down a banner.
...and in the Signing Day flurry didn't say word one about this weekend's #1-#2 Miami-Michigan series. Sorry. I do recommend Yost Built for all your coverage needs; Tim covers last night's 4-2 win thoroughly.
Tonight is the most important game left in the regular season. A win and Michigan virtually guarantees itself the PWR comparison over Miami and, in all probability, one of the top two seeds in the tourney. That would yield a matchup against a CHA or Atlantic Hockey team instead of, like, Wisconsin. Michigan would also be three points clear of the Redhawks with the tiebreaker in the race for the CCHA title with only six games left.
Lose and you're a point back of Miami with nothing locked up. Fox Sports Detroit, 7:30. Consume.
Bleah! The hockey team's weekend did not go swimmingly. It took a "Sparty, no!" moment with two minutes left -- Matt Schepke batting a puck into his own net -- for Michigan to escape with a point from two games. My reaction was virtually identical to that of Tim at Yost Built: a couple of ugly games marred by arbitrary refereeing and State's usual dedication to destroying whatever aesthetic beauty hockey might have after a decade of clutch and grab. MSU has mastered the art of not getting called for interference penalties; the resulting hockey might be effective but watching it is pure sadomasochism.
In fact, I thought this exact same thing on Friday:
I had my own hockey game tonight, so I caught this one on the DVR. I managed to not hear anything about our game. So it was kind of amazing that I knew what the final score was by the end of the first period. I believe my exact words were, "We're going to lose this ****ing game 1-0, aren't we?"
At least before last year we had the assurance that karma would direct State to another scoreless loss in the first round of the NCAA tournament, but noooo. Thanks for nothing, BU and Clarkson and etc.
Tim says basically everything I wanted to about the refereeing in his Saturday post (note that this goes both ways: Matt Rust cross-checked an MSU defender into oblivion right before the goalmouth scramble that led to "Sparty, no!"), except he praises Hall somewhere in there, which I do not co-sign. With Piotrowksi's on-ice retirement there's not a referee in the league that doesn't make me mutter "#&*@, that guy" when he steps on the ice.
Hey, wow. Desmond Howard:
"Well I think only time will tell if it was a good hire. The saddest part of the whole situation is that a Michigan Man never got offered the job. That doesn't sit well with any former players.
"At this point, he has no choice but to be successful. Everyone wants to see what happens. Especially after you saw a Michigan Man (Les Miles) beat (Jim) Tressel, who has pretty much owned Michigan the past (four years). And you saw a Michigan Man beat him handily in a national championship game."
Ammunition for those still hanging on to their image of the coaching search as one long fiasco that stumbled on a pot of gold; Howard was ostensibly part of the search committee and he obviously harbors some bitterness about how everything went down. Rodriguez has some outreach to do with facets of the program that are still upset.
Worst. The MZone has had this beat for a long time now and this particular instance has already been covered by Varsity Blue and the Detroit Sports Rag, but Drew Sharp is such an irredeemable tool that I want to pile on as well. Two weeks ago:
He must keep Pryor away from Jim Tressel.
He must do whatever it takes.
Failure is not an option.
Michigan landing super recruit Terrelle Pryor would be an overrated victory
This perfectly illuminates what pass for Drew Sharp's thought processes. Cancel out the contradictory statements and you're left with a balding cloud of negativity devoid of any actual content.
Sharp himself remains the eternal mystery. I'm fascinated by his continued employment. In years of wandering around message boards and blogs dedicated not only to Michigan but Michigan State, the Pistons, the Tigers, and to a lesser extent the Red Wings and Lions I've never heard anything even neutral about Drew Sharp. He is hated by every fanbase in the city where he works, and the possessor of the world's worst average Amazon rating: 1. Nine users deigned to review his book of collected columns. Choice excerpts:
My 2 year old is a better writer
I'm ashamed that a publisher would actually give people inside and outside of Detroit an opportunity to re-read this negative and unoriginal tripe.
On the surface, publishing a compilation of articles from one of Earth's most untalented journalists probably seemed like a good idea. This culmination of decades of wasted ink and mindless opinions would certainly have many uses.
I can't believe that anyone would seriously considered [sic] buying, let alone reading, this filth.
Drew Sharp proves all the critics wrong with this book and shows that people with disability can actually put words together on a page.
Drew Sharp is one of the 5 worst sports writers in America. He is mean-spirited, ill-informed, and virtually talentless.
what a worthless human being
There's no sugarcoating the truth regarding this book.
It will be forever branded a loser.
No heart. No toughness. No sales.
You should probably read the entirety of that last one; it's a little masterpiece. The nicest one... the nicest one! In its entirety:
This guy is a hack, March 22, 2005
By MW "Calle_Betis" (Michigan) - See all my reviews
He's a predictable columnist. His perspective is limited. Sharp is biased and if you read his columns, you've already read what he has to offer.
Save your money.
This isn't eye-rolling or discontent. This is loathing.
The Free Press' logic is probably straightforward: I bet he gets a lot of hits on his pieces. Every time he writes a rip job on someone, incensed people post links on the relevant message boards. Despite the 100% guaranteed "don't give this guy attention" response posted two seconds after the initial link, people click and absorb the latest tripe.
However, there's a hidden cost here. Does anyone feel any kind of loyalty to the Free Press? Probably not. If you're like me, whenever Drew Sharp flits across your consciousness you think "man, screw those guys." If copies of the paper started showing up for free on my doorstep I'd demand they stop sending them. There are a lot of reasons newspaper circulation is plummeting; I'd bet one of them is the continued presence of knobs like Sharp poisoning many sports' fans opinions of the entire newspaper's brand. I know the Free Press employs a man without talent or scruples solely to irritate me into giving them a page view, so I am inclined to look upon the rest of their paper as one enormous attention whore.
The grander mystery is encapsulated in the "eeee Barwis" video. Several readers pointed out the looming, corpul
ent figure of Sharp trundling through the frame chewing on a donut near the end of Barwis' opus on strength and conditioning. It's just about at the end:
The mystery: why the hell is this guy allowed in the building? It's odd. Because Drew Sharp has been granted space in a local newspaper, he is granted access despite the years of evidence that he will do nothing with this access except bite the hand that fed it to him. Why does Michigan (and Michigan State, for that matter) tolerate the guy? What, is he going to write more negative articles about the school? The local sports franchises should blacklist him.
And you, if you subscribe to the Free Press, should stop.
SEC Speed. M 34, South Carolina 3.
Say what? The Free Press has a weirdly outdated article on MI DE Nick Perry's recruitment. To wit:
That effort could pay off in a big way for Dantonio and MSU if one of the top in-state recruits chooses the Spartans over Michigan, Southern Cal and Miami on National Signing Day on Feb. 6. Detroit King defensive end Nick Perry has MSU among his final four schools, a testament to Dantonio's persistence in recruiting the Detroit area.
"It would be a nice little feather in his cap if he could get Nick," English said.
A Perry commitment could be a defining moment for Dantonio at MSU and the capstone of a successful 2008 class. The Spartans rarely have beaten U-M for recruits in recent years, but Dantonio snagged two players who also had offers from the Wolverines -- 6-foot-7 Novi defensive end Tyler Hoover, who has enrolled at MSU, and Southeastern wide receiver Fred Smith, currently the highest-ranked recruit in the class, according to recruiting network Rivals.com.
That's all well and good, except that Perry has been maintaining that Michigan, USC, and Miami are his top three for over a week now. Other potential defining moments for Dantonio:
- glorious 2007 victory over Michigan
- commitment of Sam McGuffie
- defeat of ninja assassins sent to kill emperor Han.
There's a lot more sugarcoating of a pretty wretched MSU recruiting class that features Fred Smith and zero other four-star guys.
We're... #1. As you might expect when you're 22-2-0, Michigan is atop every poll of significance (PWR, RPI) and insignificance (those voted on by hoo-mans, KRACH). The RPI gap is fairly sizable but not impenetrable, as Miami is hot on Michigan's heels and the two Colorado schools in the WCHA have fought through brutal schedules. Each is about 2 hundredths behind.
However, North Dakota, the current 5th place team, is almost 5 hundredths behind, which is about equal to the gap between NoDak and #18 Minnesota-Duluth. That's a long way back and the PWR is mostly an RPI-correction mechanism, one that Michigan has a huge number of advantages in with winning records against the WCHA and HE.
The upshot: barring a total collapse down the stretch, Michigan has locked in a one-seed.
HOWEVA, there's still a lot to play for. Banners are always nice, and staying in the top two is important because two autobids go to the CHA and Atlantic Hockey winners. These two teams are invariably seeded #15 and #16. While a small conference autobid foe is not a guaranteed win by any means -- ask Minnesota about that -- the last two teams in are always a considerable step down in talent from #14.
Current bracketology is totally meaningless, but FWIW the prevailing scenario has this as the Madison regional:
9. Boston College
Boston College is an unpleasant prospect in the second round, but if they keep playing at the level they have been they'll move on up and out of Michigan's way.
Madison is the closest regional to Michigan this year, which is really frustrating. Michigan should be submitting bids every year for wherever: Yost, The Palace, Fort Wayne, Kalamazoo... anywhere. There's no CCHA regional this year at all, which is outrageous. At least Madison in its current incarnation would be slightly pro-Michigan (and mostly empty).
However, Wisconsin is one of four WCHA teams currently lurking just outside the tourney. If they make it, they'll be placed in Madison and Michigan will either be playing a bunch of Eastern teams out east or Wisconsin in Madsion. Congratulations, #1 seed.
Every year the NCAA screws something or another up and ends up with a largely abandoned regional, and now that the tournament is at 16 teams there's little reward for picking up that precious top seed. One-and-done hockey is such a random way to decide things that top seed should be given as many benefits as they can. Isn't it time for home regionals? Attendance problems: solved.
Patchwork. (HA!) Max Pacioretty should be back this weekend:
"It looks better every day. It looks good. I'm optimistic that he'll be ready to play," Berenson said after practice on Wednesday afternoon.
"He brings a physical game and good puck touches. His passing is excellent. He's a threat to score. As you've seen, he's one of our more physical forwards. He gives that line some real stature as far as being able to contribute offensively."
"It's feeling much better," Pacioretty continued. "I haven't had much contact in practice so I can't tell if it's really ready to go through a game yet, but it's definitely an improvement from last week."
That's good. I like Tim Miller and all, but Pacioretty is a clear upgrade.
Well, which is it? TJ Hensick was passed over for the Hobey Baker award last year in favor of North Dakota's Ryan Duncan, a sophomore who scored 12 fewer points than him despite playing in two extra games. Compounding the insult was Hensick's exclusion from the "Hobey Hat Trick". The other two finalists were Air Force's Eric Ehn -- the hockey equivalent of inviting Colt Brennan to the Heisman ceremony -- and Notre Dame goalie David Brown. (Since LSSU's Jeff Jakatis was inexplicably passed over, Brown was a deserving-ish candidate on a very strong Notre Dame team, but that's neither here nor there.)
The general defense for this was that the Hobey Baker award "isn't just about statistics". O RLY?
|Year||Player||Pos||Pts||Scoring Rank (PPG)|
|2006||Matt Carle||D||11-42-53||10th (T-1st amongst D)|
|2002||Jordan Leopold||D||20-28-48||28th (1st amongst D)|
In Carle's winning year the other defender who had that many points 1) only played 33 games and 2) played in Atlantic Hockey. In Lessard's winning year everyone in front of him played at least four fewer games than he did; in terms of raw points he was the nation's top performer.
In 2001, Ryan Miller's sick 1.32 GAA and .950 save percentage won; College Hockey Stats only goes back to that season. However, IIRC, Chris Drury, Jason Krog, and Brendan Morrison were all the nation's leading scorers the years they won; only BC defenseman Mike Mottau stands out as a Hobey winner without preposterous statistics, and even he put up 6-37-43.
In the decade before TJ Hensick was passed over every forward who got the Hobey Baker led the nation in points. When defensemen won it, with one exception, it was because they had extraordinary offensive seasons for defensemen. When a goalie won it, it was because he had extraordinary statistics.
TJ came along and he was short and had a rep for selfishness and got a ten minute misconduct in Michigan's loss to North Dakota and then all of a sudden it was just about the statistics despite the copious evidence that, yes, it was basically just all about the statistics. Then they gave it to a sophomore who wasn't even the best player on his line. (That would be Jonathan Toews, now in the NHL. Toews was injured for a significant portion of last year, during which period Duncan's productivity fell dramatically.) It was a travesty.
That travesty was justified because the Hobey "wasn't just about the statistics," right? So how irritating is stuff like this from Elliot Olshansky*?
So here we are, talking about Gerbe in the Hobey race, and obviously, there are some people who are very unhappy about it, largely because they really can't stand Gerbe.
Well, guess what? It really doesn't matter.
To his credit, a large reason Olshanksy thinks it doesn't matter is because Porter, as the nation's leading scorer and captain of a 22-2-0 team with one, count 'em -- everybody now, even Ohio State fans can get to one --, one other senior, is the appropriate choice. This isn't really about Porter. It's about Hensick, because people's personal feelings damn sure mattered last year
Hensick was widely regarded as a lock for the top three and a very strong contender just two weeks before his infamous misconduct (because we all know that the standard of refereeing in college hockey is just killer.) Then he said the wrong thing and the wrong time and was dropped from consideration.
As Olshansky noted when the "Hat Trick" was announced:
I'm just as surprised by Hensick's exclusion as I am by Ehn's inclusion. Really, when do you see a senior who's leading the nation in scoring wind up out of the Hat Trick? I guess the 10-minute misconduct that kept him out of action down the stretch in the North Dakota game really hurt him. I don't know if he'd have won if not for that, but I have to imagine it kept him out of the top three.
Hensick got a misconduct for talking to a referee and the fancypants Hobey committee decided he was no longer suitable for its award. If they don't turn their nose up at a guy who was suspended for a series of unsportsmanlike acts that culminated in the butt-ending of an opposing player, they'll be a bigger joke than the Heisman. The Hobey committee established that last year; to go back would be the rankest sort of hypocrisy.
In other news, I am still really, really mad about Hensick getting shafted last year.
*(Would like to make it clear here that I don't mean to rip on Olshansky, who was confused and maybe a little upset about the Hensick exclusion a year ago; this makes his position on Gerbe consistent.)
Ah, right. State comes to town Friday for what should be a racuous Yost crowd on par with some of the late 90s ones; Michigan will visit the Morgue on Saturday. State has a shiny record and high ranking, but there's one ugly series of numbers that points out some hollowness in their achievements: 1-5-3, State's record against TUCs.* Their schedule rank is 26th, worse than Michigan's 22nd. They've had some embarrassing losses, foremost among them getting swept at the GLI. They appear good, but not great.
MSU has no standouts but does have a number of quality forwards spread across two scoring lines: Bryan Lerg, Justin Abdelkader, Tim Kennedy, Matt Schepke, Tim Crowder, etc. They've got a ton of guys around 20 points; Kennedy leads the team with 27. Midget superman Jeff Lerg continues to play well in goal with a .922 save percentage and a 2.28 GAA.
Michigan faces a couple of difficulties against State: Lerg (goalie version) is quick as hell from side to side, which makes Michigan's favored power play tactic of one-time bombs less effective than normal, and the diffuse nature of MSU scoring makes it difficult to throw Mark Mitera on the ice and direct him to destroy all chances. (Also: frankly, Mitera had an off weekend against ND.) I'm less concerned about the freshman somehow not being prepared for a game of this magnitude after the 2-0 clawback against Notre Dame in a frenzied Yost; this will be something new for them but not that new.
I think a split is likely with a Michigan sweep far more probable than vice-versa.
*(TUC == Team Under Consideration == the top 25 teams in RPI.
What, there's something else going on?
11/23/2007 - Michigan 3, Wisconsin 2 -12-1, 8-0 CCHA
11/24/2007 - Michigan 5, Minnesota 1 - 13-1, 8-0 CCHA
I hate Minnesota.
This is an unusual thing for anyone to hate. Minnesota is a nonentity in the big two collegiate sports. They haven't been to the Rose Bowl in 40 years. The only time their basketball program is any good is when they're cheating their asses off (ya, ya, glass houses, not relevant to the discussion). Maybe Wisconsin and Iowa have a real antipathy for the Gophers, but both rivalries seem built more on sweet trophies -- an axe and a pig -- than venom. Who doesn't want to win a huge ax? Or something called Floyd of Rosedale?
No, it's impossible to truly hate a school so limply sad that when you win the Big Ten at their stadium you can not only pull the goalposts down but haul them out onto the street. Outside of certain frigid enclaves, Minnesota is nothing.
But there is nothing that makes me want to throw a brick into a crowd of revelers than the goddamned Minnesota rouser. The reasons for this are obvious and obscure. The obvious bit:
The obscure, at least in terms of national significance: the first Michigan hockey game I watched was the national semifinal my freshman year of college. Michigan torched UNH 4-0. Two days later, Josh Langfeld wandered out from behind the boards and sort of tossed a puck between Scott Clemmensen's pads and Michigan was national champions. My vague September desire to maybe get hockey tickets had been quickly forgotten in the rush of Charles Woodson and company's national championship thrust; suddenly the decision to not get tickets seemed dumb indeed.
I rectified that the next year just in time for Minnesota to embark on a scorched earth campaign against Michigan. Suffice it to say that before Saturday, Minnesota had won six straight against Michigan and nine of eleven, several of them humiliating blowouts.
In 2003, Michigan made the Frozen Four in Buffalo, there drawing Minnesota. Buffalo being a relatively short jaunt through Canada for Michiganders, we went. (Side note: Canadians are exceedingly accommodating when you tell them you're driving five hours to watch some hockey. If you ever find yourself forced into drug smuggling by some tragic turn of events, just tell the border guard you're watching your cousin play in Lethbridge.)
Minnesota was good. They're usually good, but this edition of the Gophers was a real Death Star of a team: the defending national champions, WCHA double winners, and the tournament's top seed overall. Minnesota's national title run the year before had gone through Michigan, a painful 3-2 loss that was not nearly as close as it had looked. Freshman Thomas Vanek, now a ridiculously overpaid Buffalo Sabre, had 60 points, and the rest of the team was fast and talented.
But Michigan had beaten them 3-1 in the Showcase earlier that year, and dominated the first period. Just crushed them. Jason Ryznar and Eric Nystrom were crushing guys along the boards. Minnesota could not get possession and only a parade of saves and missed opportunities kept the score relatively close. It was 1-0 after one. The second period was the exact opposite, with Minnesota dominating play, until Jed Ortmeyer, god bless him, popped in a second goal and the final five minutes were even. A late Minnesota goal gave the Gophers life, but down 2-1 against an opponent that had beaten them earlier in the year and clearly was giving them all they could handle is not a good spot.
So it was with some disbelief that I listened to a wide array of Gopher fans chatting about the game during the second intermission, every one of them blithely assured that Minnesota would come out and roll over Michigan in the third. I have been around my share of frustratingly overconfident opposing fans -- wooo Ohio State! -- but nothing compares to Minnesota fans in Buffalo that day.
The third period was tightly contested. Minnesota tied it at the other end, but Michigan controlled much of the period. Achingly, Nystrom or Ryznar or someone knocked a puck through the Gopher goalie only to see it waved off, as the whistle had gone. Ryznar had a golden opportunity at an open net that a defenseman hacked off the line. Halfway through the first overtime, Vanek wandered out from behind the net and swept the puck at Al Montoya and it went through his pads and all I could think was "that was soft." We had a hotel room in Niagara Falls for the next couple nights. We left the next day.
Michigan hasn't been to the Frozen Four since and has only intermittently looked like a threat. Every year, Michigan would play Minnesota in the Showcase and prove that it was not national title caliber, then a parade of CCHA teams would get hopes up only for them to be dashed when
the big boys came calling.
Last year, Michigan was obliterated by the Gophers. The upperclass-laden team was basically the same group of guys who limped into the 2006 tournament with zero chance and got blown out by North Dakota. When Michigan drew Minnesota and North Dakota, the season was over. Even though Minnesota managed to blow it against Holy Cross (ha!), the season was indeed over.
This year, Michigan beat Minnesota raw. The shot count didn't reflect it, but the final score did. It doesn't really matter that the Gophers look decidedly un-vintage so far this year at 7-6-1. Michigan and Minnesota have played six periods this year and Michigan has owned five of them. They are streaking towards a real #1-#2 matchup against Miami later this year, and the malaise of the last couple years is gone, replaced with a bunch of freshman who reveal delightful new abilities -- look! backchecking! -- every game.
Everyone was waiting before making a declaration. Are they? Yes. They're for real.
Not that Emu. Highlights from the BTN:
More Penn State victorizing. This WolverineHistorian guy over at Youtube seems to be cataloging Michigan's win streak over Penn State one clip reel at at time. The current installment is 2000:
There is also a compilation of Michigan game-winning touchdowns over the years:
Miles, availability, etc. The occasional grumpy commenter who would like us all to prepare for the Brian Kelly era (which doesn't seem that bad an alternative) will drop in and assert that Les Miles will get a boatload of money dropped on him and will stay at LSU should he win -- or even just reach -- the national championship game. This NYT article that came out Friday implies otherwise heavily; this NYT blog post with fuller quotes from the principles of that article slathers it on even thicker. Former Oklahoma State player Sam Mayes:
He was never an Oklahoma State Cowboy, and I don't think that he's an L.S.U. Tiger right now. I think he's always going to be a Michigan man. I don't think he'll be content until he gets to that point. The way he would talk about Michigan and bring it up, 'When I was at Michigan.' Michigan this and that. It was like this golden fleece for him. I love my school, but with him it was something different. You had to see it. He'd say Michigan and get down on one knee. It was just crazy. People around here are joking that Les Miles has got Michigan colors on under his L.S.U. colors.
I'm sure some deranged Corn Nuts magnate can offer Miles his own effing Saban money, but I assume Michigan can and will make a competitive offer, and then we're into the whole "how many gold toilets do you need?" issue. Ben Wallace's answer was "all of them kthxbye"; Miles will probably say "just one, as long as it's Bo's."
Here's Miles' full quote about the Michigan job:
I don't want you to take the fast, hard line. I want you to hear me out.
I am indebted to that school and those people. Not Lloyd or the president there. But the tremendous memory of Bo Schembechler, and the quality that I was exposed to both academically and in football at the school. So I cannot in any way change that view. That's an honesty. I can't tell you my appreciation. My wife, my first born, my entire life is marked by my time at Michigan. Yet, I'm in a wonderful place here. I've got a great team. If I lose or have any distraction to that fact, that I would spend fun time, my time on something else like the view of that, would be a mistake. It would be a mistake and I really can't.
When I was a young coach, I had a school call me. It was so distracting. I did everything that I was supposed to do, but it affected me. Things like this really have no day-to-day change in the way I do things. I woke up at 4 a.m. today and I'm daydreaming, I'm not thinking about anything else but how to make this football team better. That to me is the right feel. I have great confidence in Michigan and they have a great staff there and they're going to do great things this year. I have no designs and nor has it ever been displayed to me that I'm the next guy, by anybody. I have given little or no thought to things that are not imminent. I really don't want to spend any more time talking about another program.
Lloyd Carr won a national championship and that staff is as quality as there is. I fully support what they're doing there.
Read from that what you will, but I have received multiple emails on this from people I trust: if Miles is offered the job he will take it.
Ashutosh has some thoughts on the Miles candidacy at What The Deuce:
Even with what Miles' has going for him, I still feel "eh" about him. I want to feel like Homer Simpson looking at a plate of bacon when the new hire is made/announced.
Mmmm baconcoach. That post went up Saturday... wonder if the needle has moved at all after the Florida game?
USA Today takes a look at said game and the fourth-down conversions therein. It slipped my mind in Sunday's post that one of the fourth-down attempts was a fake field goal; don't know if that changes the decision calculus any. It (obviously) worked, though.
Hot dog man. Missed this Daily article on the tube-meat-slinging cult hero of the student section:
As Michigan was beginning its comeback in Evanston, Ill. against Northwestern on Saturday, College of Engineering senior Jay Trzcinski walked to the front corner of the Michigan student section with an armful of hot dogs. At first, the crowd didn't recognize him, but soon murmurs began. Then the crowd started chanting "Hot Dog Man."
The rest of it is a depressing rehash of Michigan's attitude towards the stadium atmosphere ("anything fun is prohibited") compared to Northwestern's ("we are not crotchety"). Upshot:
He said he doesn't plan on throwing a hot dog anytime soon because he doesn't want a criminal charge and wants to be able to cheer on Michigan during the big games at the end of the season.
Hot Dog Man has been told his season tickets will be revoked if he throws any more tubed meats, which is preposterous. Maybe the administration's leeriness would have some merit if the hot dog tossing took place when the students were precariously perched on the seats, but at halftime everyone's sitting down. Les Miles would let the kid th
row hot dogs.
Wontario, defeated. Michigan opened up its 2007-2008 hockey season with a 5-1 exhibition win over Western Ontario that was somewhat dispiriting as these things go. Usually the final score of the exhibition is something like 8-2 and Michigan puts up like 60 shots to the opponent's 15; this game was 1-0 until a few minutes into the third when the floodgates opened. The Wolverine's Bob Miller has some impressions. Upshot:
This is going to be a very fun season for those who love developmental hockey. This Michigan team will have a solid core of players who should (no guarantees, of course) be four-year players and will be able develop naturally over time. No doubt, there will be some very frustrating games, but I can already see significant progress in most of the freshman from the first practice I attended 12 days ago. Very encouraging progress, in many cases. For those who demand lots of wins to enjoy the experience...well... you may have to decide if you can be patient through the inevitable growing pains.
Yikes. Some player-by-player breakdown follows. Personal opinions:
- Steve Kampfer still looks like the guy who got benched early last year. Lots of turnovers, occasionally turned inside out by Wontarians, still smallish. It remains a mystery how or why NHL teams thought he was worth drafting at all, let alone in the third round. Hopefully he comes around; I'm not seeing it.
- No offense to Scooter Vaughn, but God it's depressing to see #3 out there, think JMFJ(!!!) and then have it turn out to be anyone else. Similarly, the new #7, Chad Langlais, is exactly the same build as TJ except he plays defense. This is going to be a source of cognitive dissonance all year. They really shouldn't have issued thoes numbers until an appropriate mourning period had passed.
- Side note: Scooter Vaughn is a black guy from California named, obviously, "Scooter" who plays on the hockey team. Most unlikely Michigan athlete ever?
- None of the freshman jumped out like JMFJ or Hensick did when they were freshmen, but several of them showed flashes of talent. Matt Rust was compared to Andrew Ebbett by Miller, but the comparison in my head was Dwight Helminen. He has Helminen's wheels, faceoff ability, and backchecking prowess with a dash of offensive flair. Doubt he has Helminen's wicked snap shot, but his assist on Michigan's third goal -- a one-two-three tic-tac-toe job that was pure class -- was a beauty.
- Other guys I liked: Ben Winnett, a good combination of size and skill, Carl Hagelin, who probably didn't deserve a hat trick but was all over the ice, and Max Pacioretty.
- We're about to find out if Kevin Porter, top five scorer, was entirely a creation of TJ Hensick. Survey says: hell yes. He's still probably the team's best player, but is uninspiring as those go.
- One freshman defender I liked: the aforementioned Langlais. He's tiny and old (20 or 21 already, IIRC) but has some stickhandling and passing chops. Will be a fixture on the power play; reminds me of swashbuckling Eric Werner, who I loved.
- Sauer faced like one scoring chance. Goal was at the other end of the ice and I didn't get a good look, but it seemed like a goal-line scrum that ended up with him getting bumped by someone and then there was pointing and a red light. Not egregious. For that, see the Blue-White game.