in town for free camps
posts in which i say HOWEVA
insert rock band miming.
Max Pacioretty is the last Michigan hockey player who hasn't announced his intentions to return for the 2008 season. When last we left our budding power forward, he was torn:
Heard it from a very good source that he would like to sign and that Montreal wants him but the family will have none of it. At this point, put the chances of him returning for his sophomore year at about 80%.
That was The Wolverine's Mike Spath about three weeks ago. Pacioretty is now at Montreal's rookie camp and... sigh(?)... impressing:
And Canadiens director of player recruitment and development Trevor Timmins was on the ice, watching his recent draft choices - plus a few free agent signings - skate through their paces.
Timmins spoke glowingly of Max Pacioretty, telling journalists "as you can see out on the ice surface, he's a big, strong, powerful athlete" who's a strong skater and likes to hit and finish his checks. Timmins thinks Pacioretty is "physically ready" to turn pro but has to work on aspects of his game, either as a University of Michigan sophomore or a Hamilton Bulldogs rookie.
At least Montreal isn't dangling a chance at the NHL at Pacioretty. If he's eyeing the AHL... well... that's a far less appealing alternative. Further quotes from Pacioretty, however, indicate he's open to the Bulldogs:
Pacioretty said "this is a big summer for me." He trusts the Canadiens to offer sound advice on whether he should turn pro or go back to Michigan.
"I couldn't tell you right now. We have to talk more about it and figure out how they (Canadiens) feel and that'll help my decision." Pacioretty is aware that the big club could use a power forward. "I think that's where they see my upside," Pacioretty said. "I'm able to play a more physical role. But I've got a lot of work to become a power forward."
Eek. Spath says Montreal wants him to sign, Pacioretty says he'll do what the Canadiens want him to do... 1 + 1 = dammit. HOWEVA, maybe Spath's source was premature? This article makes it sound like Montreal is expecting him to return to Ann Arbor (emphasis mine):
Trevor Timmins, the Canadiens' director of player recruitment, said yesterday that Pacioretty is physically capable of playing in the NHL, but the smart money says the Connecticut native will be a Wolverine for at least one more season.
Pacioretty, who is projected as a power forward, said as much yesterday when members of the media told him about Timmins's statement. While he said his strength was one of his assets, he also said he might have a way to go before he can battle along the boards with the likes of Georges Laraque.
Pacioretty had an outstanding season at Michigan. He played on Michigan's top line with Kevin Porter and Chad Kolarik, both of whom have signed contracts with the Phoenix Coyotes.
"Playing with those guys definitely helped," Pacioretty said. But Timmins and Pacioretty both feel the youngster will be able to survive - and thrive - in the wake of the departures.
"I was the guy doing the dirty work in the corners and I think that I'll be able to play a more offensive role now that they're gone," Pacioretty said.
"He's lost two outstanding linemates, but this will give him a chance to showcase his talents," Timmins added.
Spath's 80% now seems like 60% to me, but the above passage contains direct quotes from the two people closest to the situation that assume Pacioretty's hockey will be played at Yost this fall. Still... Michigan Hockey Summer and all that. We should know sometime soon, at least, as I doubt Montreal will drag out the decision much past the next couple weeks.
Also, in a BCS-like move that comes one season too late:
Also, the Division I Men's Ice Hockey committee will recommend that teams be required to have a .500 record or better to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Wisconsin, of course, made the tournament (as a three-seed!) despite being under .500 and got to play at home. No more of that.
I'm out for the fourth tomorrow. See you Monday.
I get an email that starts like this about every week:
So I'm searching for reasons to be optimistic about the upcoming football season.
I got the first one ten seconds after Manningham, Mallett, and Arrington all lit out for the NFL or Arkansas. Each one drips through my consciousness, leaving a residue of paranoia. We can't really lose to Utah, can we? Or Minnesota? Or Notre Dame?
SMQB says... maybe!
The main reason I'm so much more skittish about the Wolverines, maybe the sole reason, is because of their nearest parallel entering the season: 2007 Notre Dame. This is not a logical comparison based on probabilities. ND was in the same kind of woeful shape, personnel-wise, heading into last season, and everybody knew it; the Irish didn't get a vote in anyone's preseason top 25, either, off back-to-back BCS games. Losing a slew of quality career starters will do that for a team. But it won't necessarily result in the worst record in school history, or one of the worst offensive performances of all time; there are no demerits for failure to predict depths so completely outside of anyone's experience. Applying the same pessimism to Michigan based on one nearby, at-the-ready example is beyond hyperbole, if for no other reason than the Wolverines won't be facing ten straight bowl teams to open the season; even if they did, two of them would play in the MAC and another from the Mountain West. It's not the kind of schedule that will let any halfway respectable outfit bottom out that quickly.
The incredibly incompetent Notre Dame team of last year also pops up in the season prediction of Nittany White Out, though as a Penn State blog that actually posts things like "Rich Rod is a traitor and a snake" their opinion must be taken with a grain of salt large enough to encompass a decade-long losing streak.
This is what every emailer that starts off with some plea to reassure him wants to know. Nobody expects to beat Ohio State or even make a New Year's Day bowl, but Jesus, did you see Notre Dame last year? Humans are exceptionally good at modeling others' emotions, especially when said others are rivals of yours, and it takes little cognition to arrive at the conclusion that Notre Dame 2007 was Not A Good Time.
Under a pale November sky in Palo Alto, Jimmy Clausen accepted a snap from center, trotted back a step or two, and dropped his knee to the ground, sending the final dozen or so seconds of the game clock spinning off into the history books. A strange, sullen silence draped itself over the Irish fans in a crowded bar on the north side of Chicago as it slowly dawned on everybody that the season was finally over. Thank you, sweet merciful Heaven, I thought to myself, taking a long swig from my tenth or fifteenth beer of the night, this godforsaken season is finally over.
Michigan fans appear to be kept up at night by the spectre of that emotion at year's end. And it's not just the Notre Dame parallel that many of the college football digerati draw that bothers. No one outside of East Lansing and Ann Arbor paid it any mind, but the Michigan basketball team just hired an offensive genius from Morgantown, bestowed upon him a rickety roster that was a poor fit for the genius's genius system, and had a Notre Dame of a season.
After a midweek game against Minnesota that saw 100 weirdly enthusaistic Gopher fans outcheer the entirety of a dismal Crisler arena, I wrote a post titled "It's Only Dark In Your Hearts" that concluded like so:
I have four more tickets sitting at a drawer at home; I don't know how many more of them I'll use. [I turned out the answer was 'all of them', by the way. I'm a sucker. -ed]
The idea of feeling like that after a football game against Minnesota haunts many.
So why won't this happen? First... it might. Michigan is unlikely to sink to the horrific depths Notre Dame did solely because of math -- hooray Gaussian distributions -- but failing to reach a bowl would be a real blow to the internet argument capabilities of Michigan fans. And that's totally within the realm of possibility, especially since the Big Ten mandates all 7-5 teams have to be picked before 6-6 teams. So this is not a "ha, that won't happen, you are stupid for attempting to predict the future because my ability to predict the future is much better than yours."
HOWEVA, I don't think it will. And I think so for these reasons:
1. Rich Rodriguez is not Charlie Weis. Charlie Weis is an immensely overweight sociopath who had never coached a team stricken by youth or, really, accomplished anything whatsoever without the aid of the opponent's defensive signals. Rich Rodriguez forged West Virginia into a national power despite operating with recruits far less highly touted than the ones Michigan has at his disposal.
This is by far the number one reason available. Outside of ludicrous pipe dreams like Urban Meyer or Mack Brown or Pete Carroll, Rich Rodriguez was perhaps the bar-none top candidate for any college looking for a coach. The only reason he was not a ludicrous pipe dream was the poisonous relationship Rodriguez had with West Virginia's dysfunctional leadership. He is proven. Over seven years at West Virginia he took a program that had fallen considerably during the last few years of Don Nehlen's tenure and turned them into West Fuckin' Virginia, and he did it with his system and his coaches and his players as the head coach. Charlie Weis was a below average offensive coordinator who left his team no worse off after he left.
Raise your hand if you think the Bill Stewart era is going to go well at WVU. Yeah.
How did Rodriguez do this? I don't know. I do know that some people can relate to the sort of people who end up as really serious college football players, can motivate them and organize them and inspire them, and that this is a real skill possessed by a very small number of very rich people.
Weis, meanwhile, implemented a half-ass version of the spread 'n' shred he would abandon a quarter into the season, neglected fundamental things like teaching people how to block, and alienated his players to the point where several of them bolted the team midseason despite plenty of opportunities for playing time. It was without question the most abysmal coaching performance at a BCS school since John Mackovic experienced armed insurrection at Arizona. It was three standard deviations below the mean.
2. Lloyd Carr was not Tyrone Willingham. Notre Dame fans' favorite excuse for the failings of Weis E. Coyote -- Tyrone Willingham likes golf -- was legit. The 2004 Notre Dame recruiting class was almost impossibly atrocious:
|SIGNED LETTER OF INTENT||Pos||Stars||Ht||Wt||40||RR|
Take away the names and this could be Michigan State or Oklahoma State or any crappy team that manages a couple of good athletes and backs it up with garbage. It gets worse when you consider that two of the very few contributors were the first rats to flee the Good Ship Weis: Darius Walker entered the NFL draft early (in the same way I could enter the draft: he was undrafted) and Ronald Talley decided he'd rather start at Delaware than start at Notre Dame.
But wait! It's still worse: in reality the class was worse than that as a lot of the guys in it got overrated because they committed to Notre Dame. There is one area in which recruiting sites do fudge rankings, IMO, and that's with the tail end of the class at big deal schools. Almost anyone who commits to Michigan as an unranked or two-star player will end up with three stars if the services have time to rerank them. Normally this is a small effect, but when ND starts bringing in a full class of questionable recruits the big school bump becomes a major factor.
These guys were the seniors and fourth-year juniors on last year's team, and the class after them -- the Willingham-Weis transition year -- was hardly better. Michigan's recruiting has never been close to that dire. The 2005 class was #6 nationally; 2006 was #13. Even with the outflux of talent to the NFL and Ohio State's bench, Michigan has far more talent than Notre Dame did last year. The Willingham classes started out with hardly any talent and then experienced major attrition; at least Michigan is starting from a lofty perch.
The magical 2007 Notre Dame season was a lethal combination of awful coaching and awful talent. Michigan has excellent coaching and okay to good talent. I'm not saying you should make plans for New Year's Day, but this ain't gonna happen en route to 3 and 9:
Clearly, there will be growing pains. A season like Tressel's initial foray at Ohio State -- a bleh 7-5 that would have been 6-6 without JohnNavarre's exceptional generosity -- is well within the realm of possibility. And by that I mean "is the most likely outcome."
This should be fine with you. Michigan needs a year to pupate, and then?
It's Bo! In Michigan Stadium! Being Bo! Unfortunately, it's with Mitch Albom. But whatever:
WolverineHistorian also has clips from the '86 Ohio State game.
It's Mike Hart! Mitch Albom is thousands of miles away!
He'll grubberize the left flankenoid! Budding "television presenter" Dhani Jones is going to get his rugby on:
"Because Dhani [pronounced Dee-hah-nee] is a defensive lineman [sic], his catching and passing are the things we need to work on.
"All being well, he will come on the field as a flanker. I don't think it will make much difference whether it's blindside or openside.
"We just have to make sure that when he hits someone it is an opponent who has got the ball and that he's not running an illegal blocking move."
A football fan has no place to criticize obscure minutiae in another sport, but I've taken in a few rugby games and find it utterly incomprehensible. It was fun, though, to sit in polite befuddlement as the people around me went nuts about seemingly irrelevant developments... now I know what it's like for people around me.
Defending the man. Anyone who's read this blog for any length of time knows that it consistently advocates for more aggressive playcalling, especially in the tough-FG-or-pooch-punt area of the field from about the 50 to the opponent's 30. Years of screaming "NO!" at Lloyd Carr have created something of an obsession.
This is a mildly tough position to hold in the aftermath of a Super Bowl that featured one ballsy decision to pass up a 48-yard field goal that led to a turnover on downs and a three-point loss. No doubt some toolish sportswriter who believes in things like heart and thinks math is for pencil-necked commies will seize upon this and write a scathingly dumb article about newfangled methods.
HOWEVA, it should be noted that the Romer paper mostly applies to downs like fourth and three, not fourth and thirteen. This graph is the heart of the paper (click for big; it's a little unintelligible at this size):
The solid line represents the point at which kicking and going for it are equal choices; never does it breach ten yards to go and at the 31 yard line it's begun a steep downward pitch into reasonable FG distance. By my estimation, Romer's paper suggests that going for it on fourth and eight is barely defensible; fourth and thirteen is lunacy.
Hatred! In the aftermath of the MSU series, Yost Built took a look at Michigan's odd power play disparity. You'd expect that Michigan, always one of the best teams in the CCHA, would have an advantage when it comes to power play opportunities, right?
This was the case a few years ago, but not so much now:
2007-08: Michigan: 132, Opponents: 141, 8-14-4
2006-07: Michigan: 241, Opponents: 241, 18-19-4
2005-06: Michigan: 254, Opponents: 233, 22-14-5
2004-05: Michigan: 273, Opponents: 244, 21-12-9
2003-04: Michigan: 241, Opponents: 175, 33-3-7
(Note the NMU series numbers are not in here.) A few theories as to Michigan's progressive downturn here:
- The NCAA went through a brief, wonderful period during which they really cracked down on obstruction, which really helped Michigan; this is less heavily emphasized these days.
- Jack Johnson. Self explanatory, no?
- Steve Piotrowksi.
As in "Steve Piotrowski's retirement". The piece of data from the Yost Built post that leaps off the page:
Piotrowski: 10.4 PPO/game, +66, 27-7-4 over 38 games ...
None of the other refs that we frequently have (double digit times over 5 years) is higher [in PPO +/- for M] than +.65/game, whereas Pio is at +1.74/game for Michigan
Piotrowski was universally acclaimed the best ref in the CCHA and possibly the NCAA. He officiated multiple national championship games during the CCHA prolonged absence from said game and is now the CCHA's director of officials. Now he's gone and Michigan can't buy a hooking penalty.
The King of Rationalization. Friday's emo post about the basketball team contained a complain against the WHO WANTS SOME FREEEEE PIZZAAAAA announcer guy. It turns out that the announcer guy gets around the area, announcing things from Tiger baseball to Eastern Michigan basketball and Toledo Storm hockey. He is well loved by the Storm faithful:
"A LOT OF PEOPLE think it's odd that the fans boo me. It goes back to something a former Blade sports reporter wrote. He thought it was horrible that I introduced myself because most announcers don't. So in one of his columns he encouraged people to boo me. I think they were booing me to spite his suggestion. But that's how it started. I took my dad to a game and I told him the fans really like me. When they all booed me he said, 'Robert, I thought you said they liked you.' I told him if they didn't like me,
they wouldn't boo me every night.
Uh... someone fax this guy to South Bend.
In any case, while this guy may be excellent for the Toledo Storm and Eastern Michigan his particular brand of irritating rah-rah is not a fit with the Michigan athletic program and he should be replaced. Or at least tranquilized before games.