Hockey's season went out with a whimper as they were swept at the hands of Minnesota in the first round of the Big Ten tournament. That's disappointing but not particularly surprising for anyone who watched most of Michigan's season.
What went wrong? Michigan's various problems follow.
Michigan was one of the youngest teams in the country, and the bottom of the age standings are pretty ugly:
ND and Denver are in the top 16 of the pairwise. Otherwise this is a list of the teams that generally recruit the best across college hockey and are struggling in the new over-30 NCAA. Not one of Minnesota, Michigan, BC, BU, or Wisconsin is in position for an at-large bid. It should be noted that 50-52 are Quinnipiac, Providence, and Harvard, who are all set for at-large bids, but even those teams in close proximity by rank are almost a half-year older than Michigan and the rest of the "we recruit the NTDP" class.
Under Pearson they've moved to taking more overagers, but those guys are all underclassmen. Michigan is in the process of having some 23 and 24 year olds; they are not there yet. At some point Michigan's going to be a mix of older players and high-level NHL prospects. Currently they are young and had 1.5 high-level prospects. Speaking of:
Norris was M's only PPG scorer and missed half the year [Bill Rapai]
As discussed in the previous post about Michigan's gap year, this year's freshman class had zero drafted players for the first time in probably 20 years. Michigan found a good fourth line as Moyle and Van Whye emerged midseason; that line then became their de facto second line because nobody else was doing anything. Compounding matters was the previous class, which was Hughes and Norris (woot woot!) plus Mike Pastujov, whose star fell precipitously after his commitment, and then whatever Mel could scrape up. That turned out to be Becker and Raabe, two guys who have chipped in but aren't scoring line players at this point in their career.
So when Norris goes out midseason, they have zero underclassman forwards capable of playing on a scoring line. This is untenable for a program that is constantly getting raided by the NHL—you aren't getting Cooper Marody back for a senior year.
Michigan did have some guys: Lockwood put up 31 points in 36 games; Slaker and Pastujov put up 25 and 24. It's not a coincidence that two of the three top scorers were older draftees. There just weren't enough of them. Michigan has always been more talented than all of its opponents, which is how they make up the perpetual age gap. This year they weren't. Opposing goaltenders put up a .914; Michigan was 41st in shooting percentage. Even more telling: Michigan's power play conversion rate nearly halved from 19% (average-ish) to 10% (national worst) when Norris went out.
[After THE JUMP: woe! fie and woe!]