Unverified Voracity Thanks John Wilkins

Unverified Voracity Thanks John Wilkins Comment Count

Brian March 13th, 2013 at 4:07 PM

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Say this for the man: he dances when you tell him to dance. (AnnArbor.com)

Thanks for the service. One of the secret joys of being a Michigan fan has been the excellent service provided by John Wilkins and the alumni band when the students aren't available. Wilkins always brought an entertaining flair to the job he created 21 years ago. He has just retired, and he'll be tough to replace:

Deciding to retire from the pep band was not easy for Wilkins. “I will miss the Alumni Pep Band very much,” he said. “The opportunity given to me to conduct a Michigan band at Michigan games, to play this great Michigan music, was a dream that I had since a little boy, a dream come true. Over the years I have developed incredible friendships with the players and will miss working with them on a regular basis. I'm glad that I have been invited to come back every year to conduct the entire Alumni Band at the football game in October on homecoming weekend.”

Also I have that tie.

It's kind of like the Heisman I guess. Denard will be on the cover of EA's most recent slight rehash of NCAA Football 2003. Smile incoming:

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He joins Desmond Howard and Charles Woodson. The game will pay tribute by having linebackers jump impossibly high to snag interceptions off everybody.

There were vote shenanigans that threatened to propel Texas A&M's Ryan Swope over the top, but EA promised they would eliminate fake votes, and by "eliminate fake votes" they meant "put Denard on the cover even if he finished last because this is EA, and EA gets dollars son even if it means turning a single player game into an always-online fiasco because we are mad at pirates."

He probably doesn't realize he's twisting the knife. After three straight weekends in Ann Arbor, Drake Harris finally gave the "it's not you… it's me" speech to Michigan State, decommiting. Except he said it was actually you, Michigan State:

"Since I'm just playing football now,” Harris told reporters after his regional basketball game Monday in Grand Rapids, “I want to play at a bigger school, win a national championship."

Analysts are saying don't count your 6'4" elite wide receivers before they hatch, but it looks like the field is catching up to Michigan now. They'll have an opportunity:

“I don’t have a frontrunner, I don’t even have a top list right now. I’m supposed to go down to Florida on March 22, and then Ohio State sometime in April and Notre Dame sometime in April. I’m not sure what I’m going to do in the summer. I’ll probably go out and visit some schools out West.”

Harris says he'll enroll early and plans to commit in October. Long way to go.

[Ace, you can just C&P this section into Friday Recruitin'. Sorry.]

Well, yeah. Trey Burke is a first-team All American to the Sporting News and the Big Ten's player of the year, the first time in 24 years a Michigan player has brought that award in. The last guy was Glen Rice, which also yeah. Burke said "I feel honored" in response to being honored. Tautological point guard is tautological.

It really came down to Oladipo versus Burke, and while I love Burke with a Denard-crush intensity you really can make a case for Oladipo, who shot 66% from two(!), was the #5 guy in true shooting percentage, has a near-top-100 OREB rate—something Michigan felt the lash of on Sunday—and is a defensive superstar. It's that versus Burke's huge usage and incredible assist rate and turnover avoidance. It's Woodson versus Manning for the Heisman, except Indiana fans probably won't be bringing it up 20 years later.

Well… uh. Tim Hardaway also made first-team All Big Ten on one of the two ballots. This I am not so sure about. Aaron Craft got the nod on the media ballots—a weird situation where the better defensive player gets the hype and the coaches go for offense—and to me that's a lot more justifiable than going strictly by scoring average. That's how you pick Hardaway over, say, Gary Harris, who shot 74/52/42 on FT/2s/3s versus Hardaway's 69/50/38 on virtually identical usage. Hardaway did rebound a lot better, but what rebounds exactly was Gary Harris supposed to acquire as a the two-guard in a lineup with Payne, Nix, and Dawson?

I haven't watched Harris that closely but I doubt Hardaway brings much defensive value he doesn't. Eh. Awards are pointless, see…

The CCHA's continuing inability to do anything right. This is far less egregious than the various Hunwick-related snubs last year (Hunwick was a top-three Hobey finalist and not the CCHA goalie of the year), but Boo Nieves was honorable mention All Rookie this year despite having the second-most points of any freshman in league play. Alaska's Tyler Morley's 8-7-15 was better than Nieves's 8-14-22.

In other news, highlights of Michigan's 3-2 win over Northern on Friday contain one Michigan goal and two by NMU.

#gongshow

Where was this all year? Hockey resoundingly swept Northern Michigan over the weekend in two games I did not see because I assumed Michigan would not have a home series last week, because when has Michigan ever finished between 6th and 8th in the CCHA? LOL that idea.

In any case, Michigan's Saturday demolition of Northern was so comprehensive it makes you a little mad. Michigan outshot Northern 23-6 in the first period and 16-3 in the second, whereupon it was 4-1 and all over but the shouting. If you can do that now…

Anyway, Saturday's game was a weird one with two penalty shots:

Copp converted the second once the goalie went for a poke and missed it, leaving his five-hole exposed. He also scored a grinder earlier.

Center Ice has recaps of Friday and Saturday. They've recovered from that January funk and go to Western this weekend. CI:

A few guys are really standing out on a weekly basis, Copp, Racine, Nieves, Merrill, Guptill, they just are playing on a level that no one else is coming close too. I vividly remember our series against Western earlier in the year because every stoppage of play a Bronco went to a Wolverine, chirped at him and gave him a shove. No one did anything about it. Today I thoroughly enjoyed seeing any Wildcat who went near Racine get a push and shove, most of the the time it was Andrew Copp doing it. Little things that make a big difference.

The Guptill-Copp-Deblois line sees Guptill on a seven-game point streak; Nieves was sick last weekend but played through it.

Vincent Smith AMA. #2 popped up on Reddit yesterday to do an AMA promoting his Pahokee kickstarter, and the first question is… not about Clowney. It's about what kind of sub he ate. Well done, zparts. The second question mentions Clowney, but also finger guns. There was also the inevitable MGoBlog question that got the inevitable "I don't really read it" answer.

There is another. Derrick Walton senior highlights:

He won't be Trey, but if Hardaway and Robinson are back he won't have to be. If he can be a better version of Yogi Ferrell (18% usage, 26 Arate, 43%/32%) Michigan shouldn't have too much of a dropoff on offense what with everyone else back.

Etc.: Denard pro day interview. Who wants to dwell on the Indiana game? Special teams… not bad? Jordan Morgan : Space Jam :: Brian : Big Lebowski. Hockey's had a lot of breakaways of late.

Comments

Unverified Voracity Is Sportmanteaing

Unverified Voracity Is Sportmanteaing Comment Count

Brian October 3rd, 2012 at 5:10 PM

Marve: available? Robert Marve's ACL isn't completely torn this time so he may give it a go this weekend, which would give Purdue a second option if TerBush struggles. Emphasis on "may":

Marve said he participated in the full practice for 1st time since his latest injury. As for the game "I hope I can help out some" #Purdue

If he ends up in the game that's probably good news since it sounds like it will be a desperation move by the Boilers.

dangit should have titled this section "marvailable?"

Oklahowat. Of all the crazy things to do to save a couple lousy bucks:

Four-star offensive tackle Matt Beyer (San Antonio/Reagan) had been mentally preparing for two weeks, but that didn't make the news any easier to take.

Beyer said he was told Tuesday by Oklahoma offensive tackles coach Bruce Kittle that his scholarship offer to Oklahoma will not be honored, Beyer confirmed to SoonerNation on Thursday night.

Beyer, who committed to the Sooners on July 2, has been forced to give up football because he was diagnosed with the spinal-cord condition cervical stenosis about three weeks ago.

The Bylaw Blog notes that OU could sign him and immediately give him a medical scholarship. So… like… why not do that? Your program + Rinaldi profile of this guy – cost of scholarship > Your program + perception you're heartless + cost of scholarship. I don't get it, man.

Morgan head thing. Michigan is very cautious about head injuries:

Morgan said the word "concussion" never was used by doctors, but his symptoms were enough that he was held out against the Minutemen.

"Just got knocked and was a little out of it for a little bit," the sophomore said Tuesday. "A lot of it was precautionary, just doctors making sure on everything. But I haven't had any symptoms since and I'm feeling good.

"I haven't had a head injury, so I didn't know what to expect I guess going into it. But the doctors were really positive and honest through the whole thing and I was real upfront and told them exactly how I was feeling every day."

A plague of missed assignments. ND film review was ugly. Not for me. Not just for me. Also the players:

Against Notre Dame, the Michigan offense had 23 of those missed assignments, according to redshirt junior tackle Taylor Lewan, a number he called “unbelievably high.” The mistakes could range from missed blocks to improper reads to poor communication.

“You should have one or two maybe in a game,” Lewan said. “I’ve never seen (23 missed assignments) happen before, personally.”

Yeesh. Two were on the Smith INT, I'm sure, and various others are in Denard's lap. I hope they get these things fixed, because I don't like watching games like the Notre Dame game. Also I enjoy oxygen and water.

Epic troll? So I'm thinking about making some sort of George Clinton joke about this article on Denard Robinson…

Denard Robinson's funk 'lasted for days' after Michigan loss to Irish

…and end up looking at the comments. I've just read a bunch of "Ken M" trolling posts and this sets off the alarm bells: 

Chuck Luck · Top Commenter

"Denard Robinson's funk 'lasted for days' after Michigan loss to Irish".

Glad this young man is not in the military, people die when their fellow soldiers act like this.

Troll: successful.

In a nutshell. The SF Weekly profiles Bleacher Report and in doing so captures the thing's essence:

The exemplar of contrarian thinking offered within the site's curriculum is a Bleacher Report article titled "Why Tom Brady Is the Most Overrated Quarterback in NFL History."

This piece epitomizes much of what frustrates the site's detractors. The article's author, an affable 19-year-old college sophomore named Zayne Grantham, tells us he still thinks Brady is an overrated "system quarterback" who largely succeeds thanks to his team's capable defenses. (The New England Patriots advanced to the Super Bowl last year with the 31st-ranked defense in terms of passing and overall yardage in a 32-team league.) But even Grantham doesn't believe Brady to be history's most overrated quarterback: "In hindsight, I may not have used that headline. I'll be one of the first to say he's one of the best quarterbacks we've ever seen."

And there you have it: Anyone baited into responding to these hyperbolic stories finds themselves debating a non-starter argument with a teenager from Shreveport who doesn't even buy the premise of his own article.

Somewhere in the Bleacher Report salt mines is the next generation's Drew Sharp, who will be forced to write slideshows about the top tittays in tennis and why LeBron James is bad at basketball until he gets paid 600 dollars a month to write SEO filler under predetermined headlines. Don't tell me you don't believe in the narrative of progress.

Shades of that Illinois game, except weirder. Remember way back in the day when refs botched two massive fumble calls against Illinois and publicly apologized afterwards? This got Michigan fans in a lather because they'd experienced their share of refereeing mishaps without getting a reassuring pat on the shoulder, and did nothing to actually correct the issue. Well, in the Big 12 they've "apologized profusely" for this:

That's a lot more ambiguous than two clearly wrong calls against Illinois. Q: why are Oklahoma State fans taping horrible angles on TV the best we can do here? Shouldn't there be some cameras on the LOS, like, for all games?

[UPDATE: Big 12 says "never happened."]

Compher "marquee." The USHL just had a prospects game and reviews are rolling in. This is from The Hockey News:

J.T. Compher, LW – U.S. NTDP (USHL)
Along with Fasching, Compher is the marquee name on the NTDP this season and though he doesn’t have his teammate’s beastly size, Compher gets in the mix. At the AAPG, the University of Michigan commit demonstrated a dogged determination around the puck, never giving up on a play. He’ll be one of the team’s leading scorers this season. Draft eligible in 2013.

Michigan Hockey Net rounds up reactions to Compher, Allen, and Downing and provides season-to-date stats in his weekly hockey recruiting update.

Exit CCHA. MLive has a good article on the end of the CCHA. Relevant bit on the Mason Cup:

“I’ve been asked a lot about that. Does the final winner take it? Just like the Stanley Cup, there are two Mason Cups. There’s one where (current CCHA tournament champion) Western Michigan has it on display and we have another we keep on display at the Joe (Louis Arena) during the season.”

Pletsch said no option is being kept off the table. He said he has contacted the Hockey Hall of Fame to gauge the interest there. He said he has also thought about giving the Mason family one of trophies to keep.

In a respectful gesture Pletsch said he has even reached out to the Big Ten about possibly donating the trophy to the league that ultimately led to the CCHA’s demise.

“If they wanted it we would consider donating it to them,” he said.

I doubt any of the other five teams in the newly formed Big Ten are going to be enthusiastic about that idea. Given the hodgepodge of trophies they created for football, the new trophy will probably be the Comley-Markell-Gadowsky Cup.

Etc.: As part of my trip to Georgia I got to deploy my best Marvin the Paranoid Android impression in an AIRBHG t-shirt. Stuffing the Passer. Hockey season preview from Yost Built.

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Puck Preview: Gongshow Finals

Puck Preview: Gongshow Finals Comment Count

Brian March 16th, 2012 at 4:09 PM

PLAYOFF TIME IS HOCKEY BEAR TIME

HOCKEYBEAR IS GO

UMHock_GLI_Brown_Trophy-thumb-333x377-98653[1]The Essentials 

WHAT BGSU vs Michigan
Miami/WMU vs Michigan
WHERE Joe Louis Arena
Detroit, MI
WHEN 8:05 PM Fri
TBD Sat
THE LINE College hockey lines, junkie?
TELEVISION Friday: FSD Plus
Saturday: FSD (final only)
HAI GUYS. So I've got this 1500 word ND preview in my drafts folder that somehow I did not publish last week. That's a sinking feeling right there. Apologies for anyone who felt abandoned. Moving on.
Image: last time Michigan hit up the Joe with a trophy on the line, success was experienced.

Bowling Green

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DeSalvo has been DeMolishing opponent defenses. HA!

When Michigan got only a split from Bowling Green on the final week of the regular season, that was annoying and ominous. The rest of the league didn't think it was ominous for them. They were wrong.

In the first round Bowling Green bussed up to Marquette and probably ended Northern Michigan's season by winning a series against a team that had swept them just three weeks earlier. It was no fluke, either: BG was about on par with Northern in shots in their 5-3 win Saturday and won 4-1 Sunday to clinch the series.

They took on league champ Ferris State the next weekend. Again, their opponent had swept them just three weeks previous. Total goals were 9-2. Again they won the series in three games. This one was a bit of a fluke. Both wins were in OT; on Friday FSU outshot the Falcons 56-34. BGSU fell behind 3-0 on Sunday before launching a stirring comeback. New hero Dan DeSalvo—who didn't even play against Michigan—added his 8th, 9th, and 10th goals of the CCHA playoffs as part of a natural hat trick that took BGSU from 3-1 down to 4-3 up, and through.

Unfortunately I was out of town for the untelevised BG series and can't offer any in-person evaluations to help refine the existing Puck Preview. That post spent a lot of time pointing out that BGSU was the worst team in the league by a good margin and apologizing for any jinxes this might stir up. From reports from people who were there it did seem like Michigan gave the Friday BGSU game away with a series of deflating turnovers late. Saturday Michigan endured nine penalty kills and still outshot BGSU 49-22. They couldn't score until five minutes had elapsed in the third.

That's about right: Michigan should bomb the BGSU net and win; if they get sloppy or enjoy a parade to the box DeSalvo might be able to make them pay.

Miami

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Czarnik (yes that Czarnik) and Smith are Miami's goal engine

Sniper Reilly Smith (27-16-43) is one of three CCHA Hobey Baker finalists with MSU defenseman Torey Krug and Michigan's Shawn Hunwick. Two of those players were unanimous All-CCHA first team picks. The other is Hunwick. #gongshow

Anyway: Miami took it on the chin from Michigan in early February (Puck Preview), getting swept 4-1, 3-0 at Yost. At that juncture the Redhawks were outside of the NCAA tournament. Eight straight wins later they are playing for a one-seed at the Joe. Miami hasn't given up more than one goal in a game since the Michigan series, and while two of those games were against UAH the other six were against tourney aspirants, ND, OSU, and MSU. They are rolling. In the three series against serious opposition they've outscored their opponents 25-3.

Miami yanked Cody Reichard after the first period of their Friday game in Yost and has rode Connor Knapp since. He's played 8 of the last 9 games; the exception was a gimme against UAH. Knapp will get both games at the Joe unless he implodes. Since he's got a .943 on the year, don't bet on that.

Miami's finally playing like they were expected to at the start of the year; all due respect to Western Michigan but it will be a surprise if the Redhawks aren't in the final.

Western Michigan

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Michigan edged Western for the #2 seed in the CCHA tourney on a tiebreaker, one that became more important than expected when Ferris got bounced. Over the course of the season, Michigan has proven itself on a slightly higher level than the Broncos. Michigan had a +25 goal differential in CCHA play; Western was +11. WMU made up for it by winning all their league shootouts. Michigan won just one.

Michigan hasn't played Western since their awful November. Michigan got a split at Yost, losing 3-2 on Friday when Dane Walters scored with under a minute left. Michigan outshot WMU 36-25. The next night Michigan went into the third tied again; Bennett and Treais scored to put it away. The shot differential was flipped.

That was WMU's first loss of the year. While they cooled off after their hot start, they still find themselves tenuously in the tournament. They're 15th at the moment and will play themselves in or out over the course of the weekend. Getting swept is probably doom and a split is hair-splitting time.

The Broncos have something of a tough time scoring. Chase Balisy is their leading scorer with 12-22-34 and they've got three more guys with double-digit goals. I really liked senior captain Greg Squires's magic midget game when I saw them live but he's only got 6-11-17 on the year. Sparks-esque, that. Past their top line-ish WMU has guys a lot like Michigan's lower lines. Danny DeKeyser won the defensive defenseman of the year award in the league, FWIW.

Michigan Vs Those Guys

Tonight it's simple: keep it five on five, don't throw it up your own middle, and bomb their goalie until something goes in.

Tomorrow Michigan will get a stiff test from whoever comes through. I've tried to write something useful here and keep coming up with "play good at hockey you guys!!!" My brain has started its postseason hockey meltdown. I apologize. You have no idea what I'm talking about because of the same phenomenon.

The Big Picture

If you would like to be the committee go ahead: you are the committee. Sioux Sports has added up every single one of the 1.1 million scenarios still on the table and comes away with these facts under the (obviously faulty) assumption that all games are coinflips:

  • If Michigan wins the league they have a 75% chance to be the #2 overall seed and a 25% chance to be the #3 overall seed
  • If Michigan is swept at the Joe they still have a >50% chance to be the #2 overall seed, a 33% chance to be #3, and an 11% chance to be the 4. In just under 4% of outcomes in this coinflip-based scenario, Michigan loses their one seed.

Sounds good to me. Caveat: since Michigan's bad scenarios are ones in which teams just under them do well in their conference tourneys against lesser opponents, you should be more pessimistic than that… in the event of a sweep, anyway.

In my YATC fiddling I came up with one of the worst-case Michigan scenarios that dropped them to #5. Flipping one game with a worst-case split (beat non-TUC BGSU, lose to TUC) got them back to #3. A win tonight and I think Michigan has #2 or #3 locked down.

The win-all scenario is so clean because only one team matters: Duluth. If UMD wins the WCHA they'll pass Michigan for #2. If they don't, Michigan will hold on to their current spot. Does that matter? Probably not. I assume the committee will send the Bulldogs to Minneapolis despite the presence of the Gophers for attendance purposes, leaving Michigan in a near-empty building in Green Bay. (NCAA Hockey: we hate money, fans, and atmosphere!)

Things get messier in the event Michigan does not win the league, but there's a consolation prize: a lot of YATC brackets with Miami as CCHA champion feature them as the #4 overall seed with WMU and MSU as #4s. This was the scenario that led to Michigan's matchup against the Atlantic Hockey champion a few years back. That is a better draw despite The Hockey Horror making us hold our breath until a point where the game is comfortably in hand (if that ever comes).

Elsewhere

CenterIce provides  a game preview.

Comments

Bitter Much, Gongshow?

Bitter Much, Gongshow? Comment Count

Brian March 7th, 2012 at 5:03 PM

Michigan goalie Shawn Hunwick tries to keep Alaska Fairbank's Chad Gehon, right, from scoring during second period action of Saturday, Janaury 22nd's clash between the two teams at UM's Yost Ice Arena.
Lon Horwedel | AnnArbor.com5822[1]

I'm sorry to descend on you with this but this makes me utterly livid. They are the all-CCHA teams:

First Team
Position Name, Year, School First Totals

F - Reilly Smith (JR, Miami) 10 50
F - Tyler Gron (SR, No. Michigan) 7 42
F - T.J. Tynan (SO, Notre Dame) 5 40
D - Torey Krug (JR, Michigan State) 10 50
D - Chad Billins (SR,, Ferris State) 9 48
G - Taylor Nelson (SR, Ferris State) 6 34

Second Team
F- Justin Florek (SR, No. Michigan) 4 34
F- Cody Kunyk (SO, Alaska) 2 23
F- Jordie Johnston (SR, Ferris State) 3 22
D- Dan DeKeyser (SO, W. Michigan) 2 20
D- Matt Tennyson (JR, W. Michigan) -- 20
G- Shawn Hunwick (SR, Michigan) 2 24

Hunwick got two first place votes at goalie and lost out to Taylor Nelson of Ferris State. In CCHA play Hunwick had a .937 save percentage to Nelson's .927, had a 1.93 GAA to Nelson's 2.08, and played about 430 additional minutes.

You know what they say about the Gong Show and the CCHA: one is an unfunny joke begging to be put out of its misery, and the other was a syndicated 1970s amateur night featuring absurd prizes. It's no wonder that the competent teams all fled as soon as they could find a way to.

Comments

Hockey: Alive, Frustrating, Suspended

Hockey: Alive, Frustrating, Suspended Comment Count

Brian January 6th, 2012 at 12:33 PM

GLI-champs[1]

It is alive. A month ago, Michigan's tourney streak was dead and buried after an appalling skid the likes of which Michigan hasn't endured since Red revived the program in the mid-80s. Since then a four-point weekend against MSU and a surprising GLI championship have turned their pairwise fortunes 90 degrees. Try this on for size: if the season ended today, Michigan would be in. There's another 90 degrees to go, but that's good work for two weekends.

Wha Happened

Video from the stands gets a great look at the Moffie-Clare connection that won the State game at about the 3:10 mark:

I missed all but the last ten minutes of the BC game because I was at Crisler. Yost Built has your recap. Michigan played well in the first, built a lead, got blown out of the water in the second before Treais scored against the run of play late, and then strangled the third. The ten minutes I did see were pleasingly dull.

The day after, Michigan played an even game with State. Trailing 2-1 with under a minute left and up a man, Luke Moffatt flung a cross ice pass to one of the sundry Lynches on the team, who deflected it in. In overtime Hunwick saved Michigan's bacon three times before the above transpired.

The Situation (Not That Situation)

The pairwise is a very silly metric that bounces hither and thither even when it has most of a season's worth of data, so no grand conclusions should be drawn just yet. The pairwise is also heavily slanted towards RPI, a metric that's still pretty silly but is far more projectable now that the vast bulk of nonconference games are out of the way. Now that they are, well, remember how they put in a rule that you couldn't finish below .500 and still make the tournament because of the WCHA? This year the CCHA is the WCHA

The CCHA is 40-12-5 out of conference so far this year, for a winning percentage of 0.746.  Even terrible Bowling Green, who is 1-11-2 in conference, went 5-0-1 in nonconference play, which helps everyone else in the conference.

That was before the holiday tourneys, FWIW.

Let's have a poke at RPI. Michigan is currently in a swamp of four teams separated by a couple thousandths that stretch from 10th to 13th. Their brutal schedule down the stretch is 14 games. Two of them are against BGSU. The remainder are series against #1 OSU, #4 ND, #8 NMU, #10 MSU, #15 LSSU, and inexplicably .500 Miami.

This is good and bad. Michigan can maintain its RPI at its current level by going .500 down the stretch, which will put them on the bubble. Win nine of 14 games and Michigan's RPI will slide up the 6-8 range. That is lock territory.

Michigan's in a much better spot than they were a couple years ago when they were 10-10 after the GLI. They had little room for error, used all of it and more, and only made the tourney after scraping out a conference tourney win. That team wasn't addressing its biggest weakness with the best defenseman in college hockey, though, and they weren't playing in a league the algorithm looked upon favorably.

The Other Situation (The Wall Punching One)

Is this team addressing their biggest weakness with the best defenseman in college hockey? When Jon Merrill's mysterious suspension was mysteriously extended to a mysterious end date, everyone assumed he would be back for this weekend's LSSU series and the stretch run. That is apparently not the case:

Merrill will NOT play this weekend per Red this morning


Didn't sound super optimistic the kid will be back anytime soon either. Might have to push his ETA back to late January.

Fantastic. We still have no idea what Merrill's issue is, no idea when he'll return, no idea why he's still in Ann Arbor when he's apparently never going to get back on the ice again. It's not academic or Merrill would be eligible now. It's not legal or someone would have run across a public document of it by now. It's not serious enough to put off USA Hockey when they were selecting the WJC team, but it's serious enough to force Merrill out of 2/3rds of a season and counting. ARGH ARGH ARGH ARGH. Red is Red. He is the program. He knows what he's doing. I will remain calm.

So here we are. If Merrill ever gets back I'd guess the pairings end up like so:

  • Merrill-Pateryn
  • Bennett-Chiasson
  • Moffie-Clare

That's three pairings with one offensive and one defensive player and no Brennan Serville, a guy who has struggled immensely in his transition to college hockey. Early in the year I thought Clare's footspeed would see him eat bench in the distant future when robots ruled the world and Merrill was eligible again, but the coaches clearly have more faith in him at this point. During Michigan's dismal slide, Serville was more or less directly responsible for two goals in a particular first period and sat out until midway through the third. He'll probably rotate through from time to time when Moffie or Clare has a shaky outing; a regular shift is unlikely.

If the above looks pretty good, without Merrill it's the same story we've seen so far this year: a pretty good top pairing, a somewhat reliable elderly freshmen, and after that terror, alarm, and Lee Moffie's assist machine.

Silver lining: Merrill must be planning on coming back for his junior year given the above. I mean, right?

The Forwards (Eh)

Michigan's stats are bizarre. They're fifth in the country with 3.55 goals per game but have no one averaging a point per game; leading scorer Chris Brown is tied for 79th nationally with 6-12-18 and is the only guy in the top 100 at College Hockey Stats.

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The game with ALL OF THE GOALS (all of the goals)

If it doesn't feel like they're fifth in scoring, this is largely attributable to the distribution of the goals. In one game against St. Lawrence, Michigan poured in ten. Excise that from the stats and they fall to 17th nationally… which also seems high. It is less eyepopping. Since their season-opening tomato cans they've averaged exactly 3 goals per game with four outings in which they managed only one. That's why anyone running across Michigan's place in the scoring ranks is set for a double take.

As for individuals, it's hard to pick out any for attention. What is Michigan's top line? I don't know, you don't know. M had Andrew Sinelli out there for the GLI with Moffatt and Hyman… is that a fourth line? What is that?

These days the nominal top line is Brown-Wohlberg-Guptill, which sounds like just another bunch of dudes but does have the three top-scoring forwards on the team. Whoever is playing with Phil Di Giuseppe is the second line. Lindsay Sparks has eaten bench the last four games after his production fell off; he still has more points in 18 games than Lynch, Deblois, Glendening, and Hyman have in 21 or 22. He is not notably more deficient on D than the rest of the team. I will never understand his deployment, especially when Michigan's power play is terrible.

Positives and negatives are hard to throw out there when you're not sure who is supposed to be what. Glendening is a senior captain who spent much of the year on the top line and he has eight points. That would be disappointing if it wasn't obvious he was going to be a guy with about eight points at midseason. PDG has stopped producing after a torrid start; that would be disappointing if he had much help from his linemates and wasn't a shiny penny found in the depths of the OPJHL.

Two freshmen forwards are clearly deviating from expectations in one direction or another: Alex Guptill is deservedly on the top line and has more goals (9) than any other Wolverine. He's a big guy with enough mobility to make his size relevant and puts in a bunch of effort on most shifts. Zach Hyman hasn't been bad, per se, but I keep waiting for him to Do Something. He hasn't and has limped his way to a 2-6-8 and the worst +/- on the team. He's an older guy, too, so if he doesn't start producing soon he's not likely to ever become a star.

As for upperclassmen, there aren't many. Brown, Lynch, Glendening and Wohlberg are playing at about the levels you'd expect. Treais has become more of a chance-generator but is still more Shouneyia than Cammalleri. Sparks is hated by all coaches everywhere, even that guy at Colorado School of Mines. That no one has stepped up to Rohlfs/Scooter/Lebler levels this season is a collective disappointment. Michigan has had a big old guy take a leap forward just about every year. Not so much this one.

Special Teams (Terrible)

Hey, speaking of: Michigan's special teams are not good. Their power play has finally given up the ghost and languishes at 41st nationally with just 14 goals in 86 attempts. (Miami, miraculously, is worse at 44th. What happened to the Redhawks?) They are killing penalties at an 80% rate, 38th nationally and worst in the CCHA.

While special teams have not been a consistent strength for Michigan in a while, the power play especially, they seem to have no plan at all this year. They did get much better movement in the GLI—I bet they spent a lot of practice time on doing something other than shooting it into a defenseman's knee from the point.

As for the PK, it was a testament to how great Hagelin and Rust were that they kept their head above water the past couple years. Hunwick's weaknesses are magnified when shorthanded. Opponents are more likely to get to copious rebounds, more likely to get the cross-ice motion that either exposes big chunks of the net or forces Hunwick to stay deep enough in his net for his size to be a problem. It's not a surprise they're bad when they have to deal with that and don't have the best defensive forward in college hockey.

This bad? Probably not.

Hunwick

Hunwick's maintaining a decent .917 save percentage that sees him at 26th nationally. This is a step back from his blazing junior year partially attributable to a regression in his play and partially Michigan's intense focus on executing defensive breakdowns. He's still a guy you can win with.

Well?

I was much happier when Merrill was going to be back this weekend. I'm not sure this team can hack through the upcoming schedule without him.

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Hockey Near The Halfway Mark

Hockey Near The Halfway Mark Comment Count

Brian December 7th, 2006 at 6:13 PM

Right, so hockey coverage has been nonexistent. This changes... now!

The Story So Far

Yuck. Awesome. What? ARRRRGH.

Basically that. Michigan started the season with a walkover of overmatched opponents, though the Saturday UConn game provided a dark foreshadowing of what was to come when Michigan was sailing through, up 6-0, when they let the UConn Connecticut Huskies of UConn Who Suck score five straight goals in a game no one saw because it was on at the same time the Penn State game was. So what happened? You got me. I was busy watching Alan Branch eat Anthony Morelli's face.

...but I can guess!

  • Matt Hunwick got walked around at least twice.
  • Billy Sauer faced several slapshots from the Josh Blackburn zone of you let that in?
  • The third and fourth lines got caught in their zones for entire shifts.
  • The freshmen defensemen brought gift baskets overflowing with turnovers.

That's wild speculation, mind you.

After an understandable split with Miami -- one of the three teams in the CCHA who have separated themselves from the pack at this early date -- Michigan faced perennial Hockey East bottom-dweller Northeastern and freakin' split, losing 3-2 despite outshooting the Huskies 47-20. (Many goals, few shots will be a theme.) That loss will be a PWR anchor all year. The season's low point came the next Friday, when Michigan went to Munn and turned a 3-1 lead after one into a 7-4 loss.

Then they ran off seven straight wins. Go figure, I don't know. They even kept the puck out of the net, keeping opponents to two or fewer goals in five of the seven wins, and against fairly quality competition: two MSU games, two against UNO, one against Wisconsin (though the Badgers are inexplicably terrible this year). Then came Minnesota, the #1 team in the country, and an 8-2 loss featuring four (four! F-O-U-R!) shorthanded goals, a dismal loss to Western that featured horrible play from Sauer, Hunwick, and Chris Summers, and a skin-of-their-teeth win at Lawson featuring Steve Jakiel in net. Jakiel did not exactly show himself to be Michigan's knight in shining armor, giving up 5 goals on 29 shots.

Michigan stands at 12-5-0 right now, headed for another tournament bid and neck-and-neck with Notre Dame and Miami for the league title but not a serious threat to do anything in April unless they stop fishing the puck out of the net every five minutes.

What's Gone Right

  • TJ Hensick. Long dogged by accusations of selfishness -- though not from this quarter -- Hensick's senior year is turning into the best display of passing I've ever seen anyone in a Michigan uniform put on. Kevin Porter has Milan Gajic disease something wicked but still has 13 goals and 16 assists because he's getting two glorious chances per period on Hensick's wing. David Rohlfs was such an offensive force he played D for the past two years; this year he's averaging over a PPG and has already smashed past his previous season high for points (13 as a freshman forward) by seven. Why? Because Hensick is a dirty mofo, that's why. Theory: they should put Brandon Naurato on his wing just because he can shoot, and that's all he can do. It worked for Andy Hilbert.
  • Jack Johnson. An erratic freshman season where Johnson won the crowd's admiration but not many games has been followed up by pure domination. A force at both ends of the ice, this is the Jack Johnson who went in the top five of the NHL draft. One thing: someone who does not play 30 flawless minutes a night should probably be the one getting fighting majors when Sauer gets run.
  • David Rohlfs. Sure, he's the beneficiary of all those Hensick passes, but let's review: 10-10-20 with little powerplay time from a player who was a non-entity on offense before this season. Red always liked Rohlfs, placing him on the powerplay when he was a freshman, but never got much production out of him. Rohlfs does the dirty work for the Hensick line and gets rewarded for it. May be playing himself into Edmonton's fall camp.
  • Brian Lebler. For a guy who never scored in junior, Lebler sure has some stickhandling ability. He makes a lot of smart little plays, takes the body, and is working his way up onto the Cogliano line slowly but surely.

What's Gone Wrong

  • Billy Sauer. We're approximately a year and a half into Sauer's career and there's no evidence he's good at hockey. While Sauer's not exactly playing behind the 1994 Devils here, he's also posting a .892 save percentage. Last year he posted a .898. In the USHL he did a little better at .904, but was still beat out Shane Connolly -- now Brian Elliot's backup at Wisconsin and a major suck vortex his freshman year at .885 in nine games, five of them rare UW losses -- and his .911.

    That's the statistical case against him. He saves nothing. The anecdotal case against him is equally simple: last week against Western Michigan I'm pretty sure I saw him toss his blocker at a shot that wasn't even on net and deflect it into the goal.

    This is different than Al Montoya, who clearly didn't give half a crap his junior year and had a proven track record of being damn good. There was always a chance he would snap out of it. Sauer has left a trail of "meh" in his wake and it's unlikely to get any better. Unfortunately, Noah Ruden's gone and Jakiel... well, Jakiel was beat out by a recruit we have coming in next year and traded. Also, five goals against.

    Still, we've seen a lot from Sauer and all indications are that he's just a bad goalie. Platooning Jakiel may reveal him to be a better option.

  • Defensemen not named "Jack Johnson" and "Tim Cook" (seriously!). (That Cook-to-forward experiment was a disaster I hope we won't see repeated -- with Dest out for the next month with a shoulder injury and Jack gone for the WJC, I'm sure to get that particular wish until at least January. Cook has turned into a reliable, uninspiring defenseman. At forward he may as well not even have a stick. Anyway.) I don't know what's with Matt Hunwick, but ever since the game-losing goal against Wisconsin where Hunwick's man split him and a shocked Jack Johnson, I panic when I see him one-on-one against an onrushing player. And shockingly, I've been right to do so this year. People just dance past him on a weekly basis. It's amazing. Senior captain: take the damn body.

    Summers and Kampfer have been turnover machines and generally tetchy, but as freshmen they have a built in excuse. Summers, at the least, skates gorgeously and clearly has tremendous upside, but too many times this year he's weakly attempted to purse-check his opponents and watched them waltz in for scoring opportunities.

  • Lines without Hensick and Cogliano on them. The third line is close to getting off the dreaded MGoBlog naughty-word-for-poop list, but we need more crash and bang and less "help I can't break out of this zone." The only guys on the team who are minus overall other than statistical blip Anthony Ciraulo? Turnbull, Lebler, and Bailey (a frightening -9). The fourth line is a mishmash of JJ Swistak 2006 -- no offense, Fardig, I always liked Swistak -- a guy who can't do anything but shoot, and whichever walkon is so not being Trevor Lewis on this particular night. Effective? Not so much.

Outlook

A fundamentally flawed team that's riding the brilliant performances of a few amazing players. Hensick, Johnson, and to a certain extent Andrew Cogliano are carrying the team. The offseason defections of Lewis, MacVoy, and Swystun are being felt keenly, as that's the difference between the Michigan teams of years past where gu ys like Gajic and Ryznar were our third-liners and this one. While no one would ever confuse Gajic and his sawdust stick with stardom, he was still a plus player who you could count on for double-digit goals and a whole lot of gorgeous misses. Once you get past the Hensick and Cogliano lines, the offensive skill consists of some flashes from Lebler and the (very) occasional wicked wrister Naurato gets off. Top heavy are the Wolverines.

Defensively, Johnson's dominant and then Mitera and Cook are competent. Hunwick is still an enigma; Dest and the two freshmen are turnover machines. No quarter necessary.

And then there's goal. While Sauer's not the only issue -- he's been five goals worse than a goalie with an NCAA-average (.904) save percentage, and removing those five goals moves Michigan up from 44th of 59 in GA all the way to... 37th! -- he, like junior Montoya before him, has been obviously subpar. Combine that with festival de turnover and hello sir I would like you to have a breakaway, especially shorthanded and you get bad.

Good news: if the defense tightens up and cuts down on the opposition's chances and the third line gives up and just traps the hell out of everyone, the top-end talent on Michigan's roster is enough to outscore just about anyone. Bad news: unlikely to happen, and Sauer's probably not going to get a visit from the Goalie Fairy with five-hole caulk anytime soon.

Midseason-esque Projection

In a battle all the way with ND and Miami for the CCHA title. Probably finish second. Tournament bid as a 2 or 3 seed; fate depends heavily on opponent. WCHA = WCH-dead. Grinding team a la Cornell? Probably okay. Frozen Four unlikely; national championship verrry unlikely.

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