HOEGLAW. Richard Hoeg has many interests. None of them include criminal law or horses, which I have been asked to make explicitly clear for SEO purposes. One of them is talkin' about stuff, including video games and Star Wars; he's put together a Youtube channel for his various and sundry podcast appearances.
3/24/2018 – Michigan 3, Northeastern 2 – 21-14-3
3/25/2018 – Michigan 6, Boston U 3 – 22-14-3, Frozen Four
— Michigan Hockey (@umichhockey) March 25, 2018
I've seen NCAA tournament games like Sunday's before: one team gets down, and gets desperate, and dumps all that energy into a relentless pursuit of the puck. Sometimes it's Michigan overturning a 3-0 deficit against Denver to win. Sometimes it's Boston College dominating just about every second despite being down 2-1. Most of the time when this team gets even, they keep going. BC's tying goal in 2004 was game over even if it took overtime. Shots were 45-17 in a game Michigan led the vast majority of. If North Dakota had scored on Shawn Hunwick, that was also game over.
So: Sunday. After about 30 minutes where Michigan had the edge in zone time and staked themselves to a two-goal lead, BU scores on a wraparound, then amps up their forecheck. The ice tilts their direction. When Quinn Hughes isn't on the ice, Michigan barely attempts a controlled zone exit, instead flinging the puck up the boards to BU defensemen. They dump it back in to continue the cycle. The game started to feel like Michigan's recent Big Ten playoff outing against Wisconsin, which this space called Michigan's worst of the year despite the fact that they won it.
And BU scores. They score when Josh Norris flips a pass back to Joe Cecconi in the face of two forecheckers. Cecconi makes a bad situation worse by trying to fling the puck up the slot. Turnover, unchecked guy directly in front of goalie with puck, goal, tie game, game over feeling.
The ensuing three minutes are more of the same; Michigan does not register a shot attempt and BU has a couple of dangerous chances. Then Slaker takes the puck out of the zone—a tiny flag is waved—and gets rubbed out on the boards. This is about the least threatening way hockey players can be configured:
Slaker duly follows up on the defenseman the puck is wandering towards, and then something magical and very very stupid happens. That guy's attempted D to D pass gets caught up in the snow around the bench and turns into a perfect lead pass for Slaker. Horrified, the defenseman explodes in a shower of equipment and collapses to the ground, where he remains even now. Slaker then skates into the slot and shoots a puck off the other defenseman's shin that goes straight into the net. Various larger flags are waved.
That's more or less it. Michigan puts up an insurance marker a bit later but in a game like hockey even when you're playing badly and giving up a bunch of zone time to the opposition, a one goal lead is usually enough with 13 minutes left. They put up a stat at the beginning of the third that Michigan was a brazillion and one when leading after two and BU was 2-6 when trailing.
Slaker's goal combined with Michigan's second, which bounced off the end boards and behind the goalie directly to Brendan Warren, and the BU wrap-around goal to lend the proceedings the distinct whiff of Barely Weighted Hockey Plinko. This is why it was very exciting to get in the tournament: it's usually pretty random and this year there is no dominant team that threatens to make it less so. The top seed got blown up by Air Force, which is a movie we've seen before.
Once you're there, though… I have to admit that mixed in with the hope and nervousness is a certain nihilism, because of this terrible format and hockey's failure to address the goalie revolution that shot save percentages skyward. I shook my fist at hockey plinko when Northeastern scored to even a game in which Michigan had a 2-to-1 shot advantage, and muttered something positive about it under my breath when Michigan scored on a harmless-looking play to retake the lead. They don't quite even out.
But here they are, no more or less deserving than Carl Hagelin or TJ Hensick or dozens of other Michigan hockey players who had the misfortune to have the puck bounce the wrong way instead of the right way. Cooper Marody, Tony Calderone, and Dexter Dancs wiped out the best line in the country in game one; Quinn Hughes spent the weekend looking like he had rockets in his skates; the team as a whole mercifully stayed out of the box for the vast majority of both games. Insofar as it's possible to earn anything in single elimination hockey, Michigan has earned their way to their first Frozen Four in seven years.
May our continued existence continue to entertain the hockey gods.
PONCHO TIME? Hockey borrowed something from basketball.
— Michigan Hockey (@umichhockey) March 25, 2018
I'll allow it.
This is too random. Some randomness in a tourney is fun. Without it there's no point in playing. Too much randomness and the format is clearly broken, with annually unsatisfying champions that have no real claim to being the best team. This is too random:
After going 12-0 against No. 4s in the first three years, No. 1s are 31-21. A No. 4 seed has won at least one game against a No. 1 in each of the last 13 seasons. Since realignment came about, No. 4 seeds have won eight of 12. …
In the case of those four seeds that became national champions — Yale in 2013 and Providence in 2015 — they were the last teams in the tournament. Providence qualified by .0002 RPI points over Bowling Green in 2015. This year, Duluth was the last team in by .0001 points over Minnesota. In any other year, UMD would've been a No. 4 as well. However, BU, Princeton and Michigan Tech winning their conference tournaments changed all of that.
Air Force turtled against SCSU and got lucky, like they did against Michigan some years back. The prevalence of blocked shots and super high save percentages makes that strategy pay off way too often; the sport should take radical steps to increase scoring, so that individual games are more indicative of who's actually better at doing hockey.
Stayed out of the box! Four power plays against on the weekend. One fairly badass goal from Northeastern and that's it. Given the margins here any more would have been disastrous.
But it was rough against BU. Per College Hockey News, Michigan was out-shot-attempted 63-31 at even strength. M helped bridge that gap by blocking almost a third of BU's attempts (19); BU only blocked 6 of Michigan's. Michigan benefited from the randomness this year. Hooray.
I take solace in the fact that Michigan played ND dead even this year and it didn't seem like the Irish were ever able to lock Michigan in their own zone like BU did, even when they trailed in both games of the Michigan sweep.
If Michigan does get OSU that's… sort of okay? 0-5 on the year is far from ideal, but the playoff outing was just about even at 5v5, and even though Michigan was swept in multi-goal games in late January they had huge ES Corsi advantages in both games. (55-31 and 43-23.) I ain't scared of those guys.
Hughes. Before this season my personal ranking of defensemen I've seen play for Michigan went like this:
- Jacob Trouba
- Mike Komisarek
- Zach Werenski
- Jack Johnson
- Jon Merrill
Hughes is flying up the list despite not even being drafted yet. He's… #3? I think I'd take him over Werenski. His absurd skating nullifies most of his size deficiencies…
Michigan up 3-2 after 2. Quinn Hughes a factor at both ends. Here’s Hughes (5-10, 175) on the PK against Jordan Greenway (6-6, 230). Michigan cleared the zone on this one, too, with Hughes skating it out of trouble. Playing as well as I’ve seen him all year. pic.twitter.com/zWogCSRMTH
— Chris Peters (@chrismpeters) March 25, 2018
…and late in the year he's learned what he can do at this level. He's still a bit wild and will turn the puck over in a bad spot a couple times per game, but that's because he's trying—and largely succeeding at—stuff that nobody else has the ability to even attempt. Here's an excellent twitter thread highlighting some of the things he did in the BU game.
Friday, February 23, 2018
#13 Michigan 5, Arizona State 3
UM 0 ASU 1 EV 00:51 Assists: Gruber
A Michigan skater is trying to start the breakout from their defensive zone and I don’t know whether he misreads what’s up-ice or just flubs the pass, but he ends up turning the puck over. Gruber picks it off in the neutral zone and skates it in.
Gruber is understandably under a lot of pressure as soon as he enters the zone since this is a quick offense-defense transition off a breakout. Luke Martin lifts his stick off the ice a bit, and it’s just enough for Gruber to get the pass off. The pass then happens to go under Norris’ stick and arrives on a line for Walker.
Walker rips a wrist shot and beats Lavigne…over the glove? I mean, probably over the glove. That’s what it looks like, and that’s what Lavigne’s body language indicates what with the raised shoulder, but I honestly haven’t been able to slow it down with enough clarity to make the call. Either way, it’s a dubious start for Lavigne.
[After THE JUMP: far less dubious stuff]
Friday, February 2, 2018
#20 Michigan 5, #18 Wisconsin 3
UM 0 UW 1 EV 3:33 Assists: Weissbach & Hughes
A shot gets through Luke Martin and Lavigne makes the toe save, but the byproduct is a puck kicked out to his left. Warren has a chance to snag the rebound and clear, but he overskates it. Hughes picks up the puck, spins, and fires. Lavigne stops it and steers the rebound to the corner, which is ideal if you’re allowing a rebound. Hughes is behind the net with no Michigan defender in position to get there before him.
Piazza was closest to getting to the puck, but he’s starting from a flat-footed position in front of the net and coming out to cover Weissbach. As Piazza chases, a huge passing lane opens. Norris, who’s currently patrolling the slot, does quickly turn his head to check for unmarked skaters. That head turn, though, doesn’t pick up anything that isn’t at least in line with Norris’ shoulder (see blue line below). Frederic is off the radar, Wiessbach notices this, and naturally he passes through the highway-sized gap.
Norris isn’t gapped up and he isn’t going to even able to take a step forward because of the speed of the pass and Frederic’s lack of hesitancy. I don’t want to guess at what Lavigne can see here, as he seems to have a fairly good chance to track the shot but there are two teammates in front of him that might have been screening him; the speed of the snap shot is also a consideration in casting blame (or lack thereof) for this goal.
[After THE JUMP: an up-and-down weekend when they could least afford it]
Friday, February 17, 2017
#20 Wisconsin 5, Michigan 2
UW 1 UM 0 EV 10:53 Assists: Linhart & Tischke
Tischke passes to Linhart and gets the defense moving from the goalie’s left to right.
Linhart executes an exaggerated step to his left, which pulls the defense further outside his shooting lane. From there, he sees an opening and shoots it off the boards behind the goal.
Michigan’s about to get beat by a Lidstrom. This may be called something else by others, but those people are wrong. Aside from steering everyone under the sun harmlessly into the corner for, like, two decades, this was his signature move. The puck hits the boards and bounces right to Frederic. He just has to throw the puck at the open net, as there’s no way LaFontaine can get over fast enough to square to the shot.
As for the unnerving openness of Frederic, this could have been prevented had De Jong and Cecconi not doubled the skater in the slot. This is especially frustrating considering how often Michigan has left guys unchecked in the same area.
[After THE JUMP: turnovers of the nonfood variety]
— Purdue University (@LifeAtPurdue) March 3, 2016
WELL NOW I CAN'T CLOSE MY EYES AND RELAX EVER AGAIN ARE YOU HAPPY PURDUE
you probably are
damn you purdue
More work for Chief Enunciator Ace Anbender. Michigan's hired former Hawaii and Cleveland Browns coach Tony Tuioti as Chris Partridge's replacement. Michigan seems to be consciously trying to have one guy who is super-connected with every fertile recruiting ground they can find. While Hawaii might not be a likely spot for recruits, Tuioti is Polynesian. Polynesia is kind of a location you can get recruits, sometimes ukelele-playing recruits with massive manes of awesome hair who can play fullback and tailback. These are good recruits to get.
Greg Sankey has lost in the court of public opinion. He'll probably win in the court that matters, but it's nice to see that the portions of the media not completely dependent on the SEC for food and shelter* aren't buying what Sankey's selling one bit. Dan Wetzel:
College players can't negotiate the time off that NFLers have – organized team activities for the pros don't begin until late April and often not until late May. That's four or five months off for most players. Somehow the sport thrives. In college you get less than two – which doesn't even count crack-of-dawn "voluntary" weight training sessions just a week or so after a bowl game.
No one seems too concerned about that.
To focus solely on the issue of a handful of off-campus spring practices by one school, however, is to engage in absurd selectivity. The idea that players need spring break to themselves is a nice concept, but not some irrefutable argument.
Many players, just like most regular college students, can't afford to go away for spring break, no matter what the old movies claim. The majority of cash strapped "normal" students probably use the time to work.
A breeze floated in off the Gulf of Mexico a few miles west. The temperature had just dropped into the 60s following the sun’s plunge into the pink horizon. As darkness fell and palm trees swayed, Michigan tight end Jake Butt discussed getting his spring break ripped away by his taskmaster coach.
“We don’t have to worry about classes now. All we can focus on is football, and then we’re out on the beach relaxing. It’s unbelievable,” Butt said Tuesday. “Not everyone on our team is going to be able to take a spring break to get away. We’re away. We’re down here in Florida. Beautiful territory. Sun shining. Not too hot. Nice breeze. Eating great food with our brothers. I don’t have anything negative to say about it.”
What, you thought he was going to complain?
Are college sports power brokers actually concerned that Michigan's football players will be working on out patterns instead of holding down the business end of beer bongs? I doubt it. To the contrary, I think their supposed reservations are basically a tell—you know, the subtle tip-off a bad gambler does when he's bluffing—that lets the rest of us know just what actually matters in major college sports.
Hint: it isn't making sure football players have a relaxing Spring Break.
Bob Wojnowski caught up with a local high school coach who had a couple of insightful quotes:
“Because I also coached in college for years, I realize the value of what these kids are experiencing,” Gerber said. “Most of these kids aren’t gonna afford a spring break. And if you watch the tempo and demeanor of the practice, it’s purposeful, but they’re not bludgeoning them. It’s a learning environment. This has been very well thought out.”
I has occurred to me that the local media probably doesn't mind a working vacation in early March.
*[Or, like Michael Weinreb, have a contract with the devil requiring a concern troll about Michigan every six months.]
Hello: Jerry Kill? Per Sid Hartman, Jerry Kill might end up with a job in Ann Arbor if he wants it:
This week Kill spent time with his close friend, TCU coach Gary Patterson, and could wind up on his staff. Kill has always been close to Jack Harbaugh, father of Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, and rumors around the Big Ten are that a job on the Wolverines staff is his if he wants it.
With Michigan's full assistant roster complete that would be one of those analyst positions that's come open as those gents move up the ladder. Everybody loves Kill and he has an impressive track record of dragging maximum performance out of iffy recruits, so that would be an excellent move.
A Fanhouse oral history. The Comeback has an enormous oral history of Fanhouse which is an excellent insight into how the first corporate sports blog rose and fall. I was a part of it from the beginning and faded away towards the end; only one of my completely fire takes made it in the story:
Brian Cook, college football blogger, FanHouse: I think hiring Mariotti was the most tone-deaf ridiculous thing they could have possibly done. Because he was just a blowhard, right? One of the things Spencer Hall says about SB Nation is [it's] the [internet's] the only sports appreciation machine. We weren’t lecturing from the top of a mountain like a lot of newspaper people tend to do. We were just fans being fans. And when you bring in the guys that do talk at you from the top of the mountain, do the Mariotti stuff, it’s completely antithetical [to] what the whole point of the enterprise was.
Fanhouse was an important bridge for me personally, as it allowed me to focus on MGoBlog without digging into savings. But this here site remained my focus because it wasn't tough to predict that AOL would not be in the content game long term. As a #content factory Fanhouse produced almost exclusively disposable content. Meanwhile it was difficult for it to have any specific voice when so many different people were contributing to it. The structure of the compensation—pay per post with a monthly on top of it—lent itself to lots of posts that took little time. The results were what you might expect.
Spencer's take on it is correct:
Spencer Hall, college football blogger, FanHouse, now editorial director of SB Nation:FanHouse was pretty good, but I don’t get sentimental over it. And honestly I don’t remember, I couldn’t name a thing that was written on FanHouse 10 years later. I could not name one piece that neither I nor anyone else wrote on FanHouse. I think it was a happy accident that I don’t want people to sanctify, which I would pretty much say about anything. I’d just like you to remember it accurately. It gave a lot of really cool people their first high-profile chance. I think in terms of mistakes, a lot of mistakes that the people running FanHouse made led to good things down the road.
Fanhouse was an early adopter and as such doomed to the same fate early adopters usually meet. It was housed in a large corporation that didn't really know how do to anything except its declining legacy business. It had some smart people in upper management; they were smart enough to know that they should get out while the getting was good. Those who remained thought Jay Mariotti was a good idea, and the story writes itself from there.
Fetch Tony Barnhart's fainting couch. If the man with Greg Sankey's hand up his back thinks it's "inappropriate" to issue barbs at another conference's commissioner there's no way he'll manage to stay upright after this:
Suggestion to my Rocky Top colleague, rather than lunch in Florida you might spend your time and focus attending to your present team.
— Coach Harbaugh (@CoachJim4UM) March 3, 2016
Tennessee is of course facing a Title IX lawsuit focused on Butch Jones's program, one that featured an explosive affidavit from a former player in which he asserted that Jones called him a "traitor" for helping a victimized woman.
Get The Picture deconstructed an earlier Barnhart article if you're still fisk-inclined.
Graham Glasgow on Harbaugh. Ain't no time for feelings around these parts any more:
"He's treated everyone in our program essentially, not like a child, but he treated them like an adult -- like, as a man," Glasgow said. "And every talk he had with you would be man-to-man. He was brutally honest about everything."
This is probably the least surprising quote about Harbaugh I've ever heard. It is interesting that it seems like a departure from Hoke.
This is a good interview. The Daily catches up with an outraged Joe Cecconi:
TMD: Who is messier, you or Cooper?
Cecconi: Cooper. I always clean up. His side of the room is disgusting. He’s got all his guitars and his amps and all that crap everywhere.
TMD: Is it annoying living with somebody who makes so much noise making music?
Cecconi: He actually goes downstairs, to be honest. Sometimes he’ll give me a performance, and I’ll be tired and it helps me fall asleep, so it’s good.
TMD: Why weren’t you featured in his recent song?
Cecconi: I don’t know. I got to talk to him about that. I’m not too happy.
Tension in the locker room.
Etc.: Eliminating pro-rel in soccer would be terrible for everyone except the elite few, but some Brandon figure named Charlie Stillitano thinks it's a great idea. All five of Michigan's current 2019 hockey recruits have been invited to the NTDP evaluation camp. Kirby Smart spent more on plane travel than Harbaugh did. Jim Harbaugh's son might accidentally get elected to student government.
Michigan ends up one win short of the NCAA tournament for the third straight year, so here's this. I'm operating under the assumption that Berenson will continue, but it's not like anything is going to change in terms of personnel if he decides to retire.
Hockey has a LaVell Blanchard now [Paul Sherman]
Michigan loses Zach Hyman and Travis Lynch from the forward corps, plus defensemen Mike Chiasson, Brennan Serville, and Andrew Sinelli. Third goalie Luke Dwyer also departs.
Hobey finalist Hyman is obviously the biggest loss from that group. Hyman was incredible driving zone time and scoring points next to Larkin, and disrupting that line is a great misfortune. Other than Hyman, though, losses are minimal. Lynch was a fourth-liner; Chiasson barely played; Sinelli bounced between F and D. Serville is the most prominent non-Hyman departure, and his career was a frustrating exercise that saw little improvement.
MICHIGAN HOCKEY SUMMER CANDIDATES
IE, guys who might leave during the interminable attrition period between the final game and the first one next year.
Larkin was rather good. [Bill Rapai]
There are two prime candidates: Wings first-round pick Dylan Larkin and pending top-ten draftee Zach Werenski. Either departing would be a surprise. Larkin recently reiterated that he's "not looking to go as soon as possible" and talks like he is not even considering a departure:
"The future is bright and I think with all of us coming back, we will be even stronger next year."
Meanwhile the Wings tend to leave their prospects in lower leagues a painfully long time. Larkin is not likely to be an impact NHL player next year, and smart organizations tend to delay signing their prospects to team-friendly entry level contracts anyway.
Meanwhile, Werenski is already at Michigan and is a defenseman. Defenders develop more slowly and Michigan has had only one D leave after one year: Jacob Trouba. Werenski was pretty good last year, but he was not Trouba. Werenski skipped his last year of high school to enroll, so next year "should" be his freshman year.
Aside from those two, Copp and Compher would probably be the most attractive to NHL teams but don't seem like the type to go early or have their teams pressure them hard. Recruit Kyle Connor seems particularly set on Michigan over major junior but if he gets drafted by an NCAA-phobic organization they could pressure him to change course.
Never say never when you're talking about Michigan Hockey Summer, but it looks like Michigan will get through unscathed.
The aforementioned Kyle Connor is the star of the class, a lightning-quick forward with slick hands who led the league in scoring and cracked the top ten of all-time USHL career points on the way. He is projected as a mid-first round pick in the upcoming NHL draft and should slot directly on to a scoring line.
F Brendan Warren will arrive from the NTDP and should be a second-or-third round pick; he had a solid 16-16-32 line in 49 games for the U18s last year. Chris Dilks scouted him in November:
Warren has always been an excellent skater, and he showed a good compete level and willingness to work along the boards and go into rough areas along the ice. But he just hasn't developed into the scorer that many thought he would when he committed to Michigan at a young age. Warren held his own when he took a few shifts with the top scoring line, but he's not a player that's going to create a lot of offense for himself and others.
Sounds like a version of Motte that's a half-step worse on offense.
Former Canadian junior B winger Connor Murphy also enters. He moved to the USHL for his final year of competition before college and struggled to maintain the torrid scoring pace that first brought him to the attention of various scouts. His 13-14-27 in 51 games with Chicago indicates a guy who might develop but should be looked at as a fourth-liner to start.
On defense, Michigan has a couple of potential draftees in Joe Cecconi and Nick Boka. Cecconi is projected as a third or fourth rounder and has a reputation as a steady, big stay-at-home guy:
“He does everything well – moves well, uses the size that he has,” Central Scouting’s David Gregory said. “But his presence and how he uses the game from the back end is one of the most impressive things.”
Cecconi’s calmness with the puck and mobility has impressed Gregory. So has his rapid development. He noticed improvements in just a short span during the summer.
Gregory wants to track Cecconi’s offensive improvements this season.
“He snaps the puck when he passes it, shoots it, so there’s going to be opportunities for him to be involved in offense as well,” he said. “He was getting a little bit of power-play time, albeit it in preseason, and he’s on a good team, so we’ll see.”
At 6'2" and almost 210 as of a year ago, he should be physically ready to play. He's the highest-rated USHL defenseman in this year's draft.
Boka played with the U18s last year and might be a late draft pick. Like Cecconi, he's a relatively big and mobile defensive defenseman, with just 7 points last year. His star has apparently fallen some since he was rated almost on par with Werenski by Over The Boards:
4. 97 D Nick Boka – NTDP U18 – Michigan
The Michigan recruit has an aggressive, athletic upside that could come on very strong in his draft year. Wins battles in the tough areas of the ice and can provide puck support. We like Werenski’s total skillset more right now, but Boka could easily emerge as the best American talent on the blue line in this draft behind Hanifin.
Boka committed a while ago so Yost Built put together a full dossier on him; he decommitted from MSU, giving Michigan the tantalizing possibility of rolling out a maximum-MSU-troll pairing of Boka and East Lansing native Cutler Martin.
If Michigan does lose a player to the NHL or other attrition, they could fill the hole by accelerating a player who is currently ticketed for 2016; the most likely player there would be Cooper Marody, who's both old enough to be eligible for this NHL draft and projected to go in the middle rounds of it. He finished 11th in USHL scoring this year, so he is probably ready to contribute in college.
Michigan is also in the conversation for uber-prospect Auston Matthews, who scored 87(!) points for the NTDP U18s as an underager this year and is projected to be the top pick in the 2016 draft. He's a certain one-and-done who has not yet decided on a team for next year. Like Werenski, Matthews would be entering college a year before his time. He is not only deciding between the WHL and college but also between BC, BU, Michigan, etc.
WHAT ABOUT GOALIE?
Racine was excellent… this weekend [Sherman]
Mike Spath reports that Michigan will delay the enrollment($) of Hayden Lavigne after he struggled to a .881 USHL save percentage last year.
That would leave Michigan rolling with the same two guys who could not lock the job down this year unless they bring in a grad transfer… and they are looking for those. Spath says they are vetting former UNH goalie Casey DeSmith, who was booted from the Wildcat team after domestic violence accusations that passed muster at neither the court nor university level*. There are also a couple of guys in platoon situations at smaller schools, like Alaska's Sean Cahill, who might be interested.
*[Link is the text of a press release from DeSmith's parents and should be taken in that light. I couldn't find any actual reporting on the case.]
USELESS BUT MANDATORY LINE GUESSES
A senior version of Copp is probably the nearest equivalent to Hyman on the roster; Larkin will have to drive more play next year, with Copp helping win the possession battles and Selman continuing his role as the guy who gets in good places and finishes.
Compher can return to his natural center spot between two extremely skilled offensive players.
I like Shuart's combination of size and speed and feel he'll move up as he enters his upperclass years; he is a prime candidate for Random Breakout Forward. Nieves has been a bit of a disappointment so far but did put up a solid 7-20-27 line and has his uses.
Motte is a generally talented fellow without any standout talent other than doggedness; I do wonder if Michigan might reunite him with Compher, as the two played very well together when they were freshmen and Compher had an off year on the scoresheet.
Take your pick of fourth liners. Dancs played in almost every game but was penalty-prone and –4 on the year. Calderone got 28 games last year and showed a little bit of offense (3-6-9); Warren is probably the most talented of the remaining forwards.
(Also: Talcott, Allen, Murphy)
Talcott and Allen did little in limited time a year ago; Murphy will probably need a year to adjust to college.
USELESS BUT MANDATORY D PAIRING GUESSES
On defense, the roster doesn't really lend itself to traditional 1-2-3 pairings since each one will have an established left-hander and a question mark or two on the right, but in very vague order:
Werenski is enormously talented and began coming into his own late last year as a puck-rushing offensive defenseman. The defense bit could still use some work—no surprise given that last year was scheduled to be his NTDP U18 season until he accelerated. Add some weight and get him more acquainted with what he's supposed to do without the puck and you're gonna have a good time.
As for Cecconi, normally you would not want to put a freshman on your top pairing but Michigan's top three returning D are all left-handed shots. A 6'2" stay-at-home guy who shoots opposite Werenski and is #70 in the current CSB sounds like a good idea.
Martin was probably Michigan's best all-around defender by the end of last year. He's physical without being penalty-prone (just 16 PIMs compared to Downing's 76), he has a nasty snap shot from the point, and he doesn't make the boggling decisions some of his compatriots have made. In a season full of defensive frustrations he was a lone bright spot.
Lohan was just a guy last year but he did play every game and didn't make many glaring mistakes until a bogglingly glaring one against Minnesota. He could end up opposite any of the lefties; it mostly depends on whether any of the freshmen clearly outperform him.
Downing's eventful year featured a 6-16-22 line plus those penalty minutes. He was erratic, laying out big hits and giving up odd-man rushes. The +/- gap between the three left-handed defensemen being discussed here is informative: Martin was +12, Werenski +11, Downing +3. He's frustrating.
Boka will probably slot in as a third-pairing stay-at-home guy.
Also: De Jong, Piazza, Porikos
De Jong got 23 games before being bumped from the lineup in favor of Sinelli; he was weak on the puck and Michigan tended to get stuck in their own end when he was on the ice. He will be called into action frequently as various defensemen invoke the ire of the coaches.
Piazza saw ten games, in which he did absolutely nothing I remember—not always bad for D. Porikos didn't play and seems to be just filling out the roster.
If they do get everyone back and a year older, the offense should be at about that level again: while Connor won't replace Hyman's production his addition plus an extra year for the rest of the eight scoring line players probably will. Some sort of regression to the mean is likely, but they should still score a ton.
Defense and goalie remain problems. Michigan managed to miss the tournament this year despite scoring almost four goals a game, a feat no one else has managed since the internet started having stats on it. (In fact the only team to get worse than a two seed was 2003 Michigan.)
The goaltenders collapsed from a year ago, when Nagelvoort had a year impressive enough to get him drafted as an overager. The defense was possibly worse—those save percentages were negatively impacted by the improbable odd man rushes given away on the regular.
And that's an area I'm not sure gets better. Michigan hasn't seen a lot of improvement from their defensemen since Pearson left. The good guys showed up good and the ones who weren't so good stayed that way. Late in the third period of the Minnesota game, Downing stepped up to lay a thunderous hit… and gave up a two on one as a result. That stuff happens all the time now. The goal to tie it 2-2 was Lohan getting far too aggressive and turning a harmless neutral zone play into a two on one.
That stuff is now all too typical: errors borne of nonsense aggression. At this point you can't just wave that away with "they'll learn." They might. Recent history makes you a little dubious they will.
WELL FINE THEN. Apparently Michigan earned the animosity of Jimi Hendrix.
This was the Rose Bowl immediately following the legendary '69 OSU game that put Bo on the map, FWIW. Hendrix seems uncertain of the team that beat Michigan, he just wants Michigan to lose. Join the club. The very happy club.
I admit it. I find Wisconsin basketball tolerable these days. I still kinda hate Bo Ryan for being an alien from another planet sent here to prep us for invasion, but once they reached the Final Four I wanted Wisconsin to win the national title last year. And now Frank Kaminsky explains why he passed on the NBA draft:
"I am at the pinnacle of my basketball playing career, at least in my eyes. I know the NBA has their crazy fans and all, but if you look at all of their games, there are games when teams like the Bobcats get hardly any fans, and it looks flat out boring,” he wrote.
“At the Kohl Center, we play in front of nearly 17,000 fans every single time we step onto the court. When we travel, we play in front of sell out crowds who absolutely hate us. Not because of who is on the team, but because of where we go to school. Who could leave that?”
Frank Kaminsky Gets It™. Frank Kaminsky for athletic director. Where? Anywhere. Texas. Definitely Texas.
Oh, Texas twit, we are going to have an unrequited hate. Via Get The Picture, Texas Guy Just In Charge Of Things For No Reason on the A&M series:
UT AD Steve Patterson told us ``unless there is a compelling reason,'' the football series between Texas and Texas A&M is dead.
— Paul Finebaum (@finebaum) April 25, 2014
I wonder what would qualify as a compelling reason other than 111(!) games dating back to 1902.
But go ahead and play a game in Shanghai. That'll get your brand synergized.
Dude you're never going to get a girl like that. Move on to the next one. This is stalker behavior:
After extending the Season Ticket Holder renewal deadline, and a total of (15) emails delivered starting on March 14 as well as a voicemail left by Jim Brandstatter, the Michigan Athletic Department wanted to provide you one final opportunity to renew your 2014 Michigan Football season tickets to ensure you are once again a part of one of the most exclusive groups in all of sports.
One of the most exclusive groups in all of sports that begs you 15 times plus leaves a voicemail by Jim Brandstatter in the desperate hope you will renew your tickets. Oh and lets you have ONE LAST CHANCE to renew. All right. One more chance.
Seriously, this is your last chance.
Despite it being 2016, it's not too late to renew your 2014 season tickets!
At least I'm not alone? When Phil Di Guiseppe and Alex Guptill signed NHL contracts, I wrote rather bitter posts about their exits that garnered a number of sarcastic "tell us how you really feel" responses. Tell us how you really feel, Red Berenson:
"We were going good in the first half and then some issues started cropping up and we thought we had dealt with them, but there was an underlying current of animosity, and a division between certain factions. You'd like to think the leadership is strong enough - and we had good captains - that you can just bring guys together, but you have to have total buy-in and no matter how much guys like Mac Bennett, Derek DeBlois and Andrew Copp tried, they just couldn't get that."
I'm expecting hockey to have a refreshing season next year.
Hello, defenseman of the future. Hockey adds a commitment from Joe Cecconi, a kid currently in the USHL after a mid-season callup last year from a U16 junior outfit. Cecconi had nearly a PPG with his junior team before moving to the big (USA junior) leagues. Already 6'2" and nearly 200 pounds, the OHL fired an eighth-round pick at him despite considerable uncertainty about whether he would report. He doesn't appear to be on NHL draft radar.
As a mid-year '97, Cecconi is likely to come in next year unless Michigan has one of those "if X happens, this year, if Y happens, next year" deals. This is about all I could Google up on him.
Hockey rule changes. It sounds like college hockey is serious about going to three-quarter shields next year, which has been framed as a safety issue in the past and now apparently has USHL data to back it up. I continue to think it's at least partially driven by a desire to look more like the NHL and therefore help the never-ending blood war with the CHL, but if they've got data they've got data.
Other potential changes:
- Death to ties. The NCAA wants to explore way to get more W/L decisions, seemingly without resorting to shootouts. There's no solid proposition on the table; 4-on-4 and longer OTs are possibilities, as are—ugh—shootouts.
- More reviews. There's a proposal to expand the ways reviews can be used to check if goals are legit and if penalties warrant five-and-a-game. Hockey reviews are generally less odious than basketball ones since they're infrequent and about things that have a huge impact on the game, but it seems like they've got all the critical stuff right now and expanding it is reaching the point of diminishing returns.
- All neutral zone faceoffs at center ice. Faceoffs at the offside dots are kind of stupid for the attacking team if they win them. This is more a product of the fact that hockey offsides is clumsily implemented.
- Penalties for delay when you can't change. In favor.
- Fewer hand-pass whistles. Apparently there were too many inadvertent deflections called hand-passes last year.
- No leaving your feet to block a shot. Linked article says that's unlikely to pass, FWIW, but that's an effort to create more offense "in a time where goals are already at a premium." I'm pro-offense but that seems like it takes a hustle play out of the game for debatable returns.
There are a couple other extremely minor proposals.
As always when hockey rule changes come up, I rant against how restrictive offsides is and proclaim it's time to admit goalies have won and expand the nets. There are a hundred ways to make offsides better; my current proposal is to triple the width of the line (the line is both part of the neutral zone and the offensive zone) and create a passive offsides rule like there is in soccer. A guy can be offsides without a whistle as long as 1) he is not impacting the play and 2) he immediately moves to exit and re-enter the zone.
As far as goal size goes, with modern butterfly goalies the only way to change the paradigm is to make sitting back and waiting for a shot to come in a worse play than it is right now. Teams like MSU play a six-goalie style in the defensive zone these days, because it makes sense. Dropping save percentages three or four points would swing things back towards aggression. Expand the nets by the width of the goalposts to get 2-3 more goals per game. It sounds dramatic, but really it's the least dramatic option to get scoring up. Everything else proposed is either a weak measure that won't do anything or a radical overhaul. Expanding the nets is just hockey with slightly different equations.
Etc.: Talking with DJ Wilson. Women's tennis has lost in the BTT final for the fifth straight year. Ouch. Instead of tweeting out your outrage about people saying "furst amundmunt," just tweet this XKCD. Jordan Morgan's suddenly the belle of the ball.