Let's Have A Hockey Autopsy

Let's Have A Hockey Autopsy Comment Count

Brian March 13th, 2019 at 4:23 PM

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.

Age

Michigan was one of the youngest teams in the country, and the bottom of the age standings are pretty ugly:

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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:

Talent level

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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!]

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Unverified Voracity Moves To Nowhere Alberta

Unverified Voracity Moves To Nowhere Alberta Comment Count

Brian January 24th, 2019 at 2:17 PM

Matthews on the shot. Via Orion Sang:

Matthews was standing in the left corner. As Brazdeikis had drove past him, Matthews held both hands out, ready to catch and shoot just in case the ball found him.

He was also ready to crash the boards.

“I know Iggy. That’s my little brother. He’s like a bull in the china shop when he’s going to the rim," Matthews told reporters. "So he ain’t looking to kick out. So I just said, ‘You know what, he might miss this one, let me try to just go get the rebound.'

"And thank God I was in the right position for it. Gotta know your teammates. Know your personnel."

Matthews' eyes – along with every other pair of eyes in Crisler Center – followed his teammates' shot.

As he saw the ball tipped toward him, he darted forward with a couple quick steps. Then he got the ball.

"(Charles is) always around the basket," Beilein said, "and he mopped up.”

"You know, he might miss this one" is a good thought when the pronoun in question is 4/17 on the night.

A couple of blips on the freshmen who aren't playing. Andrew Kahn gathers a little data on the three guys who haven't seen much time:

Nuñez is a 6-foot-6 shooting guard who has yet to score on the season in limited action. His teammates talk up his shooting in practice. "Adrien's shot is phenomenal." Livers said recently. "He has the most perfect form I've ever seen out of a shooter."

There have been times this season Michigan could use another shooting threat on the floor, but it seems unlikely Nuñez will get that chance this season.

Castleton is also a year away from contributing. Like the other players unlikely to see the court, he’s been hitting the weights hard, even on game days. Strength coach Jon Sanderson said he’s put on 17 pounds since arriving on campus, a priority for the 6-foot-11 center.

DeJulius got some mention from Beilein as a guy who's battling Brooks and that "tonight" it was Brooks who got the playing time. With Brooks locked in a pretty gnarly slump I'd like to see DeJulius get a shot.

[After THE JUMP: uh mostly hockey recruiting?]

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World's Best/Only Hockey Recruiting Overview: 2019

World's Best/Only Hockey Recruiting Overview: 2019 Comment Count

Brian April 23rd, 2018 at 1:27 PM

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Johnny Beecher skates like a guy much smaller

This is the way hockey scouting works:

  • There's a flurry of it when kids are high school sophomores, because the CHL and USHL drafts grab those guys and the NTDP is chosen from that age group. There's money there, largely because of the CHL, and a cornucopia of sites have sprouted to provide teams, and the more zealous variety of fan, in-depth scouting.
  • Nobody cares much the year after unless you're so high end that you're generating first round NHL draft buzz.
  • In your draft year CSB rankings and various other NHL scouting services will provide a final burst of information.

The 2019 class is in the gap year, and doesn't have a lot of high end guys, so there's not a lot to report that hasn't been on the site in some form already. But you probably don't remember that hockey recruiting blast in a UV from six months ago, so here it is anyway.

THE POTENTIALLY DELAYED

One way that hockey recruiting is weird is that guys will somewhat frequently take another year in junior if the program they've committed to doesn't have room. I can only assume that's a somewhat standard thing to say when you take a commitment, because nobody makes a big deal about something that would be a minor scandal in other sports.

Michigan looks set to do this. I missed Michael Spath's report that Michigan was set to bring in 10 freshmen this year, with some surprises amongst the names omitted and one amongst the names included:

Summers was listed as a 2019 when he committed and is the surprise inclusion. Absences from that list: Jacob Semik, Calen Kiefiuk, Keaton Pehrson, and Nick Granowicz. Most of those surprise me in various ways, except that some guys needed to get put off. Kiefiuk's actually up to 48 points in 60 USHL games to lead his team; Granowicz is 20 and probably on light, if any, money so why not bring him in anyway; Pehrson already delayed a year. Semik's 5-4-9 line and status as an unranked draft eligible might warrant another junior year.

If those guys don't arrive this fall they will be potential 2019 recruits, or potential decommits.

As for Jack Summers—no relation to Chris—your guess is as good as mine. Here is the sum total of scouting I found:

Summers is a bit undersized and not a huge offensive threat yet, but he has incredible footwork and skating that makes him an effective defender and gives him the upside to potentially be a very dynamic player.

Michigan flipped him from Brown. He's got 11 points in 58 USHL games. One thing he's got going for him: Bill Muckalt was his coach last year, when he played a half-season with the Tri-City Storm after coming over from the NAHL. He is from Livonia and can get in-state tuition, so he might be another guy on light money.

In related news, here's an attempted Michigan hockey roster down the road.

[After the JUMP: a fair salvage job]

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Unverified Voracity Talks Batnipple

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Brian July 25th, 2017 at 4:06 PM

Nov 21, 2015; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators defensive back Marcell Harris (26) reacts against the Florida Atlantic Owls during the second quarter at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Exit these guys. Florida took a couple of hits in the secondary, one more important than the other. The important gent is returning starter Marcell Harris, who will miss the 2017 season with a torn ACL. That knocks Florida down to 3 returning starters on D—sounds familiar—and robs them of their best safety. Florida has talented guys waiting to step up but they're green:

Sophomore Jeawon Taylor and freshman Quincy Lenton, who were injured this spring, could be options to step in for Harris, but new defensive coordinator Randy Shannon could get creative with his roster.

Starter Duke Dawson is slated to be the next big thing at cornerback, but he has played safety and nickel during the first three years of his Gators career. Like Harris, he's a veteran leader who understands the position and has proven versatility that could prove valuable considering the circumstances.

In that same light, sophomore Chauncey Gardner was solid last year. He played in all 13 games, starting three at safety with 36 tackles and three interceptions -- one of which was returned for a touchdown. He's slated to start along side Dawson at corner but is certainly an option to move around if Shannon chooses.

The other hit is Chris Williamson, a second-year 3.5* cornerback. He's transferring. That removes an option in the UF secondary.

Another recruiting hire. A second former member of the SS Rodriguez jumps aboard:

Rick Neuheisel, proto-Harbaugh. This is terrific story from Rick Neuheisel in an excellent Jon Solomon article on coach paranoia in the aftermath of Wakeyleaks:

One year at the Pac-12 coaches’ meetings, Neuheisel wanted to increase the conference’s travel-squad numbers (60 players per team) closer to the Big Ten and SEC limits (70 players).

But Neuheisel knew he was toxic, especially in a room with so many big egos, such as Stanford’s Jim Harbaugh and USC’s Carroll. So Neuheisel had then-

Oregon State coach Mike Riley pitch the idea.

“Mike is the nicest guy in the world, so he pitched it to the ADs and we got 70,” Neuheisel says. “Had Rick Neuheisel pitched it, we’d still be at 60. No one looked at Mike Riley and ever thought there was a hidden ball trick going on.”

Harbaugh now faces this same paranoia at Michigan. He maneuvers through the NCAA rule book, such as taking the Wolverines to spring practice in Florida and Italy and holding summer satellite camps around the country to look for players.

“He’ll never get any legislation passed he wants,” Neuheisel said. “But if you go get Mike Riley from Nebraska, you’ve got a hell of a chance to get it done.

Keep an eye out for any Mike Riley pronouncements about the correct milk to drink.

Hockey commits. A couple of significant hockey commits in the past week. 2019 F Jack Beecher committed to Michigan over BU, BC, and OHL interest, and hoo boy this guy has some potential:

Other takes from hockey scouting twitter include "elite skater who drives play … lethal shot," "size, soft hands, and rocket shot" and "dominant tools." He's a 6'4" guy who has plenty of room to fill out and plenty of skill when he does. SBN's Jeff Cox:

Johnny Beecher, Elmira, NY, Salisbury School, Left Shot, 6’4”/210 - He’s a big time pro prospect with good size. He has decent to above average hands for a player his size. His stride and ability to protect the puck are both assets. He has that reach that you just can’t teach. He can put a puck out there, pull it back and rip a wrist shot on net. He drives the net and does a good job using his size down low and along the boards. He’s got that extra gear to win a battle along the wall and just separate himself from the defender to get to the slot and get a hard shot on net.

In January Hockey Prospect Dot Com ranked him 3rd in their OHL draft rankings; he fell to 85th because of his NTDP commitment.

Beecher is the first truly big-time recruiting win for Mel Pearson; he'll spend the next two years with the NTDP before arriving in Ann Arbor. Michigan no doubt hopes to latch on to fellow 2019 NTDPer Jack Hughes, a potential top 5 NHL draft pick and brother of incoming freshman Quinn.

The other commit is D Cole McWard, who Chris Heisenberg lists as a 2020. Less out there on him, but here's this tweet:

He's about 6-foot now and will grow.

The worst Freeze since the guy in the batnipple movie. I'm enjoying Dan Wolken unloading both barrels on Hugh Freeze, as it's something it seems like he's been waiting years to do. Now it can be told:

Whatever Freeze was doing to make enemies across the Southeast, it was often hard to distinguish what rival coaches saw as the greater transgression — the program’s loose relationship with the NCAA rulebook or his in-your-face piety.

Coaches who recruited against Freeze didn’t merely roll their eyes at him, and they certainly didn’t laugh, except when it came to the nickname a few called him behind his back: Jimmy Swag.

I could have been calling him Jimmy Swag for years if I had only known this. Alas. Wolken followed that up with another brutal missive:

There’s no reason to be coy here: Whispers about Freeze’s personal behavior have followed him since long before he became a college head coach. But at every stop along the way, it was difficult to do much with those rumors because so many people who were around him on coaching staffs and in athletic departments spoke so highly of him. His public embrace of Christianity, and the genuinely good charitable work he did, provided good cover and an easy narrative for all those glowing national newspaper profiles. Those who doubted his genuineness were written off as jealous or agenda-driven.

Sad thing about Freeze's behavior is it works. Once people believe a thing it takes an unbelievable amount of evidence to change their mind, and usually even that doesn't work.

Meanwhile Mark Schablach has a bonkers story on the sibling knife fight that is the Ole Miss-Mississippi State rivalry:

Robertson had been butting heads with Ole Miss officials for the past several months, since they denied his open records request for an unredacted version of the notice of allegations the Rebels received from the NCAA in January 2016. Robertson wanted the names of the Ole Miss boosters who are accused of providing improper benefits to recruits, and university officials wouldn't release them.

When Mars advised Tyner about the call Freeze made to the escort service, he told him that he'd shared the phone records with Robertson.

"Steve is obsessed," Mars said Tyner told him.

"Had anybody in this state done their job, I wouldn't have had to do it," Robertson said. "It got to the point where I was sick and tired of being sick and tired of it. I was willing to pass the baton to someone, but no one was willing to take it."

Robertson filed a complaint with the Mississippi Ethics Commission, which ruled in his favor earlier this month.

This random fan has been FOIAing Ole Miss for months so he can write a book named "Flim Flam," which is being published out of state. This is a hatred to respect.

Etc.: Michigan-Rutgers features in the Blowout Matrix. Entertainingly goofy early signing complaints from the expected corners. SUH THE DESTROYER.

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