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.


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


ND and Denver are in the top 16 of the pairwise. Otherwise this is a list of the teams that generally recruit the best across college hockey and are struggling in the new over-30 NCAA. Not one of Minnesota, Michigan, BC, BU, or Wisconsin is in position for an at-large bid. It should be noted that 50-52 are Quinnipiac, Providence, and Harvard, who are all set for at-large bids, but even those teams in close proximity by rank are almost a half-year older than Michigan and the rest of the "we recruit the NTDP" class.

Under Pearson they've moved to taking more overagers, but those guys are all underclassmen. Michigan is in the process of having some 23 and 24 year olds; they are not there yet. At some point Michigan's going to be a mix of older players and high-level NHL prospects. Currently they are young and had 1.5 high-level prospects. Speaking of:

Talent level


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!]


Extra Point: Where Does Hockey Go From Here?

Extra Point: Where Does Hockey Go From Here? Comment Count

Adam Schnepp February 14th, 2019 at 11:59 AM

Tuesday’s loss to Notre Dame wasn’t the final nail in the coffin for Michigan’s tournament chances, but things aren’t super great when a college hockey site’s models have to be consulted to make sure the pre-comma clause isn’t mathematically impossible. Conference tournament games are treated like regular season games as far as Pairwise is concerned, and while that leaves a little room for Michigan to bolster its resume, we can get an idea how much that will matter (read: do they need to win the tournament outright) thanks to the excellent charts at College Hockey Ranked. Michigan has four remaining regular-season contests, and the most likely outcome (28.0%) derived from four straight wins is the #19 Pairwise spot. The top 16 teams get into the tournament; Michigan has a 3.6% chance of finishing the regular season #16, 0.7% chance of finishing #15, and 0.1% chance of finishing #14. In other words, it’s exceeding unlikely they’ll play their way into a position to be heartbroken by some other team that’s out of it winning their conference tournament and stealing a bid (and even that assumes Michigan wins some but not all of their conference tournament games.)

With just six points separating the teams in second (Michigan) and sixth (Michigan State) place in the conference standings and four conference games left to play, projecting Michigan’s Big Ten Tournament opponent is an exercise in futility. We do have four games from earlier this season that could help us in analyzing how Michigan might be able to go about sweeping Ohio State and Wisconsin, their next two opponents, so we’ll turn to those for insight. Sweeping two opponents consecutively will be a big task for a team that went over three months between sweeps, but we can look at a few smaller components of quality play that make it possible. It’s not entirely unlike when my ten-month-old is in his high chair and flings himself forward to grab something I definitely didn’t think he could reach on the table and I’m like, hey, that would have been fine if I ripped it into pieces but as it stands you shoving it into your mouth whole just makes me look like a shitty dad. I mean, it’s not entirely like that but it’s not entirely unlike that, either.

[Hit THE JUMP for GIFs and such]


Extra Point: Ohio State

Extra Point: Ohio State Comment Count

Adam Schnepp January 16th, 2019 at 1:30 PM

What Happened? Michigan ground out a 2-1 win against #4 Ohio State in Columbus Friday night, then fell 4-2 to the Buckeyes (one goal was an empty-netter, so meh) on Saturday.

*Blank stare* Okay, yeah, context. Michigan beat Notre Dame in an outdoor game at Notre Dame Stadium January 5th for what appeared to be a win that could propel them to a second half akin to last season’s, then looked like a completely disinterested team during a rare Tuesday night game against Merrimack (the team, not the boat). Friday night’s win again left some hope for a second-half run, then Saturday night’s game… actually, Michigan didn’t look that bad Saturday night, either. There’s hope yet.

Things don’t look great from a Pairwise perspective, though. A cursory glance at the comparisons chart doesn’t reveal one big thing Michigan could do to make a move. They only have 11 games remaining and have to come as close to running the table as possible to steal some comparison points back. That would help, at least as long as the general volatility of the conference continues unabated; the top two teams, Ohio State and Minnesota, are 6-3-3 in conference play and third-place Michigan is 4-5-4. Beating Penn State in their next series (this weekend is a bye) would be a nice start, as Michigan is currently tied for the head-to-head comparison point. (If you’re looking for a Pairwise explainer, USCHO has a good one here.)

So this is another one of those years where Michigan has to win the conference tournament to earn a bid and gets matched up with Penn State, isn’t it? Sort of looks that way.

Anything to take from last weekend that might give us insight into what could happen during the stretch run? Seems like the kind of thing we should put after THE JUMP, no?

[Hit THE JUMP for weekend takeaways that might give insight into the stretch run]


The Making of Quinn Hughes

The Making of Quinn Hughes Comment Count

Adam Schnepp October 26th, 2018 at 1:45 PM

The red carpet entrance and the spotlight and the microphone pack on his back and the reporters in front of him at the interview table and the handshakes, the endless stream of handshakes, were a month behind Quinn Hughes. The tension of the NHL Draft, with its imposing stage, megascreens, and work area for teams on the covered floor of the rink an amalgamation of a concert and an unwieldy TED talk, ended for Hughes soon after it began, with the Vancouver Canucks selecting him seventh overall. And so, in the midst of Hughes’ Infinite Hockey Summer, the most extraordinary thing about a typical summer day spent at his family’s home in the typical Detroit suburb of Plymouth was its ordinariness. At least, that’s how it started.


The best thing about the baseball field in the Hughes’ neighborhood was that it was only a baseball field for part of the year. The rest of the time it was an outdoor rink, one fashioned the crudest way possible: flood it, freeze it, use it while it lasts. Quinn and his brothers—Jack, currently on the US National Team Development Program roster and likely to go first overall in next year’s draft, and Luke, currently playing for the renowned Little Caesars program and a Michigan commit— used to walk to the rink, shovel, and play until they couldn’t feel their feet. Frozen feet didn’t deter them, though; the only thing that could stop them from playing was when their mother, Ellen, came down to the rink to force them home to warm up.

Flooded baseball fields were soon passed over in favor of a set of flooded tennis courts in a park they found in Toronto’s Etobicoke neighborhood. The family had bounced around due to Quinn’s father’s coaching career; Jim spent two seasons as an assistant for the IHL’s Orlando Solar Bears; two years as an assistant for the NHL’s Boston Bruins; then three seasons, the last as head coach, with the AHL’s Manchester Monarchs before moving to Toronto for a spot as an assistant coach of the AHL’s Toronto Marlies (2006-2009) and then as the Director of Player Development for the Toronto Maple Leafs (2009-2015). The extended stay in Toronto gave them time to find hidden gems like Wedgewood Park’s tennis courts, which didn’t have boards (lining the rink with shoes worked as a substitute) but did have pipes and thus higher quality ice.

Quinn and his brothers spent every possible moment on the outdoor rink at Wedgewood. Ellen would bring hot chocolate and pizza down for the boys, whose biggest disappointment in life, as it was at the baseball diamond, was when they had to leave the ice. Things were slightly different at Wedgewood, though, as there were two things beyond parents that could force them off the rink: the lights getting shut off (this year it’s at 10 PM, but Ellen says it was usually around midnight when the boys were playing) or the makeshift Zamboni—a John Deere tractor when not working its seasonal job— showing up to resurface the ice. “Like at 2 o’clock they’d come and you’d get off for like five minutes,” Hughes says. “It sucked. It was brutal, because then you got cold again.”

The rink was built across three tennis courts, which left plenty of room for Hughes to take on the neighborhood. “It’d be like me and my brothers and two or three other guys against 25, 30 kids and it’d be really fun,” he says. He also made sure there was quality competition to compete against. “They would have a Friday night game, like a 7 o’clock game, and Quinn would say ‘Can I fit as many kids as I can in the car?’” Ellen remembers. “Whoever was willing to go, because not all of them were willing to go, and after their game we’d drop them off at the outdoor rink until the lights got shut off.”

[After THE JUMP: How a kid from Toronto with deep ties to Boston ended up in Ann Arbor, and why he stayed]


Unverified Voracity Yinzers it Up

Unverified Voracity Yinzers it Up Comment Count

Brian August 3rd, 2018 at 3:14 PM

I have more jokes! Jared Wangler grew a mustache and it is glorious.

Wangler is now

  • Don Brown's greenhorn partner who gets killed in the cold open, leading Brown into a maelstrom of revenge
  • a "vaudville barenuckle boxer"
  • Ben Mason's accomplice in a series of crimes that shock the sensibilities of Victorian London
  • a fullback

Thank you to the many Michigan football players who provide us #content with their bold sartorial choices. Henry Poggi will always be your king.

Khaleke Hudson's very productive day. Match Quarters has an extensive breakdown of Michigan's approach in last year's Minnesota game, which you may remember featured a vast number of Khaleke Hudson TFLs:

hen looking at the scheme Brown chose to defend the Gophers 11/20 pers. formations, one will notice the ultra aggressiveness towards the run and the lack of “coverage” for the H-back. Brown also had several change-ups and automatics to motion and the different formations the Gophers threw at the Wolverines. Below is a diagram of how Brown blitzed the Viper anytime the H-back motioned away.

01 [MIvMN] Base DEF

Coach Brown during his clinic talk at the 2018 Lone Star Clinic noted the absence of the TE in the passing game during the Big 10 season. Outside of Troy Fumagalli at Wisconsin and Mike Gesiki at Penn State, one will be hard-pressed to find a TE that merits an extra man in the passing game. This allowed the Wolverines to add an extra defender in the box against most Big 10 opponents without worrying about an “H-Pop” or a TE streaking down the middle of the field.

Much more at the link.

[After THE JUMP: more Zach Smith stuff, Quinn Hughes doing Quinn Hughes things.]


Quinn Hughes Returns

Quinn Hughes Returns Comment Count

Brian July 28th, 2018 at 10:34 AM

[James Coller]


We choose to think that the site banner was inviolable and not that Vancouver couldn't free up an NHL slot for him. Hughes's return is obviously a big deal; getting a top-ten pick who played in the World Championships and was the best player on the ice in just about every game down the stretch is a massive W. Hughes's rate of improvement and number of near misses late last year should mean a Hobey-level campaign is in the offing.


Unverified Voracity Returns To Explain Monkey Thing

Unverified Voracity Returns To Explain Monkey Thing Comment Count

Brian July 26th, 2018 at 12:23 PM

Freaks. Bruce Feldman's annual list of people who should not be that size and be able to dance like that leads off with Rashan Gary. These lists always have combine porn:

The 6-foot-5 Gary is at the same weight he was at this time last year — 287 pounds — and his 40-yard dash time is the same at 4.57 seconds. His 3-cone drill at 6.79 was a touch behind last year’s 6.70, although his time this year still would beat every defensive lineman at this year’s NFL scouting combine. His 4.22 pro agility shuttle time also would top every D-lineman at the combine. Next best was 4.32. Another really impressive feat: his 10-4 broad jump, which was 8 inches better than what he did a year ago.

Incoming freshman Julius Welschof is #37 because he's very flippy. Three different Badgers (Olive Sagapolu, Jonathan Taylor, and D'Cota Dixon) make the list as well. If Hornibrook stops throwing so many picks, could be a breakthrough for the Badgers.

(Probably) nothing to see here. The Big Ten Network is up for renewal on the Comcast, and as is standard practice there is now a dual-sided PR campaign going on. BTN's like "dang!" and Fox is like "I mean cumong," and that's what's going on right now in these streets. Wetzel:

...cable giant Comcast is threatening to pull the Big Ten Network (as well as FS1, which shows league games) off basic cable packages. It already did outside the league footprint on second-tier packages. Now it is saying BTN will no longer be on basic cable in communities in the league area as of September 1.

Hence, Silverman’s alarm.

“BTN is now facing our biggest challenge since the launch of the network,” Silverman said at Big Ten Media Days in Chicago. “Our 10-year agreement with Comcast expires at the end of August. A few months ago, BTN was removed from out-of-market cable systems on Comcast, which is the leading cable provider in the country. … It’s extremely concerning.”

This strikes me as much ado about nothing. While Wetzel points out that cable's monopoly is mercifully crumbling and there's pressure to keep bills down, I have a hard time believing Comcast is going to send a significant section of its Big Ten footprint subscribers into a contemplation of cord-cutting. A deal will be reached at the last minute, both sides will claim victory, and the slow bleed of cable subscribers to over the top services will not get a sudden kick in the pants.

[After the JUMP: employees, monkeys... really too long spent talking about monkeys]


Unverified Voracity Enters The Cone Of Solitude

Unverified Voracity Enters The Cone Of Solitude Comment Count

Brian June 27th, 2018 at 4:02 PM

[Bryan Fuller]

Carton on campus. In addition to the wave of football commits, Michigan's top remaining basketball target is also in the house:

Carton's previously said he intends to take trips to all of his six finalists before deciding in late summer, so this is not a commit watch situation. Still, given his stated decision criteria...

“The most significant factors in the choice are just… getting me to my future,” he said. “Who can develop me the most (to) become NBA ready, winning, and just the relationships. I want a team that I can call my brothers and stuff like that… that I can go back in like 60 years from now and still know those guys and still talk to them. So, I want my team to feel family-like, and get me to my dream.”

...and Michigan's unmatched ability to put recruits ranked significantly lower than Carton into the NBA, Beilein and company have to feel pretty good here. Also of note: Carton credits Yaklich for initiating his relationship with him while he was at Illinois State; Yaklich is also Jalen Wilson's primary recruiter. Pay that man his money.

ESPN has scouts that avoided the axe. At least in basketball. ESPN's released a new 2019 top 100 featuring Carton at #28; their accompanying article mentions him and a couple other targets. Carton is one of the "fastest risers":

Carton didn't make the final cut of USA Basketball U-18 national team, but he nonetheless opened eyes over the first four days of trials. That, followed by a solid showing at the NBPA Top 100 Camp, helped him go from unranked to top 30.

The southpaw lead guard plays at multiple speeds and navigates well in ball screens by creating separation between defenders. He is a high assist maker both in the open floor with the advance pass or in tight spaces as he reads the defense.

Potential 2020 one-and-done RJ Hampton, Jalen Wilson's best bro, is super super highly touted:

R.J. Hampton, No. 3 in 2020
PG, 6-4, 180, Little Elm (Texas)

Hampton is a big point guard with speed and scoring ability. He is more comfortable putting points on the board at this stage in his development, but he continues to show the vision and the ability to read the game.

The NBA covets big point guards and Hampton checks a ton of boxes. Strength and a consistent jump shot are what he needs most.

Camp Sanderson and John Beilein SEEM LIKE A GOOD IDEA SIR. FWIW, Michigan is in on #3 Cole Anthony (sort of) and #4 Jaden McDaniels, though those guys are in a stratosphere Michigan's recruiting rarely touches. Jalen Wilson is #68.

Also I have just discovered that Fran McCaffrey's kid Patrick is #50. Naturally, he is a 6'9" guy.

[After THE JUMP: American ninja Avant.]




Brian June 11th, 2018 at 11:41 AM

Dives. Washtenaw County dive bars surveyed. Self-recommending header picture is above. Also:

It turned out that the day that worked best for us to embark on the trip was a random Tuesday at the end of May. “Are dive bars open on Tuesdays?” I texted my friend. “They are if they want to be considered BEST OF WASHTENAW COUNTY,” he responded.

The penguin is in Saline, FWIW.

I guess this is all but official? We've been waiting for an official confirmation, or at least more than one person reporting, on this for a while now:

As a result we haven't talked about a piece of news since we were waiting to post their respective Exits. /shakes fist at transfer gray areas

Assuming this turns out to be true—and given the way Harbaugh has talked about the RB and WR groups since spring it's almost certainly true—that's two highly ranked guys out the door. Crawford's departure is probably the result of a plunge down the depth chart that saw him omitted from any spring discussion; that plunge down the depth chart is not a surprise given his flatly terrible play in 2017.

Walker flashed promise as a Brandon Minor-esque rage back in limited carries last year and would be an unfortunate loss. He'd publicly struggled with the transition to Michigan but seemed to get things on track last year; it would be really disappointing if he couldn't manage it, and Michigan could help him enough to do so.

Neither departure is likely to have much impact on the field this year; Michigan returns its top two backs and every WR outside of Crawford. Walker's presumed absence could bite next year.

FWIW, I wouldn't start getting worried about O'Maury Samuels yet. Harbaugh's mention of Tru Wilson as the #3 guy on the depth chart was immediately followed by a Samuels mention and a reference to his hamstring holding him back this spring. Meeanwhile, the WRs:

"I feel like our wide receivers have come along," Harbaugh told reporters during the 'Best of the Midwest' event. "Coach Mac has done a great job coaching them. Tarik, Donovan have probably done the best job of anybody in spring practice. Nate Schoenle, Oliver Martin, Nico Collins also did extremely well. Nico was slowed a little bit by a shoulder. Was going for a ball when we were working with pads and hurt his shoulder. He fought through that. I think he's got some real good upside. Those four guys there probably had the best spring."

Those four guys are actually five guys and Crawford is not amongst them. The lines are not hard to read between.



Unverified Voracity Says Throw-God, No

Unverified Voracity Says Throw-God, No Comment Count

Brian May 1st, 2018 at 12:29 PM

Recruiting rankings matter, and also have a systemic bias. NFL players versus blue chip recruits, mapped:


Blue states have more NFL players than blue chip recruits; red states have fewer. That's part of a thorough Football Study Hall article on recruiting rankings and the draft, and is about as conclusive as possible that the recruiting industry is systematically underrating the Midwest and overrating the south. The south does have more players—only an idiot would dispute that—but the gap isn't as big as the rankings suggest.

UPDATE: Related event:

Barkley was not composite top 100.

"I'm in Paris, better justify my existence." Kyle Rowland of the Blade unearths a cool Michigan story:


PARIS — Less than 10 miles from the Michigan football team’s palatial hotel in the heart of Paris sits Stade Olympique de Colombes, the host of the 1924 Olympic Games.

The old stadium, now 111 years old, is rickety and considerably smaller than its heyday when it entertained the world’s best athletes. Inside the concrete walls, DeHart Hubbard, one of the University of Michigan’s greatest sportsmen, became the first African-American to win an Olympic gold medal in an individual event, with a leap of 24 feet, 5 inches in the long jump on his sixth and final jump with a bruised heel.

“When I was a student, I came in 1976, and I looked at the school records because I was a long jumper, and that’s when I found out the first notion of who he was,” said James Henry, now the co-head coach of the UM women’s track and field team. “Then I found out he was the first African-American Olympic gold medalist. I was enthralled by him. He was my role model.

“He was at the University of Michigan at a time in which blacks couldn't do very much anywhere. I just felt that if this man can make it, I can make it. Making a name for myself by beating his records meant everything to me. That was my drive as a student-athlete to participate at a high level.”

Much more at the link. Now Rowland can file that expense report with a clear conscience.

Paging Mitch Leidner to the Department of Inexplicably Overrated Big Ten Quarterbacks. One mock draft was a hilarious oversight by an overworked intern. Two was worrisome. But now that it appears the NFL draft people are unanimous in asserting this person is a first round pick

    The Pick: Clayton Thorson, QB, Northwestern

    The New York Giants passed on the chance to draft a quarterback of the future with the No. 2 pick in the 2018 draft, but is that a decision they'll regret? Or will fourth-rounder Kyle Lauletta be the answer?

    If after a season of watching Lauletta and 2017 third-rounder Davis Webb, the Giants feel like the long-term answer at starter isn't on the roster, the team could be in good shape to draft a quarterback in 2019. Northwestern's Clayton Thorson nearly declared for this year's draft before surveying the deep group of passers and deciding to return to school. He has the arm, accuracy and intangibles to be considered a first-rounder one year from now.

…it's time to lay very still and sweat profusely, hoping this is a crazy dream.

Clayton Thorson! Sir, I have seen an unstoppable throw-god in purple. You, sir, are no Trevor Siemian. Thorson averaged 6.6 YPA with a 15-12 TD-INT ratio last year. But he's 6'4" and superficially looks like an NFL quarterback, so on the list he goes.

Making this take even nuttier: Thorson tore his ACL in the bowl game and is questionable for the upcoming season.

Meanwhile, Michigan prospects for 2019. Only two Wolverines show up on Athlon's top 50: #2 Rashan Gary and #22 Shea Patterson. Zach Shaw rounded up all the Way Too Early Mock Drafts and those two are the only guys on any of them. This is odd to me since Michigan's cornerback duo was probably the best in the country, at least in terms of passer rating allowed. You'd think one of the two would be a consideration for the end of the first round.

A flip. A development in the slightly less important FBI investigation:

The director of an amateur Massachusetts basketball team affiliated with Adidas AG agreed to plead guilty and cooperate with prosecutors investigating an NCAA bribery scandal, according to a copy of the agreement made public Friday.

Thomas "T.J." Gassnola entered the plea on March 30 to federal charges that he made payments to families of high school student-athletes in exchange for their commitment to play for certain universities, according to the filing.

NC State seems to be the main school linked with Gassnola, but, uh… Notre Dame(!) is an Adidas[correction: they switched to UA] school that just picked up two players from Gassnola's AAU team. I will give the FBI one dollar if they sweep the Irish into this. Think of the ND Nation takes.

Wilde take. Quinn Hughes is #5 on this NHL mock draft. Bode Wilde is #17:

17. New Jersey Devils: Bode Wilde, D, U.S. U18 (NTDP)

There are few prospects in this draft who can provide GMs with a skill set as tantalizing as Wilde’s. The big, mobile defender was a minute muncher for a deep NTDP blue line and his explosive first step is drool inducing. You don’t find many 6-2 defensemen with dynamic speed and a blistering shot, which is why GM Ray Shero should add this thoroughbred to his already-dangerous Devils’ attack

He'll be an acid test for the new staff's ability to mold guys, because he's a boom or bust guy on the NHL level because of his tendency to get out of position and cede odd man rushes.

FWIW, Hughes is the only draft-eligible and only college player on this year's IIHF World Championship team.

Etc.: John Infante on the NCAA resurrecting the transfer waiver, which may have been relevant for Patterson. WCBN profiles Hughes. The era in which Orson launches entirely warranted bombs at a Michigan assistant coach is going to be brutal. Wagner and Matthews invited to the draft combine.