Wiseman In, Powers Out

Wiseman In, Powers Out Comment Count

Brian May 5th, 2017 at 1:46 PM


Wiseman will stay behind Michigan's bench

Per George Sipple of the Detroit News, Brian Wiseman will continue in his capacity as a Michigan assistant coach under Mel Pearson. Billy Powers will not. FWIW, I've heard from various sources that Wiseman was doing yeoman work in a difficult recruiting situation the last few years; he's probably a good guy to keep around. I have not confirmed but suspect that he was the driving force behind Michigan's brilliant 2015-16 umbrella power play, as well.

Sipple has a list of potential second assistants for Pearson:

Madden is unlikely since he is an AHL coach who has a good shot at moving up to the NHL ranks in the near future. As previously mentioned, Muckalt is a USHL head coach/GM; I have no idea whether being an assistant at Michigan is a move up or down in terms of status. Some guy who seems to know what he's talking about on the USCHO message boards asserted that someone in Muckalt's role is probably pulling down 90-100k a year; Powers made 138k this year. Michigan can offer a major salary bump for him. Sipple had previously asserted that unless Muckalt was the new head coach at Tech he expected him behind Michigan's bench.

Tamer and Komisarek are both former Michigan defensemen who had long NHL careers. Tamer is currently an assistant for the USA women's team. Komisarek just retired from the NHL in 2014 and returned to Michigan to complete his undergrad degree; he was working with the team as a student assistant. Neither has the resume of Muckalt but both are very familiar with Pearson.

I'd imagine Steve Shields would stay on as the volunteer goalie coach since he goes way back with Mel and did great work this year with not one not two but three goalies.

As for Powers, this would seem to be a natural fit:

That might not be as much of a recruiting boon as it seems. Most NTDP guys are already committed to a college by the time they join the program. Having Danton Cole around certainly didn't help MSU's recruiting efforts. But it can't hurt.


On Mel Pearson, Michigan Hockey Coach

On Mel Pearson, Michigan Hockey Coach Comment Count

Brian April 24th, 2017 at 1:17 PM


Mel Pearson is Michigan's hockey coach now, and that's fine. Your author started stumping for Pearson shortly after he arrived at Michigan Tech and their program took off. This was year one, pre-realignment WCHA:

Tech won 13 games the next year and 14 in 2013-14, the first year of college hockey's new landscape. This alone is impressive in the modern context of Tech hockey; that's the first time Tech had won double-digit games since Bob Mancini did it from 1993 to 1996.

That alone would not be impressive enough to grab the Michigan job, but then Pearson had the following three seasons:

  • 29-10-2, at-large bid to tourney as #2 seed, #5 ES Corsi*
  • 23-9-5, WCHA regular season champs, #3 ES Corsi
  • 23-15-7, WCHA playoff champs, NCAA bid, #3 ES Corsi

It's likely that 2016-17 Tech would have had close to the same winning percentage Pearson's previous two teams did except for the fact that they spent about 8 games playing two goalies with .883 and .857 save percentages before freshman Angus Redmond emerged as the clear starter.

Schedule strength is a concern for WCHA schools so Dave broke down Pearson's "relevant" Corsi outings from the last three years. We defined relevant teams as Big Ten, NCHC, and HE schools plus Yale, an at-large bid from the ECAC in 2016. Red are clear Corsi losses, yellow tie-ish games, and green are clear wins. Keep in mind that some of these MSU and Wisconsin teams are very bad teams, as is this year's Michigan outfit. Nonetheless this is very impressive for a guy working at a severe talent disadvantage to most of these schools:

Pearson Relevant Corsi

Dave helpfully exclaimed about the 72-29 and 63-33 hamblastings of your Michigan Wolverines this year.

The modern WCHA is a mid-major conference but given what Tech was before Pearson arrived this is very close to hiring Lavall Jordan if he has a six-year tenure at Wisconsin-Milwaukee that includes two tourney bids and a regular season title. IE, the kind of hire major schools make all the time. Mel's deep roots with the program are certainly a bonus, but if Pearson's name was Neverheardof Annarbor he would still be a strong candidate.


There is an undercurrent of discontent from Demand Excellence sorts. I do know that Michigan reached out to both Jeff Blashill and Mike Babcock at various points over the last few years and was unsurprisingly turned down by a pair of sitting NHL coaches. I have not heard that Michigan made overtures to any of the three slam-dunk college coaches (Nate Leaman, Norm Bazin, and Jim Montgomery) but I would not be surprised if anyone contacted offered a polite thanks-but-no-thanks. All three of those guys have essentially infinite job security at programs that are competing at a national title level. Taking over for a legend who left behind a very bad team is a recipe for a quick exit, pursued by a mob. Rich Rodriguez is nodding vigorously for reasons that are mysterious to him at this very moment. Michigan could have come in with a big offer and it might not do much other than get the coach in question a nice bump.

Mel's only a fallback because there's an unprecedented number of college hockey coaches who kind of look like Urban Meyer at Utah. In most circumstances the guy who took Tech to the tourney for the first time in 34 years—as an at large—would be one of or the top guy on the market.

Pearson's age is a downside. Michigan just experienced a long slide into darkness because of a not-uncommon phenomenon where legends go very, very gradually and then suddenly. But Pearson's status as an obviously very good coach right now should make for some productive years as he inherits Michigan's still-top-five recruiting and pairs him with whatever crazy Corsi mojo he's got. Pearson is the best clearly-available coach right now, and this is a team with ten NHL draft picks and a first-rounder inbound. Right now is good enough.

*["ES Corsi" == your percentage of all shot attempts at even strength. Not SOS adjusted, admittedly. There is also a "Fenwick" which is your percentage of all unblocked shot attempts; Tech was  #2, #3 and #2 in that stat. Here is a helpful intro to these kind of stats:

Unadjusted college Corsi is a very rough measure but as a teamwide stat over three seasons it strongly implies that Pearson's teams are excellent at puck possession. This is something my eyes have confirmed over the last few years of Michigan-Tech matchups, FWIW.]


Report: Mel Pearson To Be Hockey Coach

Report: Mel Pearson To Be Hockey Coach Comment Count

Brian April 23rd, 2017 at 6:55 PM

maxresdefault (1)

From John Buccigross himself so likely to be accurate:

Everyone reading this likely has at least a vague idea of who Mel Pearson is, but the Cliffs Notes: long, long time Red Berenson assistant who left to be the head coach at Michigan Tech, his alma mater, several years ago. Michigan immediately dropped off and Tech got a lot better. A lot. In 2015 the Huskies got their first bid to the NCAA tournament since 1981(!), and Tech was a two-seed. They went again this year by winning their conference tourney.

It's a bit hard to tell exactly how much Tech's newfound success comes from Mel and how much is the radical reshaping of Western college hockey occasioned by the creation of Big Ten hockey. The WCHA went from the most powerful league in the country to a mid-major, and Tech's rise is partially due to that.

On the other hand, Tech was top five in ES Corsi the last three years. Mel Pearson can coach, and he knows his way around Ann Arbor. It might work out. From a year ago:


I was going to put a vertical line on the chart when Mel left for Tech and then I realized it was already more or less there. It's the blue uptick and red downtick in 2012. Pearson got Tech in the tourney for the first time since 1981 last year. This year the Huskies won their first conference title since 1976. (I realize this WCHA is not the old WCHA but when you're Tech hockey any hardware is a miracle.) They've currently scrapped their way onto the bubble again. Pearson immediately made Tech much better and now that it's his program they're at a level they haven been at since Pearson was playing in Houghton.

Yes, he's a bit older than is ideal at 57. On the other hand, Red was 57 in 1997. He won a national title the year before and the year after. Michigan has the raw tools to win a national title every year; there need be no building phase. Even if Pearson does retire at around 65, you get almost a decade out of him. That decade is immediately productive. He is obviously a top-level coach who was a linchpin of Michigan's success under Red.

I'd have preferred one of the younger slam dunk guys but the first person to compare this hire to Brady Hoke gets ejected into space.


Hockey Search Items

Hockey Search Items Comment Count

Brian April 21st, 2017 at 2:09 PM

This is not a searchbits. I don't have any solid intel. This is probably going to be a thing where nobody knows anything and one day there's a new coach. But there are some tea leaves, so let's observe them.


Bill Muckalt?

Mel Pearson continues to assert he has not had any conversations about the Michigan job, and Chris Dilks thinks it won't be him:

I don’t think it will be Mel Pearson. The feeling I’ve gotten from people on both sides of the situation is that two or three years ago, it would have been a done deal. But today, I’m not sure it makes much sense for either party.

On the other hand:

Pearson's 58, so each year Red waited took a significant chunk of his potential Michigan career. Red probably doesn't think that's true for obvious reasons. There's been a lot of talk that Pearson might stay in Houghton even if Michigan offered him the job but this is not even a particularly strong denial:

“I enjoy where I’m at, have great support there and obviously we got the program turned around, but Michigan’s Michigan so we’ll see what happens,” Pearson said.

That sounds like a guy who would move cartoonishly fast if given the opportunity.

Also, this is unintentionally revealing:

“For us, we led the country in scoring margin at Tech three years ago. I really wanted to play the same way as we did at Michigan, have a fast, uptempo team. I changed the forecheck a little bit from when we were at Michigan in our neutral zone, some systems that are little different at Tech. Part of that is because of the personnel that we have but also I try to stay on top of how the NHL plays in some ways and try to incorporate that in our system.”

The dropoff in Michigan's play when Mel left was immediate and apparent; my best guess is that he was always driving Michigan forward towards the state of the art and Wiseman either could not replicate that or just didn't have Red's ear as much. The one exception was the brilliant and modern 2015-16 power play, which was the umbrella from hell for opponents.

Dilks then divides the potential candidates into super-successful-back-up-the-dump-truck types, of which there are a surprising number, and low-hanging program alum fruit. We've talked about the dump truck names—Montgomery, Leaman, Bazin—before. The low-hanging fruits in the absence of Pearson appear to be current assistant Brian Wiseman and Bill Muckalt, currently head coach of the USHL's Tri-City Storm. Muckalt was an assistant under Mel at Tech for a bit and would probably be fine:

When Mel Pearson left Michigan after 23 years on Red Berenson’s staff to become head coach of Michigan Tech, Muckalt was the first person he contacted to assist him.

It was the second time their paths intertwined. It was Pearson who recruited Muckalt to play there after watching him score five goals in one game with Merritt in the BCJHL.

“I always admired his tenacity, his work ethic, his character; with his background it was a no-brainer hire for me,” Pearson said.

Pearson also eyed Muckalt for his own recruiting skills. “He’s such an out-going guy. You need someone who is personable and not afraid to go out on the road and work hard.”

Vagaries of USHL rostering make it hard to figure out who's any good, and Muckalt's a great example. He took over a bad team and led them to the title his first year; this year they finished last in their conference.

The dump truck names are radio silent for the most part, with one exception. Denver's Jim Montgomery is a target of the Florida Panthers, and it sounds like he might be hard to pry away from Denver even for the mondo dollars the NHL offers:

“I don’t even know if I would leave for an NHL coaching job,” Montgomery said recently. “The ability to win and live the quality of life for my family — the quality of life of being a good husband and dad, compared to an NHL coach — factors into that, plus the fact that we’re getting the (new) locker-room done. We love living here in Colorado, and it would have to take an incredible situation to leave here. Those things don’t come around very often.”

He's a Denver alum coming off a national title and is probably off the table even for a program with Michigan's resources. Leaman or Bazin may be open to Michigan's pitch, should they choose to make it. I can find nothing on the internet concerning either guy written since Red retired save the Dilks piece above; no quotes, no buzz.

Meanwhile, Michigan State hired Danton Cole a few days ago. That's not a wow hire. This Hollis quote is really something:

"It took us 21 days, but honestly, it could have just taken one," Hollis said.

A three-week dog and pony show to hire the low-hanging fruit is the kind of thing only the Hollis/Brandon wing of self-important ADs would proudly admit in public.

Cole's only college head coaching experience was a three-year stint at Alabama-Huntsville. That didn't go well, but it probably couldn't have given UAH's status in the college hockey world. Since departing UAH he's been with the NTDP. Hypothetically this would provide a recruiting advantage, except for the fact that these days most of the NTDP is committed to a college before they even get to Plymouth.

But at least he's a hockey coach, which gives him one leg up on Tom Anastos.

Side note. here's a little good recruiting news: Mike Pastujov went from a top-end talent to unranked by the CSB in their mid-term rankings. That changed in their final rankings, which saw Pastujov shoot up to 80th. Some scouts think that's still too low:

80th is approximately a fourth-rounder, FWIW, because euros and goalies aren't included in that ranking. Pastujov was a potential first-rounder when he committed so this is still a step back; I'll take circumstantial evidence that he can be a productive scoring line player.


WTKA Roundtable 4/13/2017: Et Tu, BC?

WTKA Roundtable 4/13/2017: Et Tu, BC?


[Bill Rapai]

Things discussed:

  • Berenson remembered. Wish time didn’t happen; now it’s time to appreciate all that Red gave us, including the best damn hockey ever, Old Yost, and all the Comries.
  • Options for next guy—it doesn’t seem like the replacement has been decided, and it seems it’s not Mel anymore. Was it until recently? Yeah? Why not Babcock? Some convincing reasons, including Zach Hyman.
  • Miles Bridges stays at State…um…okay…gotta stick around for that Izzo bump I guess. DJ and Moe probably want to go to the NBA Draft but if 24th overall is the ceiling they should probably return.
  • Euphemisms that don’t need explaining explained.
  • Spring Game: position battles we’re watching.
  • OL: Big Mike O gonna be good. If Ruiz isn’t pummeled by the starting DL, pencil him in as a 4-year starter.

You can catch the entire episode on Michigan Insider's podcast stream on Audioboom.

Segment two is here. Segment three is here.


Hockey Coaching Candidates: Alternatives to Mel

Hockey Coaching Candidates: Alternatives to Mel Comment Count

Adam Schnepp April 11th, 2017 at 10:22 AM

[Ed. A- David Nasternak, our hockey beat writer, did the heavy lifting in compiling this article and also helped author it.]

At some point today, Warde Manuel will sit down in his office overlooking Hoover Avenue and State Street, check his to-do list, and find an item at the top wholly unfamiliar to him as Michigan’s athletic director, a task that was also wholly unfamiliar to the seven men who previously sat behind his desk: hire a new men’s ice hockey head coach.

Most of the buzz on this site and around the local scene has been centered near Mel Pearson, Red Berenson’s longtime assistant turned Michigan Tech head coach. There is probably a good case for him (particularly if based on his teams’ Corsi over the past few seasons), and he might be a fine head coach and quality option, but there are also a couple of reasons to remain skeptical. We’re not saying that they cannot be ironed out or that he would not succeed as Michigan’s next head coach. We do think that there are other options out there to consider as well.

David talked to a handful of people and did a lot of digging. These are the upper-echelon alternatives that we think should at least be investigated. For the record, very established guys at programs that aren’t a step down from Michigan have not been included on this list, so you’re not going to find Don Lucia or Jerry York on here.


Norm Bazin, UMass Lowell

He’s only 46 years old and already has nine years of head-coaching experience and an additional 11 years experience as an assistant. Eight of his years as an assistant came at Colorado College; those years nearly killed him. Seriously.  His incredible survival story is a must-read.

Coaching highlights:

  • Three years as an assistant at UML
  • Eight years as an assistant at Colorado College bazin
  • Three years head coach at Hamilton College
  • Six years head coach at UML

Over the course of his six years at UMass Lowell, he has: twice been named Hockey East Coach of the Year, won the Penrose award for Division I coach of the year, finished with a winning percentage >.600 each of the last seven years, won the regular season Hockey East title two of the last five seasons, won the Hockey East conference tournament three of the last six seasons (while making the final five consecutive seasons), made the NCAA tournament five of the last six years, won at least one game in the NCAA tournament each of those five times, and made the Frozen Four in 2012-13.

Unfortunately for Michigan, given all that he has been through and that he is coaching at his alma mater, he may be happy at UML. Regardless, he should be first on the list. He might be the list. And he’s young, too. Give him what he wants.

[After THE JUMP: other current collegiate head coaches, guys with Michigan connections, and a couple wildcards]


Red Berenson Expected To Retire

Red Berenson Expected To Retire Comment Count

Brian April 10th, 2017 at 2:35 PM


[Patrick Barron]

Per George Sipple:

Berenson is synonymous with Michigan hockey and at some point they should play in Berenson Ice Arena. But after missing the tourney four times in five years and having a very bad team this year despite a reasonable modicum of talent, it is time for a change.

Assuming this does not take a 180 in the next half hour we'll have a post about candidates to replace Red; a fuller appreciation is going to take longer to put together.


WTKA Roundtable: Used to Be Red

WTKA Roundtable: Used to Be Red


[Robert Kalmbach photograph collection at the UM Bentley Library]

Things discussed:

  • How do you show Red the door when he built the door? A long discussion on what you do when he’s had one foot out for awhile and refuses to go.
  • IS Mel available? Under any circumstance? What is the circumstance? If this gets messy do we need Mel?
  • Craig offers his mediation services pro bono.
  • Nobody reads these bullets do they?
  • Wi not trei a holiday in Sweeden this yer?
  • See the loveli lakes
  • And the mani interesting furry animals
  • Including the majestic pterodactyl
  • and the pitching
  • and DPJ

You can catch the entire episode on Michigan Insider's podcast stream on Audioboom.

Segment two is here.


MGoPodcast 8.20: Self Efficacy

MGoPodcast 8.20: Self Efficacy


[Bryan Fuller]

We Couldn’t Have One Without the Other

This podcast is presented by the Bo Store, UGP & Moe's. Rishi and Ryan have been here since the beginning—shopping with them supports us and supports good dudes.

It was recorded at the Residence Inn Ann Arbor Downtown, and while waiting for his segment @ACiatti was super-pleased about the free fast internet connection.

Our sponsors make this possible: Homesure Lending, Ann Arbor Elder Law, the the University of Michigan Alumni Association, Deo Bookkeeping, Michigan Law Grad, and Peak Wealth Management.


1. Post Mortem, Tourney Thoughts

starts against 1:00

Jack Stack broke Ace’s will to be wakeful. Oregon’s plan was to leave Michigan’s shooters so wide open from three we’d get confused and miss: congratulations you found our weakness. Also turnovers went the other way from normal, and we vastly underestimated Jordan Bell. Are we happy or sad about Oregon depantsing Kansas?

2. Basketball Beyond

starts at 20:02

A run through the roster for 2017-’18 by position, and we do it from 1 to 5 even though it makes way more sense for next year’s team to reverse that. X as Darius Morris, Brooks comes Nova-approved, RAHK all night long, Mathews is a wild card, Robinson is what he is, Ibi is probably another year away, DJ has a DJ-like understudy coming in, and if Moe is Louisville Moe all year he’ll drive us back to the 16. Also: theories on bigs development, and developments in the B1G.

3. Gimmicky Top Five: The Best Player in the NFL (That you can draft out of Michigan next month?)

starts at 53:00

Michigan’s entire starting defense isn’t eligible for the NFL Draft because McCray is still around. But that still leaves plenty of players to choose from, plus Jake Butt, in deciding who will be the best five pros out of—deep breath here—Glasgow, Godin, Wormley, Taco, Gedeon, D.Hill, D.Thomas, Peppers, Stribling, Jourdan, Kalis, Braden, Mags, Butt, Darboh, Chesson, and Deveon Smith. Did I forget anyone?

4. Ace’s Aceless Hockey Podcast

starts at 1:08:10

We welcome special guests Anthony Ciatti (@Ciatti) and our hockey beatwriter/otherjobdoer David Nasternak (@NastyIsland) to discuss how this was, by Corsi, the worst Michigan hockey team ever and ungh it was so unbelievably bad yuck blech argh. Oh right and options to replace Red, which don’t include any Red Wings but do include the two best hockey coaches in the country, AND Mel.



  • “Koroleva Ne Pomerla”—The Ukrainians
    (cover of “The Queen is Dead” by The Smiths)
  • “Oxford Comma”—Vampire Weekend
  • “Forever for Her is Over for Me”—White Stripes
  • “Across 110th Street”


WTKA Roundtable 3/16/2017: The Few, the Two, and a Strong Sense of Self

WTKA Roundtable 3/16/2017: The Few, the Two, and a Strong Sense of Self


[Paul Sherman]

Ira is here for Sam, who’s in Indy for the open practice.

Things discussed:

  • The last gasp of the Red era: Michigan didn’t go to the Joe and win three straight but it would have been nice. What’s next?
  • Gaming RPI: The NCAA met with Sagarin and Pomeroy…and went back to their stupid metric that’s so predictable a hero at Minnesota got them a 5-seed and Illinois State got left out for 9-seed MSU.
  • Oklahoma State could be the VCU game of this tourney, except Cowboys can shoot. We like that there’s nobody to get Wagner in trouble.
  • Who’s got two guards and is No. 1 at forcing two-point jumpers?
  • The rest of our brackets. Brian likes UCLA because that game, Craig believes the Midwest is so soft Kentucky will jump brackets and beat all of us down, Gonzaga might get to walk to the Final Four, and hoo did Wisconsin end up in a rough bracket.
  • Match the champs to the roundtabler: Kentucky, UNC, Nova, Meeeshigan.

You can catch the entire episode on Michigan Insider's podcast stream on Audioboom.

Segment two is here. Segment three is here.