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.
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.