Catching Up With Hockey Comment Count

Brian December 7th, 2010 at 1:49 PM

An annual post informing/figuring out what's going on with the hockey team when football season ends.

carl-hagelin-2Michigan goaltender Bryan Hogan (#35) plays against Western Michigan University at Yost Ice Arena on Saturday, March 14, 2009 in their second CCHA Quarterfinal game. The Wolverines won, 6-1. (CLIF REEDER/Daily)


Last year: On the one hand, Michigan tore through the final ten games of its schedule en route to its 20th straight NCAA tourney bid. They swept Michigan State at Munn in the ultimate karmic retribution, beat Miami at the Joe, beat Northern to clinch their tourney bid, and were one erroneous whistle away from a thrilling overtime win against Miami in the rematch and a Frozen Four bid.

On the other, Michigan needed every game of their CCHA tourney run to go their way or they would have been left out of the tourney entirely. After struggling to a .500 record more than halfway through the season, an uninspired group of Carl Hagelin and a bunch of guys who weren't very good seemed like obviously the worst Michigan team assembled since Red got his machine going back in the late eighties.

The question going into 2010: which was it, then?

Neither Great Nor Terrible

Eighteen games in, that's the answer. Michigan's part of what looks like it will be a three-way race for the league title with Miami and Notre Dame. Michigan is two points behind the Redhawks but has two games in hand; they are behind Notre Dame by virtue of a single shootout point. They've split with ND already and have played two of the three teams hovering around .500 in the league, so the schedule has been somewhere between representative and tough.

The nonconference has not been as kind. Michigan's 1-2-3 with ties against Mercyhurst, UNH, and Wisconsin, a loss to Minnesota, and a split against Nebraska-Omaha. That's a very difficult schedule—UNH is #3, UNO #10 while Wisconsin and Minnesota are middling WCHA teams—but nonconference losses are Pairwise anchors. Michigan's probably given away any shot at a #1 seed unless they rip through the second half schedule.

This is miles better than last year, when Michigan finished seventh(!) in the league and was .500 at the holiday break. If Michigan can take care of business against a 3-7-1 Michigan State team that's just as bad as it should be after losing all but a couple players with a hint of talent, they'll go into this break 10-5-4 with a solid head start at landing an at-large NCAA bid.

So why does this feel just like last year?

It's kind of just like last year. Carl Hagelin lacks the raw net-ripping scoring to carry the team offensively but is awesome in all phases and is the only Michigan player to be noticeable on almost every shift. Louie Caporusso is frustrating but somehow is tied for the team lead in points. A totally obscure senior forward has made himself a critical contributor (Lebler last year, Vaughn this year). Large stretches of every game are boring, defensive hockey not because that's how Michigan is trying to play but because there's no one on the team who can create chances for himself or his teammates. The power play: guh. Michigan's scoring margin this year is 13th nationally, right about where they finished last season.

The main differences:

  • They are not maniacal hackers any more. Michigan is traditionally amongst the national leaders in penalty minutes. Last year they were 15th. This year they're 22nd. Since a large chunk of those are coincidentals, I took a look at PP/G given up. Michigan is 33rd—essentially average. That's a big improvement. Michigan went 115 minutes against Notre Dame without going on the penalty kill.
  • The goaltending is average and could be better. Bryan Hogan was puttering around at .901 when the season ended and spent most of the year looking up at .900. This year he's splitting time with Hunwick, who is puttering along at .903 while Hogan is at .923. Put them together and Michigan's overall save percentage is slightly above average this year; last year it was ridiculously bad. Hogan's 19th nationally in SV% and is 7-2. Hunwick' 2-3-4 and just gave up a horrendous goal* to Ohio State that eventually proved to be the difference in a 3-2 OT loss—it may be time to give the job to Hogan full-time.
  • They don't have a defenseman who is killing the team. I've been rough on Llewellyn for the duration of his career so credit where it's due: he has been a steady presence on the backline to the point where I'd rather have him out there than Lee Moffie or a couple other offensive defensemen. I think he's had one penalty this year that I was like "aaaaargh" about, which is on par with the rest of the team. He's made a step forward. So has Pateryn, who I think should be seriously considered for a first-line shutdown role.

The things that are the same:

  • There is no grade A scorer. This is the point at which Louie Caporusso says "oh really" and starts sniping goals left and right but at this instant I'm down on his ability to do much other than shoot, which he doesn't do enough. Hagelin's outstanding but needs a pure scorer on his wing; he's got Rust and Lynch, who are not anywhere close.
  • The depth is weak. Michigan's picking between Scooter Vaughn and Luke Glendening when they're figuring out the second line. No offense to those guys but that's two guys who would have a third line ceiling on a truly good Michigan team. Meanwhile, Chris Brown has two goals and AJ Treais—the designated tiny stick ninja and the U18 team's leading scorer—three, one of them a pinball gift.
  • There probably isn't a true shut-down defenseman. Michigan's top pairing has been Chad Langlais and Jon Merrill, and while both have been good neither is a physical presence like a Mitera or Komisarek. Pateryn might be, but those guys were first round picks and he was a 5th or 6th who's still developing.


This is a frustrating team. They'll play two games that are exactly the same over the course of the weekend. They will lose one. They will win one. Most of the time the outcome of either game seems heavily dependent on luck. See last weekend against Ohio State or the Notre Dame split. Last weekend Michigan dominated a bad team territorially and in shots and got a split because they hardly had any scoring chances and Hunwick let in a soft goal. Against Notre Dame they played a fairly even game but eventually ended up on the short end in shots and chances. They won on Saturday because three pucks wandered into the net of their own volition and Chad Langlais was the only person on the ice who realized Chad Langlais had the puck.

Unlike last year's team, they're not undisciplined enough or poor enough in goal to lose many games against the dregs of the CCHA. The Ohio State loss was the first one that could truly be considered bad; all games against the bottom rungs of the league have alternated periods of Michigan dominance with (long, so very long) periods of aimless whatever in which neither team really does anything. That adds up to a 5-1 record against teams that aren't legitimately good, and that coupled with Michigan's ability to tread water against the elite should see them finish second or third in the league—it appears Miami is again the class of the league and should prove that over the course of the year—and get a two or three seed in the tournament, where they'll have to get lucky to advance.

It's not all bad, but it's not what the thrilling run at the end of last year promised. I guess that was too good to last—you can only live on adrenaline so long before it loses its effect.

*(The first one, not the one with under ten seconds.)


Yale Van Dyne Fan

December 7th, 2010 at 2:06 PM ^

...but am I the only one who feels that both college hockey and college basketball have been severely marginalized in the last decade or so by the pattern of early departures? There used to be nothing better than watching a couple loaded and senior-laden Michigan and Lake State teams playing up-and-down hockey at Yost. Just doesn't have the same feeling anymore. I'm done waxing poetic now.


December 9th, 2010 at 9:13 AM ^

The real culprit is the NHL and their blood sucking ties to the Canadian Major Junior hockey leagues. Michigan and other national powers are being squeezed out of the best recruits in Canada due to the CHL's stronghold on Canadian talent. To add insult to injury, top American talent is now jumping ship after making commitments (Campbell, Lessio etc.) which is leaving gaping roster holes.  Early departures only widen that gap- and guys like Palushaj are drifting around in the AHL instead of finishing their degree. 


December 7th, 2010 at 2:14 PM ^

So, Sparty is terrible and we're going to smack them around and score lots of goals, right?  Is that what I'm reading?  Because Dave Brandon paid for fireworks after Michigan goals, so I think we damn well ought to use them.  Plus I want to hear 100,000 people calling the State goalie a sieve.


December 7th, 2010 at 2:16 PM ^

Um Brian, why did you write an article about my Golden Gophers? You appear to have accidently looked at a roster foreign to me, but I'm quite certain I know about whom you are writing.


December 7th, 2010 at 2:44 PM ^

That Friday night OSU game was a level-1 Soul Dong Punch.  I was 11 seconds from logging on here to start a "thank god for hockey" thread; instead, I sat silently on my couch, with the TV off, for a good 5 minutes after OT. 


December 7th, 2010 at 3:06 PM ^

was SOOOOOO bad.  Hunwick basically gave up the first good scoring chance Ohio State had in that entire period, and it was only a good scoring chance because it was in comparison to the non-existent scoring chances the rest of the period for Ohio State.  It should have been a routine save leading to a 3-1 type of finish.

Saturday, I was just as frustrated at the end of the game, though.  We had the puck in Ohio State's zone for over 30 seconds with their goalie on the bench and had possession of the puck for most of that time and couldn't put it in the empty net.  They seemed more interested in still finding the "pretty" pass instead of launching a shot on net.


December 7th, 2010 at 2:58 PM ^

You have to give Jon Merrill a little more time before expecting him to be a huge physical presence.  He's not quite a Jack Johnson, and he's only 18 years old.  I'm surprised he weighs over 200 lbs.  He looks a lot thinner than that to me.


December 7th, 2010 at 3:29 PM ^

has been my biggest dissappointment so far.  I don't necessarily expect him to have a ton of points, but certainly more than 3 goals and 7 assists.  He also doesn't seem to be the defensive stalwart I remember him being, which is really my biggest dissappointment.  I know this isn't necessarily the greatest statistic, but he has the lowest +/- on the team at a -2.  Lee Moffie (who has played half the games) has a -1 for the only other player in - territory and Ben Winnett is the only player that is even..  There are a lot of +1,2,3 some, +4,5,6, Tristin has +7, Glendening +8 and Louie leads with +14!!!  His linemates are +6 (Carl) and +1 (Lynch). He's about 56% on face-offs which is good, but I feel like as a team we've been pretty dominant (statisitcally) in the circle.

I remember Rust went down at BGSU, one of the games.  Any chance anybody knows if he's not playing at 100%?

The other thing that stands out is our defense.  Coming into the year, I think we expected to get some pretty good production out of our forwards and were OK with our D-men, but scared at the lack of a shut-down pair.  Our D is actually doing surprising well, especially offensively.  10 of 58 goals and and 32/99 assists.  The problem is that if the other team can shut down the offense from our defense we have a really hard time scoring. 

They still have some time to get it together and if anyone can coach them up, Red can, but it's looking somewhat like a 3/4 seed, to me and they're going to need some serious luck or fire to get past the first round . Though they have gotten some pretty serious luck in some of their games already, so we'll see. Next year is what really scares me...

I Bleed Maize N Blue

December 7th, 2010 at 3:45 PM ^

... Chad Langlais was the only person on the ice who realized Chad Langlais had the puck.

Hey, let's give credit to the ref for not blowing the whistle for having lost sight of the puck (which I thought for sure was going to happen).

Clarence Beeks

December 7th, 2010 at 4:22 PM ^

Regarding this:

There probably isn't a true shut-down defenseman. Michigan's top pairing has been Chad Langlais and Jon Merrill, and while both have been good neither is a physical presence like a Mitera or Komisarek. Pateryn might be, but those guys were first round picks and he was a 5th or 6th who's still developing.

I think it's a big mistake, strategically and developmentally, for Burlon to not be directed into this role.  He has the talent and versatility to be able to play that role without sacrificing much (if any) of his offense (because of his exceptional skating ability), despite his size, and it's a role that New Jersey is going to expect him to play on his way up through their system after his time at Michigan is over.


December 7th, 2010 at 4:52 PM ^

Burlon's been getting a fair amount of ice time, and has been pretty solid defensively.  But I don't think they can develop him into the "physical presence" Brian is talking about.  As you say, he lacks the size for it, and he doesn't have a particularly physical style of play.

Clarence Beeks

December 8th, 2010 at 12:05 PM ^

I agree, but I was talking about the part of his comment regarding a "shut-down defensemen".  A shut-down defensemen doesn't have to be a physical presence; it can be done through skating, positioning and skill, which are all attributes that Burlon has.  It's also the way that New Jersey likes to develop its defensemen (i.e. shut-down capability through skill, rather than size, with the ability to move the puck vertically).  I'm not really saying that they are doing Burlon a disservice in their use of him, but rather that he could have significant future benefit from being steered toward a more defensive role.  He's very much on the career trajectory of current Devils players and prospects Greene, Taormina and Eckford (i.e. players that went the NCAA route to develop a defensive presence to go along with their offensive abilities).  I just worry, very slightly, that the Devils could put him on the Eckford path (i.e. sign him before his senior year to gain AHL seasoning) rather than the Greene/Taormina path (i.e. stay all four years) if they don't think enough focus is being placed on the defensive game.


December 8th, 2010 at 12:51 AM ^

 do i need to be worried about next year's team?  i'm concerned about our apparent lack of depth up front and that we graduate hunwick and hogan, which will leave us with a sophomore who had middling numbers in juniors and likely won't play a minute this year.

as far as recruiting, i could only find the names of 2 commits for next year, and while guptill sounds promising, some scouts think "he needs time to develop."  seems from the roster we graduate 8 guys this season.  do we have a bunch of guys waiting in the wings or does RR share the snakeoil with Red?


December 8th, 2010 at 2:08 AM ^

the "good" news is that, though it wasn't officially confirmed anywhere that I've noticed, Hunwick has made a couple references on Red's radio show that he (Hunwick) will be back for a 5th year, since he didn't play at all his sophomore year and thus retains eligibility.  So, we'll at least have a goalie with experience, though how well Hunwick can play being THE guy for a full season is still in doubt. 

The bad news is, yah we lose a ton.  2 solid defenseman, a pretty good goalie, and 5 forwards, 3 of which are Carl, Louie and Rust, the fourth of which is Scooter and the 5th really never became as good as people thought he might, but has put in solid minutes and had his moments. 

The not-quite-so-bad news is that, though we lose a lot, what we have left is still pretty talented on paper.  Our D would be incredibly thin, but feature 2 seniors (2nd and 5th round draftees), a junior 7th round pick and 3 sophomores, including a 2nd round pick and a 3rd round pick.  If nobody leaves early, or gets hurt, our defense should still be pretty good. We add a freshman, that from the literatrue seems like an Eric Elmblad type to me, on defense,

The incredibly bad news is that we can't score very reliably this year, WITH Carl and Louie (our "established" scoring threats), Rust (who generally puts up solid, though not spectacular offense numbers, but is also usually an incredibly defensive forward) and Scooter (who is still tied for either first or second on the team in goals).  Without them, it looks even grimmer.  Wohlberg should produce decently, hopefully Lynch keeps getting better and Brown can find the net again, but those are "maybes".  Or we can rely on Glendeing/Treais/Fallon/Moffatt to step up and score a ton, which seems rather unlikely to me.  Or, even more unlikely, we can pray for a 20 goal season from Rohrkemper, DeBlois or Sparks.  That or it's up to the freshman to be an immediate scoring impact. 

As far as I know, we only have the two committs, with Guptill being the higher-end guy (picked in the 3rd round last year) and Szuma being the walk-on type.  There hasn't been an MGoBlue article on them, so they probably haven't signed LoI's yet, which scares me a little, but since everything says Guptill is still committed, I'll live.  As for getting more, it's SUPER late in the process to have anyone great left uncommitted or to snake oil them (especially after early-season LoI's).  So, unless there's been some secret committs that have flown under the radar, somehow, to save the program, we're going to go with maybe some guys we think can develop into something/are (very) late bloomers, which doesn't really help us for next year so much.

By the way, for those counting, the projected roster for next season looks like this, IF nobody leaves:

2 goalies (Hunwick + walk-on)

7 D (6 upperclassman, 1 walk-on freshman)

11 F (10 upperclassman (3 of which are walk-ons), 1 freshman)

You may notice we are a forward short of a full roster.  Next year=likely problems, unless the coaches have something magical hidden up their sleeves.

Clarence Beeks

December 8th, 2010 at 12:16 PM ^

hopefully Lynch keeps getting better and Brown can find the net again, but those are "maybes".

I don't get the concern with Kevin Lynch.  He's on pace to outperform his freshman year numbers and has already equaled his freshman year goal total.  That's pretty darn good considering that most drafted U.S. born sophomores seem to experience a bit of a fall off in production after reasonably solid freshman years (see Chris Brown).  Lynch hasn't had that happen to him, which is a very good sign.  It's really not a problem for both of them, either, as they should both see big time jumps in productivity next year.  Most likely we'll see that happen to Merril next year.That's the typical trajectory, anyway.  The other thing to keep in mind with Lynch and Brown is that everyone ahead of them on the team scoring-wise (except for Merril and Treais) is at least one year older than both of them.


December 8th, 2010 at 1:19 PM ^

It's less I think they won't score more and more I'm worried that "more" won't be enough.  Carl didn't really blow up until his junior year, I suppose, but Louie had ?24? his sophomore year and Lynch isn't nearly on pace to do that (without a really strong second half, which (Louie) is certainly possible). 

Regardless, I think, from what we've seen so far, that a worry about scoring next year isn't so far-fetched, considering we're worried (at least currently,  I wasn't before the season) this year and we have 2 20 goal scorers returning.

I actually really like Kevin Lynch, I've said that numerous times and I think he's going to be really good by the time he graduates.  But I'm not sure he's (even + Bown,Wohlberg, etc.) going to be good enough to replace everything we're losing next year. 


December 8th, 2010 at 1:21 AM ^

What is this talk about Scooter flirting with being on the second line? Haven't the first two lines been typically something like this-- 

Rust, Hagelin, Lynch

Louie, Wohlberg, Brown?

And I agree Glendenning isn't super amazing, but he's pretty good for what he is. He doesn't make mistakes, he skates hard, etc. Isn't that basically what we want in a 3rd liner?

Secondly our defense is disappointing. Red hasn't riden one goalie like he normally does. Hunwick at his best is pretty good and Hunwick performed well when we needed him to last year. However we need to focus on Hogan. Goalie is a position where the player needs to be consistent rather than amazing in short periods. There was a reason Hogan was our starting goalie, and why he had so many consecutive starts. Secondly the graduation of Kampfer and Summers was tough, and our defense is really thin. I would consider easily Burlon and Patteryn as our best defensive defensemen. Langlais is decent offensively, and his skillset is there, he just makes so many mistakes. Moffie is like Langlais without the upside. Llewellyn is okay.


December 8th, 2010 at 9:37 AM ^

After reading this, i agree with all of it, or atleast a majority of it.  I do however have to ask everyones opinion on this.

"This is a frustrating team. They'll play two games that are exactly the same over the course of the weekend. They will lose one. They will win one. Most of the time the outcome of either game seems heavily dependent on luck."


Maybe its just me but i feel as though we always seem to play on Saturday nights, why is that? When we do split a weekend series, we always seem to play tight on Friday, and then win 5-1 or something on Saturday.  Does this have to do with Red just out coaching the opponnent?


will be there Saturday, GO BLUE!!