Failure

Submitted by Brian on March 25th, 2013 at 4:31 PM

3/23/2013 – Michigan 6, Miami 2 – 18-18-3, reach CCHA final
3/24/2013 – Michigan 1, Notre Dame 3 – 18-19-3, season over, tourney streak over

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In the end they were nowhere near good enough.

If you've followed Michigan hockey for a long period of time, you can point to a tourney game here or there Sunday's CCHA final against the Irish reminded you of. Smash together:

  • that Maine game where a moment of brilliance from Mike Comrie couldn't cover up his short-handed defense's failing legs with…
  • that Boston College game Michigan inexplicably led for most of that was over the moment the Eagles tied it after a nine-minute stretch without stoppages and…
  • that North Dakota game when Michigan couldn't get out of its own zone but scratched out a shorthanded goal and made it stand up and…

…you get that Notre Dame game.

You know the general outline even if you have no idea what I'm talking about above. If it was soccer the announcers would instantly announce your goal as "against the run of play."  Overwhelmed in the corners, fortunate to be in the game, goalie's arm hanging out over the abyss as he screams "DON'T. LET. GO." Fingers sweating, grip slipping, eyes widening, waiting for the buzzer or death.

I don't know about you but as soon as Notre Dame tied it, I was waiting for the end. Michigan had hardly put together a scoring chance. Notre Dame did them a favor by scoring early in the third and dialing back the throttle. At that point shots were 31-10, scoring chances at least that lopsided. By sitting back Notre Dame allowed Michigan to get a better handle on the game, but with 19:30 left I thought "Michigan will have two chances to tie it" and that was all they got.

Notre Dame ate Michigan's lunch. They took one penalty and gave up no odd-man rushes save the shorthanded goal. They won battles in the corner at a 3 to 1 rate. Michigan couldn't put together a rush for ten-minute blocks of time. Over the previous month they'd put something together and run roughshod over all comers, but finally they met a horse they couldn't catch up to. All that stuff Michigan did over their last ten games Notre Dame had been doing all year.

That's how a 21-year tourney streak ends: with Notre Dame showing men of will what will really is.

---------------------------------

In the aftermath the word of the day is "redeem."

By the bitter end, Michigan hockey redeemed itself

Or "proud"

NCAA streak ends, but Wolverines made Michigan proud

No.

Michigan put themselves in this position with 2/3rds of a season of miserable, unwatchable hockey, and did not dig themselves out. Without the vagaries of single-game playoff hockey they would not have even come close in the end. They were 0-5 against the Irish this year, bombed in every game. Michigan was about as far away from winning that Notre Dame game as they were from getting an at large bid. They had a chance, and found out that running to catch up with someone who had been trying hard from day one isn't easy.

They got what they deserved. A team with as many NHL draft picks as anyone in the country was reduced to a "Cinderella run" in the CCHA playoffs. Divided, they lost game after game to sheer apathy. It got so bad Red tried the put-in-the-third-string-walk-on trick again. Hunwick's first team responded by flying through the slot to clear pucks like demons. This edition lost 4-0 to Michigan Tech and 5-1 to Bowling Green, the nadir. That listless debacle against Bowling Green is this season. What they did at the end was a preview of next year.

It's great that Andrew Copp emerged to take the team by the scruff of its neck and jam it towards an NCAA bid whether it wanted one or not, great that Steve Racine emerged into a viable starter once his defense ceased selling him out a dozen times a game, great that Guptill went from a wake-up scratch to pounding, skating power forward. The fact that this could happen is a ringing condemnation of the upperclassmen. By midseason the guys flanking Treais on the top line were Copp and Sinelli; by the end of the season Copp, a freshman no one had heard of before the year, was the undisputed leader of the forward corps. Because he tried real hard, full stop. This made him unique.

His leadership and the rest of the locker room pulling together is reason for hope. Lessons have clearly been learned, and if this year doesn't show the players the route to success goes through Jeff Jackson's relentless discipline, I'll be surprised.

But it doesn't redeem a damn thing. The preseason #2 team in the country finished under .500 and missed the tournament for the first time in 22 years. There is only one word for that: failure. The scarlet F is branded in this team. The only way up is to own that. Some of them have time to redeem themselves yet; that process starts now.

Next Year

Michigan loses Moffie, Treais, Sparks, Rohrkemper, and Lynch the Elder to graduation. The early word on departures from Mike Spath at the Wolverine is as such:

  • OUT: Kevin Clare, revealed to be indefinitely suspended as much as he was injured and implicated as a Problem, and—sigh—star-crossed Jon Merrill.
  • FENCE: Trouba is declared 60-40 to return—an opinion more or less shared by Dave Starman. At least we will know quickly—he's expected to make a decision in a couple days.
  • BACK (EXCEPT ONE OF THESE GUYS WILL NOT BE BACK BECAUSE THIS IS MICHIGAN HOCKEY):  The three forwards likely to have NHL options are Guptill, Di Giuseppe, and Nieves. Spath projects all to be back, though Guptill "clashed" with the coaches earlier in the year—he was left at home for one series, IIRC. Mac Bennett is projected to return and wear the C.

Just looking at playing time, a couple other guys may also head for greener pastures. There's Rutledge, of course, who turned in an .856 and watched Racine establish a death grip on the job over the last ten games of the season. If he wants to play, a return to the USHL and transfer to a smaller school is probably the only way. Then there's Mike Chiasson, who was an apparently-healthy scratch for the ten-game run. Mike Szuma played in his stead; against Notre Dame Michigan refused to ice a sixth defenseman entirely. I don't think any of the recruits are threats to not show but never say never, mmm, Connor Carrick?

If Michigan does get Trouba back and somehow evades the inevitable unexpected departure, here's a hypothetical line chart:

FORWARDS

  1. Guptill-Copp-Compher
  2. Di Giuseppe-Nieves-DeBlois
  3. Motte-Lynch-Moffatt
  4. Selman-Hyman-Allen

(Also: Kile, Sinelli, Cianfrone, Random New Walk-on who might be Max Shuart.)

DEFENSE

  1. Trouba-Downing
  2. Bennett-De Jong
  3. Serville-Chiasson

(Also: Szuma and probably Kevin Lohan, possibly Spencer Hyman.)

Michigan can sustain a forward departure without much dropoff. The guys I've projected as scratches are all capable of emerging into quality players. Sinelli gave Michigan good minutes late this year. Kile is a year older than the NTDP guys and has better than PPG with one of the USHL's best teams. While Cianfrone has struggled in the USHL, before that he was a midget minor demon and projected first-round OHL draft pick who still went in the third round despite telling teams he was headed to Michigan. Drawing one of those guys into the lineup will be fine. Only Shuart (who left his USHL club for the NAHL) looks particularly unlikely to be a contributor next year.

On defense, they need Trouba back badly. That third pairing is pretty sketch as it is, featuring one of two guys Michigan simply refused to ice against ND plus Serville, who still gives me hives quite a bit. The top two pairings feature two freshmen. There's not nearly as much confidence that any of the backup plans will come through. Lohan is a 6'5" late bloomer; Hyman is a guy who's piled up a lot of time in junior and seems like a third pairing type. If Trouba's gone Michigan is down to one solid pair and hope.

Copp will get an A, for sure, and then DeBlois seems like the most likely other captain. That lineup has no seniors save projected C Bennett and Luke Moffatt, who has never seemed like captain material. Juniors include Lynch, Hyman, Chiasson, and Serville. I could see Hyman getting a call, but DeBlois was on the top line while he toiled on the fourth.

Comments

bronxblue

March 25th, 2013 at 8:11 PM ^

Yeah, you literally said nothing about a D- until right now.  You said she "pulled it out" with a B+, leaving one to wonder what "pulling it out" meant on whatever random grading scale you use.  Apparently writing comprehension sucks here too.  And I'd argue getting a D- isn't "pulling it out", unless you think REALLY sub-par work that passes some arbitrary cut-off is proof of intellectual growth and information retention.

But yeah, keep on looking for a fight.  You've done an amazing job so far defending your well-reasoned arguments with facts and cohesive examples.

saveferris

March 26th, 2013 at 9:52 AM ^

Jesus reading comprehension in this country sucks balls.

Says the guy who routinely drops adverbs and articles from his posts.

The sentence structure of your post is poorly constructed making it easy to misinterpret.  You might want to consider that possiblility first before responding to someone's misinterpretation with the equivalent of, "don't you guys hear English good?"

bronxblue

March 25th, 2013 at 8:06 PM ^

So you rewarded someone who screwed around throughout the semester and didn't put in the necessary work like her classmates because she "pulled out" a B+ on a single exam?  I went to law school, where your final grade is basically your only one, and even there you did receive some negative reprecussions for failure to appear and participate in the course.

At this point, it just feels like you are trolling everyone here, so I may just stop responding.

Michigan Arrogance

March 25th, 2013 at 7:31 PM ^

I think Brian's entitled to his opinion and the forum in which he writes it . This was the 1st season M has ever had under Red that has so criminally underachieved. In the mid-late 80s, they had bad to decent teams and in 88-90 they missed the tourney. Now I wouldn't call those teams failures, since they were clearly making progress year to year and moderately talented. 2010 was similar, but did not show the lack of effort at times and certainly turned it around much mroe than this team.

This team had more talent than all but 3-4 teams in the nation. Even with the Merril injury and missing trouba to the WJC, they were more talented than all but 5-6 teams. This year was equivalent to M football starting top 10, going 5-6 in 2004, then having a close loss to B10 champ OSU to end the season 5-7 with a loss to EMU & minnesota. The only explanation, based on results, talent and oh yeah... watching them play is that they basically gave it a token effort for 1/3 of the season.

they put it together for the last 10-12 games and kudos for doing that. it provides potential for next year, but it doesn't make up for the 1st 2/3rds of the season. I've watched a lot of ECAC hockey this season and teams with 2-3 draft picks would have wiped the ice with M the way they played for the majoriety of the year. and BG actually did jsut that

Christ, if this M team doeasn't deserve this level of criticism, what team would? These are 19-22 y/o MEN playing a very high level of well publizied hockey. 2/3rds of the season was a hot mess with arguable the most talented team in the nation. I think failure is an apt description.

and wtf do the CoY know about anything?

 

 

 

 

gwkrlghl

March 25th, 2013 at 8:38 PM ^

I don't want to pile on the team and yell "U SUCK!" but they did horrifically underachieve. I'll give a team this good some spot losses to crappy CCHA teams (It always happens) but to get blown off the ice for months upon months by CCHA teams with few or no draft picks is a waste of talent.

As far as NHL talent goes in college hockey. The upper echelon is probably Minnesota, North Dakota, Boston College, and Michigan. No excuse for being 10-18-3.

saveferris

March 26th, 2013 at 10:01 AM ^

I'll pile on a little only to point out that I'm disappointed that I don't get to watch THIS team play more.  The team that's been playing the past 6 weeks has been fun to watch.  This team would have been fun to watch play in the NCAA tourney and now because they loafed for 3 months, we don't get to.  Sorry, but that pisses me off a bit.

Blue Durham

March 25th, 2013 at 8:41 PM ^

the response of some of the fanbase is that you shouldn't be critical (read:  conduct any kind of analysis as to why the team is underperforming to expectations) because then you aren't a true Michigan fan, and that we should celebrate any and all effort by the "kids" (or coaches) regardless how feeble, otherwise you are not a true "fan."

smwilliams

March 25th, 2013 at 11:06 PM ^

This is the most accurate post in the entire discussion. MGoBlog provides analysis of Michigan sports (primarily football, basketball, and hockey). Analysis is meant to be completely objective and without emotion. But, Brian and other contributors are diehard fans of Michigan sports teams. How do you balance those two things while refraining from backsliding into "WHY U SUCK SO BAD BURKE" territory?

The answer is, you don't.

You break down what you see through the lens of someone who cares passionately for Michigan sports and realize an immensely talented team probably mailed in over half the season only to turn it on towards the end in an effort to salvage what they had wasted. You try and find other, more satisfying explanations beyond "a bunch of 18-23 year old kids didn't give a shit", you can't, and you do the best you can to excuse them for that while lamenting one of the prouder athletic accomplishments the school has, vanished.

Hell, now that I think about, following one of the more painful basketball losses this year I posted something to the effect of:

"It hurts ten times more when potential doesn't equal performance because WE like to think that WE would've done more if given the same opportunity"

Nobody could lay waste to losses at Indiana or a home loss to Purdue the last few years, because let's face it, the Novak teams had their ceiling, we all knew what it was, and they for the most part reached that ceiling. This hockey team had the potential to be a 1 seed in the tournament and wasted it.

saveferris

March 26th, 2013 at 10:43 AM ^

Nobody could lay waste to losses at Indiana or a home loss to Purdue the last few years, because let's face it, the Novak teams had their ceiling, we all knew what it was, and they for the most part reached that ceiling. This hockey team had the potential to be a 1 seed in the tournament and wasted it.

I would dispute your contention that the Novak teams reached their ceiling. I think they smashed through it, because last year's team was probably not a conference championship caliber team. That's why we love guys like Novak and Douglass so much, because they vastly overachieved in their time here.

As far as Michigan being a 1 seed, hell, if this team had found enough spirit to turn these 19 losses into 11 or 12, we're probably sitting in the NCAAs as a 3 seed somewhere, playing the best hockey of our season and having everyone in the tourney (save Notre Dame) dreading playing us. Sigh.

M016

March 25th, 2013 at 10:02 PM ^

 

I'm sorry but some of @mgoblog's tweets to Nesbitt and CoY is an embarrassment to Michigan athletics. Your comments were the sort of things we tend to laugh at when other fan bases freak out after some minor event. In the grand scheme of things, the grand scheme where your team makes the tourney 22 out of 23 years, it's unbelievable. And all of this hate and criticism coming from the guy that jumped out of his seat at the Joe and clapped during the dismantling of Miami on Saturday? Really? You're going to enjoy the great times and cheer for these guys who in your mind, "didn't care"? 

Do tell what source told you the players didn't care. Yeah they played horribly at times and seemed to mail in games, but I envy your ability to read the minds of collegiate athletes. These guys cared. That much is obvious with a quick look at how well they played with 10 games remaining and the Streak on the line. When push came to shove they nearly pulled off an unbelievable comeback, but came up 2 goals short. And while you can tell Nesbitt and I whatever you want about alternate histories, it is quite obvious you would have been giddy and right back behind this team had they been on the other side of the 3-1 decision yesterday, just like when they were up on Miami.

Can't wait to hear from you again next year when the team is good enough for you to rejoin the ranks.

Quite frankly I'm sorry for coming off so angry but after watching the Lions go 0-16, the Tigers lose 119, and Michigan go through the RR years (I like him as a guy, calm down!) I cannot stand people who are the biggest supporter when good times are had, but criticize when it doesn't work out. At the end of the day these are college kids playing at an incredibly high level. You are simply a fan. You do NOT know what goes on behind closed doors, you are simply a super fan. While your work is appreciated, this is one of those times where you overstep and act like you know what goes on. You do not. Take it easy and realize how lucky you have been to have ridden along such a magical streak.

Gulogulo37

March 26th, 2013 at 8:46 AM ^

"These guys cared. That much is obvious with a quick look at how well they played with 10 games remaining" Something like this has been said a couple times now. I'm not even saying Brian wasn't too harsh, but it's absurd to make the argument that they care based on a last-minute freakout at the end.

stephenrjking

March 25th, 2013 at 10:56 PM ^

Kinda disappointed I missed out on the front end of the debate. I might have some things to say about the actual hockey team later, but this thread appears to be a referendum on Brian's commentary. So, first, a couple of clarifications:

1. Brian never said he would stop being a fan of the team. He said he would stop covering them on the blog, for reasons he has elaborated on. If you follow his twitter feed you will remember that he periodically would comment on a hockey game that he was attending as he continued to show up at games he felt it not worthwhile to write about. (Do you have any idea how hard it is to write about disappointment and heartbreak all the time? I got tired to commenting on the hockey team too; I continued to follow them, but rarely appeared on the USCHO thread I lurk in or mentioned anything here. No criticism for me because I don't labor to produce a top-of-the-line sports blog, though).

2. Brian's basic point in the OP is strongly worded, but all he says is that the season is an unquestionable failure. Perhaps you disagree, but he establishes his criteria and defends his position. What's wrong with that? By the standards of one of the top five programs in the sport (all-time and today) his position is entirely defensible. I do understand that it rankles people that he is being harsh on the reactions of fans and writers looking at the "bright side." I think he stepped over the line there, but it's hardly a mortal sin.

3. Brian and several other people (including @yostbuilt and @michiganhockey) have been faithfully blogging about and writing about the hockey team for years. The three I just mentioned are guys I know from the young days of the USCHO forum, back when it was practically the only place to get real college hockey information. We've all posted there and we are passionate about the team and have lived and died through many triumphs and heartbreaks.

But Brian, Tim, Jason and others deserve a lot of respect and leeway. I enjoy writing, enjoy the hockey team, and enjoy combining the two--but those three (and others who I know less well, like center ice) actually put themselves on the line and devote the energy, time, and risk that is involved in publishing blogs that have, for years, toiled to cover a relatively small corner of the sporting universe that they happen to care about.

There are times that it is easy, and there are times that it is brutally difficult. And they do it anyway. Commenters like me are free to say what we want with little accountability, and to clam up and say nothing for long stretches where we don't feel like it. They don't have that luxury. So, if one of them wants to be a bit harsh on a team that saw a season end far short of expectations, I think they have the right to do so without their fandom being called into question. 

It's one thing to disagree. It's quite another to dismiss someone entirely as a source of thought because you disagree about a conclusion about a sport.

VictorsValiant09

March 26th, 2013 at 12:25 AM ^

For someone who was so quick to completely quit covering the hockey team, I find it rather ironic that Brian labeled the hockey team a "failure," as they kept playing and he stopped writing.

If you can't appreciate what this team did when everyone around them gave up--Brian included--then you don't deserve to be a fan while they're winning.  Did Self-Righteous "I'm-Always-Right-Because-I-Founded-MGoBlog" Brian actually think the streak would last forever?  If he did, he was lying to himself.

I'll be reading my hockey coverage at The Wolverine from now on.  In fact, I don't read MGoBlog for much of anything anymore.  The self-professed "king" and founding father of Michigan blogs simply gave up, and is actually quite a terrible human being in person based on how he treated people I know.  Don't believe me?  Ask around.

He encapsulates all characteristics of the quintessential Michigan fan/Alum: arrogance, knowledge, entitlement, and fearing the worst at all times while never appreciating the good, nor ever thinking "good" is good enough.

 

stephenrjking

March 26th, 2013 at 12:27 AM ^

Chiles, I like your work and what I've known of you has left me with a good impression, but this comment is out of line and beneath you. You can do better than that. You are certainly entitled to disagree with the way Brian covered the team, and indeed you were able to provide your own coverage. But the fact that he stopped writing about them is not the same as not being a fan (your fandom of any sport is not constricted to when you feel like writing about it, is it?) and to throw out accusations about his personal demeanor cheapens your entire argument by reducing it to a personal attack. "He's really a mean guy" is not a good argument. Neither is suggesting that he has declared himself "king."

I am fortunate that your boss at michiganhockey.net looked past his initial impressions of me and continues to have positive interactions with me. He had far more evidence to form a negative impression of me that you do of Brian, and yet he has been kind and sociable in all of the places we've interacted. 

It's ok to disagree, but you are making it personal.

(Go ahead, ask @michiganhockey how he first got to know me in person. It's good for a laugh).

Class of 1817

March 26th, 2013 at 1:35 AM ^

You'll wake the baby!

I, for one, am extremely confused that this bitter infighting and rage in the month of March surrounding a Michigan not making the tournament...

...has nothing to do with basketball.

Michigan still has one of the best hockey programs in the country. Red has been the coach for 28 freakin' years now. Every run comes to an end. Maybe next year will bring better days on the ice. Salute the kids and let's move on.

We're back in the sweet sixteen fergodsakes!

Go Blue!

jamiemac

March 26th, 2013 at 9:04 AM ^

This is why we keep hockey where it belongs at Indiana. At the club level. lol

This reminds me of the 1997 basketball team. They tanked all winter long, making it impossible to make the tournament, but then had a very spirited comeback win over OSU in the finale. Great heart in the moment, but not enough to overcome a season mostly lacking in it.

I kinda thought the back patting on Sunday was a little too much fan boyz for my tastes. But at the same time for the folks behind COY, hockey is their #1 sport, so whats the harm in letting them obit the season with some dignity

Otherwise, this is a pretty legit post for Brian