Michigan men represent excellence academically and athletically. At least that's what they represent if you believe the two statues above the doors to the Union. Milford men, on the other hand, are adept at being neither seen nor heard. Buster Bluth was a Milford man. The 2012-13 Michigan hockey team played like one.
The 2012-13 Michigan Wolverines took the ice in October ranked #3 in the country by USCHO.com and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine. That preseason poll was the highlight of the season. Things went downhill quickly, and if you've been reading this blog for a while you'll remember that this team didn't do much to endear itself to the Michigan faithful. Now that we've had time to let the healing power of the basketball team's run to the title game and football recruiting goodness to soak in I think it's time to go back and try to figure out what went wrong for the team that broke The Streak™.
For comparison, let's look at the stats of the 2011-12 Wolverines versus those of the 2012-13 squad. This idea was inspired by Ron Utah's excellent post comparing the 2011 and 2012 football teams. The 11-12 hockey team lost in the first round, so we aren't exactly starting with high expectations for success here. Shawn Hunwick, Luke Glendening and David Wohlberg were the most significant departures from the 11-12 team.
2011-12 Michigan Hockey: 24-13-4 overall. 15-9-4 conference
Home: 15-5-1, Away: 4-6-3. Neutral: 5-2-0
|Faceoff W-L Pct.||.497||.503|
2012-13 Michigan Hockey: 18-19-3 overall, 10-15-3 conference
Home: 10-8-1. Away: 5-8-2, Neutral: 3-3-0
|Faceoff W-L Pct.||.514||.486|
I highlighted the things that really stood out to me. Everything is open for interpretation, but let's start with the basics. The 11-12 team scored 43 more goals than they allowed, while the 12-13 team scored one fewer goal than they allowed. Ouch. If you're wondering how shot volume impacted things, it doesn't get any prettier. Michigan had very similar offensive output in 11-12 and 12-13; their total shots were about the same and their scoring percentage was an identical 9.6%. The real fluctuation from year-to-year occurs when you look at the opponent's shots; 1242 allowed in 11-12 versus 1126 in 12-13. Even though the 11-12 team allowed more shots opponents only scored on 7.2% of them, compared with 11.5% in 12-13.
Special teams can't be used to explain away the year-to-year differences. Michigan actually scored more power play goals in 12-13 (31) than they did in 11-12 (23). Looking at it from the perspective of the penatly kill, MIchigan allowed fewer power play goals in 12-13 (24) than they did in 11-12 (27). Michigan spent less time on the penalty kill in 12-13, but they also spent almost two minutes less per game on the power play that season. It appears as though Michigan was outmatched at even strength throughout the 12-13 season, so much so that they missed the tournament and won six fewer games.
What does it mean for next season?
I wish I knew. Steven Racine established himself as the starter going into 2013-14, and that's more than you can say for the 12-13 team. There are some good prospects coming in (highlighted by former US NTDP forward JT Compher), but is that enough to replace the mass exodus of point scoring that Michigan will suffer this offseason? It doesn't seem likely. Michigan loses AJ Treais' 31 points, Jacob Trouba's 29 points, and Kevin Lynch's 27 points. Those were three of Michigan's top six pointgetters in 12-13. On the other hand, Michigan's problem in 12-13 was clearly one of defense and not offense so anything is possible. All it takes are guys who are willing and able to forecheck and backcheck, and as a sport hockey still lacks the sophisticated statistics that are able to capture the more esoteric elements of the game.