Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Montoya Says Adios

Al Montoya signed a contract with the New York Rangers today, forgoing his senior season at Michigan. If he had come back for his senior season, he likely would have been second to only Marty Turco in terms of career wins.

While not at all unexpected, The Blog That Yost Built will still miss seeing him on the ice, and I don't harbor any ill will towards him (see Richmond, Danny) even though I think he had a crap year last year. Yes he won thirty games and that's nothing to sneeze at, but when you don't rank in the top 60 in save percentage or the top 30 in GAA, methinks those 30 wins had a lot more to do with the nation's #1 ranked offense, rather than the goaltending. All I know is that his first two years, I never once wanted to see Al yanked from a game. Last year it happened regularly.

Personally, I was looking forward to a refocused Al coming back next year and ready to prove his critics wrong. It's always been The Blog That Yost Built's position that it would be best for the short-term and the long-term of Michigan hockey that he return for his senior season, leaving Sauer and Jakiel to get a full season's worth of experience as starting goalies in the USHL before battling it out for the starting job as freshmen. But Al felt he was ready to go, and more power to him.

My 2 favorite Al Montoya memories (if you read the Yost Post, you've already read these):
1) My first Al Montoya experience. I went to go see him play at The Cube shortly after he committed to Michigan. No more than seven minutes into the game, he clocked a guy in the face with his glove and was ejected.
2) FREE MON-TO-YA! Nuff said.

This leaves the goaltending duties to Bill Sauer (since it appears the coaches have picked him over Jakiel to come in, according to The Wolverine's article about Montoya's departure). He had a good season for Chicago in the USHL in a platoon role, though he didn't play in the playoffs. He's thought of a one of the top goalie prospects for the 2006 NHL Draft.

We'll be fine in net. It's unrealistic and unfair to expect Sauer to have the kind of season that Montoya had his freshman season (when he carried Michigan to the Frozen Four) or his sophomore season (when he did his darnedest to do the same), but I don't think it's very reasonable that Sauer could be an upgrade from the Montoya that we saw last season. A 2.5 GAA and a .895 save percentage doesn't set the bar overwhelmingly high. I fully expect Michigan to struggle a little bit early on as the freshmen get used to college hockey and we break in a new goalie, but by the end of the season, the Wolverines should be a very dangerous team.

As pointed out by MHNet on the Yost Post, Kyle Woodlief had a chat on USA Today's website where someone asked about Cogliano's draft status. Woodlief told him that he expects Cogs to go around #20 and that he's "bar-none the fastest skater" in the draft. He went on to say that if NHL teams are truly convinced that the new rules will open play up, that a team could grab him in the top 10, though that's unlikely. High praise for Cogliano. I can't wait for the first power play that Michigan gets when they put out Cogliano, Hensick, Tambellini, Johnson, and Hunwick. Even if that group never materializes, between Cogliano, Hensick, Tamby, Kolarik, Porter, Ebbett, and Johnson (who's like a forward sometimes) you can make some pretty lethal power play units.

Mike Spath posted this message to the Yost Post that talks about how committed Andrew Ebbett and Matt Hunwick have been in the offseason. He's not the first person I've heard mention how huge Hunwick has gotten this offseason. Our defense corps is going to be hit a lot of people this year (and Tim Cook will poke check a lot of smaller people this year).

MGoBlog has more stuff about Montoya and a couple of articles about Jack Johnson. Hensick made CSTV's article about college hockey's top draft-eligible forwards. They should know, because they were in the house when he scored one of the sickest goals I have ever seen against Notre Dame down in Fort Wayne. He came around the front of the net with two guys on him, faked a spin one way, got both defenders to bite, then spun the other way and put a laser into the top corner. I can't do it justice.

Also, a handy link to keep around on draft day. The Toronto Star released their draft rankings, all 160 of them. From scanning the list (mainly for Michigan players) it seems pretty reasonable, and if nothing else, it's 160 profiles for me to look at when the Wings draft a European instead of Cogliano. They too give Cogliano more love than the CSB, but they're not as kind to Bailey and MacVoy (the latter of which I didn't see on the list, though I was scanning it pretty quickly).

So another player is gone to the NHL, and the streak continues. Van Ryn, Comrie, Hilbert and Jillson, Komisarek and Cammalleri, Richmond, Helminen, Montoya.

1 comment:

robert paulson said...

So long Al. I miss the awesome potential you flashed as a freshman and sophomore. I will not miss the poor save percentage and GAA last year. While the D shares some of the blame, it was without a doubt a subpar season for the goalie and it may have cost M a national title.