Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Post-Season Hockey Blog Roundtable

Here are my answers to the questions posted by Chris from Western College Hockey:

Give a brief summary of your team's season:
The Wolverines got off to a hot start and incredibly were ranked #1 in the country after 11 games. Things went downhill faster than Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila’s career from that point on, hitting a low point when the Wolverines were swept in the College Hockey Showcase once again, and then followed that up by getting swept at Miami the next weekend. They showed signs of snapping out of their funk on repeated occasions, but could never quite put together a complete weekend. A perfect example of this was when they smoked BGSU 6-1 and lost 5-2 the next night. The most alarming aspect of the 05-06 edition was their tendency to come out lifeless against rivals such as Michigan State, which they did on at least 2 occasions. I don’t believe most Wolverine fans expected the season to go any longer than it did once the brackets came out. With a different draw, this team could have won a game, but would have been hard pressed to make it to Milwaukee.

What were your thoughts on how your team's season ended?
It was expected. Slightly disappointing that they didn’t compete against NoDak any better than they did, but not at all surprising that they were one and done. As I said earlier, in any draw, this team would have been hard-pressed to win more than one game. North Dakota looked like world beaters down the stretch, and they were clearly the better team. In my opinion, they could have played that game at Yost, let alone a neutral site, and NoDak still would have won.

What offseason improvements can your team make to be better next year?
The biggest thing that Michigan could do to be successful next year, in my opinion, is to rededicate themselves to playing team defense. That was the biggest downfall of this team last year, and if our defensemen keep trying to play like forwards, and our forwards don’t try and get back on D, it’ll continue to be a downfall. In addition, some of our forwards need to look at themselves in the mirror and ask if they were really giving an honest effort night in and night out. I can think of two off the top of my head that wouldn’t be able to answer yes to that question.

Are there any players on your team that might leave for the pros during the offseason?
I guess a complete list would have to be: Jack Johnson, Andrew Cogliano, TJ Hensick, Matt Hunwick, Kevin Porter, Chad Kolarik. The latter two might be stretches, but then I didn’t see Mike Brown leaving either. Johnson says he’s coming back. Hensick and Hunwick have both indicated they’ll return, and as mgoblog pointed out, the Oilers don’t have an AHL team, plus they’ve got a couple other highly touted forward prospects. I think the best bets for defection this summer would be Brandon Naurato or Zac MacVoy. I’d hate to see either go, but I would completely understand it—especially if MacVoy transfers.

Which player(s) will be expected to carry the load for your team next season?
Hensick, Cogliano, Kolarik, Porter, Trevor Lewis, Jack Johnson, and Matt Hunwick. Hensick and Hunwick, as captains, need to have their best years as seniors. Hensick needs to be at least able to be mentioned as a Hobey candidate. Cogliano needs to show night in and night out why he was such a high draft pick, because there were far too many games this year where he didn’t. Kolarik and Porter need to put together solid seasons instead of half-seasons. I fully expect Trevor Lewis to come in and have an impact. And you all know what I think about Jack Johnson. I couldn’t be more excited to have him back for one more year. An improved Jack is a scary thought.

Which player will be most vital to your team's success next season?
Billy Sauer/Steve Jakiel. Whoever gets the starting nod will be the most important piece. BC and Wisconsin showed just how important an elite goaltender is in college hockey, but even having a solid netminder—with the offense I expect this team to have next year—would go a long way to getting Michigan back to the Frozen Four for the first time since the screw-job of the millennium in Buffalo.

What is your expectation for your team next season?
Frozen Four. If everyone returns, that isn’t an unrealistic goal, and anything less should be considered a disappointment. Is it an unfair standard? Probably. But this team needs to get its swagger back, and thus they need to have expectations for themselves above and beyond what might be “fair”. With so many guys potentially turning down big money and a chance to go to the pro ranks, it’d be disappointing to at least not see them contending for a national title. I believe Grand Rapids has a regional next year as well, so things set up nicely for a run at it.


Anonymous said...

Yes, the Midwest regional is in Grand Rapids next year, so assumming Michigan makes the tournament and is sent there, we'll get to see more hilarious comments on USCHO about how it's such a horrible disadvantage to play Michigan in the state of Michigan. Good times.

Packer487 said...

Yup! Michigan is the only team that ever gets to play in their home state, don'tchaknow....

It wouldn't be hockey season without someone bitching about how the Wolverines get preferential treatment with the regionals.

Anonymous said...

If Michigan EARNS a #1 seed then more power to them and they deserve to go to GR. If they just end up there (again) as a 2 or 3 seed...

Packer487 said...

People will complain regardless. Michigan is the only team that ever gets to play remotely close to home.
Didn't BC kind of "end up" playing close to home this year as a 3 seed? It happens...