Tuesday, March 15, 2005

What happened to UMD?

After a Frozen Four run in 2004, the UMD men's hockey team entered the 2004-2005 season with high expectations, easily the highest expectations in Scott Sandelin's time as UMD head coach. With eleven seniors back who had combined for 273 points in the Frozen Four season (an average of almost 25 points per player), fans had good reason to expect big things from the team.

The result? A 15-17-6 record, and a season that came to an end with a playoff sweep at the hands of low-scoring North Dakota. The 'Dogs were beaten in the two-game series by a combined score of 14-3.

So much for high expectations. A season that had "Columbus" written all over it in the summer came to an end before the WCHA Final Five.

With that in mind, it's time to play The Blame Game: UMD Edition. After all, a disappointment like this doesn't just happen. It has to be someone's fault.

The 11 seniors: Schwabe, Peluso, Brosz, Hammond, Stauffacher, Anderson, Miskovich, Caig, Hambly, Smith, and Petruic are the eleven players in question. With speculation rampant (from very reliable sources) that at least some in this group didn't work hard in the offseason, you have to at least start looking this way. I'm not going to single guys out, but the group went from 273 combined points last season to 179 this season. Only three of the eleven actually increased their point production from the previous season. With the news that at least some didn't show up in very good physical condition for the start of practice, combined with things we saw out of them on the ice during games, the bulk of the blame has to be laid at their feet. If the only crime was a couple guys not being in shape in September, UMD would still be playing. The series against North Dakota was symbolic of the season, as the team got down on themselves as soon as UND got a couple bounces to go their way. Flat play and uncharacteristic mistakes were the rule this season, instead of the exception. Discipline was lacking, both on and off the ice. The leadership didn't get the job done, and that falls on the feet of the seniors. Blame: 55%

Goaltending: Neither Issac Reichmuth nor Josh Johnson played terribly this season, but neither stood out. Both goaltenders had streaks of good play, with Johnson stepping up after a poor outing and nearly getting a shutout against St. Cloud State, and Reichmuth playing well in the team's last two regular-season series. But both were subpar for much of the season, failing to keep the team in close games, and failing to help hold leads. Both had a propensity for giving up poorly timed goals, and both gave up their share of soft goals. Soft goals can be killer, especially when your team isn't scoring many goals of their own. I've maintained for much of the season that the goalies deserve more of the blame than people are placing on them. The focus was on the sputtering offense so much, that many forgot how good UMD's goaltending was in 2003-2004. If UMD could have gotten that kind of play out of Reichmuth and Johnson, they might still be playing now, though they still wouldn't have gone far without better play from the five skaters in front of the goalies. Blame: 25%

Injuries: While the core of the team was able to stay healthy, UMD was forced to play almost the entire season without defenseman Ryan Geris, whose career came to an end because of concussion problems. They also faced time without freshmen Matt McKnight, Mike Curry, and Blair LeFebvre, along with sophomore forward Bryan McGregor. Though the team always had enough players available to field four full lines and three defensive pairings, its depth was tested early and often, and injuries did play a role in the line-juggling that dominated UMD's season. Blame: 10%

Coaching: Sandelin won the Spencer Penrose Award, and Steve Rohlik and Lee Davidson have made their mark both as assistant coaches and as recruiters. I don't think these guys suddenly forgot what they were doing this season. However, the bottom line is that the team failed to come anywhere near meeting expectations. Some of that falls at the feet of the three men in suits who stand behind the player bench every night. For some reason, they couldn't connect with the players and push the right buttons. Blame: 10%

This season was a letdown almost from start to finish. When the clock hit 0:00 in Grand Forks on Saturday, I felt relieved. I'll miss the seniors, and I thank them for all the good things they did (great run at the end of the 2002-2003 season, Frozen Four the next). But it was a season that needed to end. We all need to move on, and there are reasons to be excited about UMD hockey.

Eleven seniors means plenty of holes to fill in 2005-2006. UMD has eleven committed for next season, including Duluth News Tribune Area Player of the Year Matt Niskanen (Virginia/MIB). Niskanen is a two-way defenseman who will see plenty of ice time as a freshman. Some players are clearly not ready to play Division I hockey when they're in high school. Niskanen is not only ready to play now, but he might have been ready to make the jump as a sophomore. You'd be hard-pressed to find a more mature, level-headed high school senior in the state. He should make an immediate impact when he pulls on the UMD jersey.

The other ten are listed here in order of expected impact on the UMD lineup:

Michael Gergen - 6' - 185 lbs - Shattuck-St. Mary's - Forward
Mason Raymond - 5'11" - 170 lbs - Camrose (AJHL) - Forward
Jared Boll - 6'2" - 180 lbs - Lincoln (USHL) - Forward
Andrew Carroll - 6' - 187 lbs - Sioux Falls (USHL) - Forward
Nick Kemp - 6'2" - 205 lbs - Sioux City (USHL) - Forward
MacGregor Sharp - 6'1" - 195 lbs - Camrose (AJHL) - Forward
Jason Garrison - 6'2" - 205 lbs - Nanaimo (BCHL) - Defenseman
Matt Greer - 6'1" - 183 lbs - Des Moines (USHL) - Forward
Josh Meyers - 6'3" - 180 lbs - Sioux City (USHL) - Defenseman

From what I've heard, Boll is a big, nasty forward who likes to play the physical style of hockey and doesn't mind hanging out in front of the opponent's net to cause trouble. Kemp is another power forward who will cause problems out in front of the net. Gergen might be the superstar of this group if Niskanen isn't. He has tremendous natural ability. Great scorer who gets his teammates involved. Sharp and Greer might be the most underrated players in this class. Meyers will be a huge factor if he can put on some lbs (6'3" and only 180 says "skin and bones" to me).

I'm guessing UMD will be opening the season on or around the weekend of October 7-8. It can't come soon enough for this season-ticket holder.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

The coaches deserve more blame than 10%. It is easy to pass the buck onto the guys who are leaving because it naturally gives fans more optimism for what is returning for next year. The seniors do deserve some blame but this was clearly a problem with the whole team and not just one class. Part of the problem will be returning next year despite what a few foolhardy zealots continue to say. As far as the recruits, they are nice but look around the league. Even a team like Wisconsin that has a small class is bringing in top guys that are arguably as good or better than anything we have coming in.

Muttsdrool said...

What...No Blaming the Referee???

Muttsdrool said...

Here we go.... Add Anonymous to the Howie Hanson Fair Weather Fan Club whose words permiate the air like the wrong end of a sewer pipe. This person in all likelyhood bought his $5.00 standing room only ticket once or twice this season which he thinks gives him the right to criticize this coaching staff. I would rather be considered a foolhardy zealot who supports this program and believes in these coaches and players than spew the negative garbage that he writes. My suggestion to Anonymous is that if you don't like the coaches, or the talent that the recruits have that are coming in, then do us all a favor and stay home. The UMD Sports community will do fine without you.

Anonymous said...

Either these three guys completely forgot how to coach after the head coach won every major honor the year before, or something happened that they couldn't completely control.

I loved these guys that are moving on (they meant so much to this program), but to bury your head in the sand and blame the coaches when it's obvious there was other stuff going on with these players is foolish and reveals the possibility of some sort of hidden personal agenda.

Anonymous said...

I see. muttsdrool is another "fan" who thinks you can't be critical of anything he doesn't agree with and still be a "fan". The typical knee jerk response when somebody can't handle an opinion that cuts in a direction they don't like. First off, I am a season ticket holder and I am there pretty much every week. Been that way for a while. But that doesn't prevent me from avoiding "homeritis" like some people and look at the world through rose colored glasses. You can pass the blame off on just the guys who are leaving but I refuse to blame them alone when it is a team game. The younger guys and the coaches need to bare some more responsibility. If the young guys didn't like how the older guys were preparing, they should have the balls to stand up and say so. If they were afraid to, then that doesn't say much about their leadership qualities or their guts. Also, if these guys were in such bad shape comng into the season, the coaches DID have the ability to skate them harder early on in the year to get them in better game shape. Its not like it is impossible to get in game shape if you slacked off some in the off-season. The whole team deserves blame. Including some of the guys who will be back next year. We will see if they change. But I won't act foolish and think that all the problems are now automatically gone just because of graduation. As we found out this year, there are no guarantees that things will be better next year. Sorry if that makes me a bad fan in muttsdrool's eyes.

dhg said...

Anonymous,

Obviously you have no clue what this team was about. Do you go out the town I do, and I will say the players are more than 55% to blame. I would love to post names here, but I won't. Lets just say players have no business being out on friday nights when they have a game the next night, or on a saturday night after they got it handed to them. Well, some were.

Secondly, you can't blame a coach for these kids not working out in the summer. The NCAA allows captains practice, so the Coach can't REQUIRE kids work out in the summer. Big difference between last year and this year, last year the whole team was here June 30th working out, how do I know this, I spoke with many of them and witnessed some summer skates. This year, maybe half the team at best was here for the summer, and not many were the seniors. So what do the upperclassmen think "well if the seniors aren't here, why should I be working hard while I am here." Ever played an organized sport, your posts reaks of NO. If you show up 20 lbs overweight, which at least 1 key player did, you are never going to catch up. If a team like Denver or CC or whoever is working out all summer, and you start in August, no matter how hard you work out, you will NEVER catch up. That is the difference, the vouluntary workouts that many players skipped this year and did not in the past. Please do some research before you act like a Local Duluthian that is still sour for Sertie being let go, East kids not being recruited, and Sandelin not getting on his knees for you at every opportunity to WARM up to the communinty. Do you see Lucia out kissing community members ass every weekend, NO. Duluth is no different, he shouldn't need to spend his time impressing you. He was the NATIONAL coach of the year last year in case you didn't see. I know many inside the program, so if you don't know what was going on with the individual players in the locker room, you should not bash bruce. Because his statements are right on and VERY FACTUAL. Something your post lacks.

Anonymous said...

Do you lack reading skills? Where did I say anything about having Sandelin making players work out in the summer? Where did I say anything about Sandelin needing to kiss up to the locals? Just more knee jerk responses from the blind. I guess I should be starting chants about my team being overrated. That will make me a better fan I guess. I heard about the guy who did that. At least I never turned on the Bulldogs like that guy did. Maybe you should spend your time ripping on jerks like that as opposed to a season ticket holder who had been there through thick and thin over many years. I love the Dogs but I also feel there is a little too much blame being misplaced. It is a TEAM game.

All I said is that a coach can address such problems by working the players harder early in the year to get them in better shape faster. Yes, they may lose a bit of ground to others because they didn't work out as hard in the summer. But it doesn't mean they drop off that badly.

I have played in multiple sports. So I know what it is to be responsible to my team and how to show leadership. Which is why I said the players who didn't stand up to the lazy ass players should be just as guilty because they didn't pressure their peers. The coaches aren't allowed to get on the players about their summer workout habits but the players sure as hell can get on each other. Whether they are younger or older, it is pretty clear the guys who didn't make a stink about some players being lazy must have no leadership ability or balls. Many of those players who apparently didn't get on their teammates more for working out harder will be back next year. Doesn't say much for our future leadership if these guys couldn't stand up to their teammates who were letting down the team.

Bruce Ciskie said...

I'm guesssing (maybe DHG can verify) that freshmen and sophomores don't exactly feel comfortable confronting seniors in a situation like this.

As far as the coach working them hard, I know for a fact that he did. But there's a point where you risk completely wearing your guys down in practice. There's only so much you can do.

Put it this way. If you have a huge final exam coming up a month from now, and you don't start studying until 7pm the night before the exam, you're probably not going to do very well. When you have a hockey season coming, and you know when it is, and you don't work out during the summer and show up 20 pounds overweight for the first practice, you're screwed. You can only work off so much of that extra weight without wearing yourself down for the games...especially when you're not motivated.

I'll ask again...as I did in the Blog entry...did these guys just forget how to coach, or was last season a fluke?

I think they deserve some blame, but they can't legislate offseason workouts, and with the injuries they had to deal with, there were some guys that HAD to play when the coaches would have probably preferred to scratch them. Is 10% too low? I don't think so, but obviously you feel otherwise. Since you're being critical of how I did it, how would you divide the blame? Feel free to come up with some facts to back up your argument. I don't expect you to use 1,200 words to form your argument like I did, but I'd love to hear your specific thoughts on The Blame Game: UMD Edition.

As far as this incoming class, Wisconsin has some good talent coming in, but I don't think it's as good as this class. If it all pans out, this will be as good a group of freshmen as we've seen on one WCHA team in a long time.

Muttsdrool said...

Anonymous,if you are in fact a season ticket holder, then I would think you would do some homework before you start criticizing how the team is prepared before, during, and after the season. So let me do some of your homework for you. There is no other team in the WCHA more physically prepared than Duluth. Justin May has a very stringent program that all players must adhere to. Some might even say it is too stringent, and these players arrived in town just after the 4th of July to start summer workouts and conditioning (save for a few player). Your comment about the coaches not working players hard early in the year is ridiculous. It tells me that your shooting from the hip in your criticism. Have you been in the Coaches room when Sandy is working on practice plans? Do you have first hand knowledge of his conditioning program? The answer is no, so how can you continue to try and justify your argument about how these coaches prepare. The only argument that you make that I somewhat agree with is the peer pressure argument. Beyond that, your way off base and being unfair, but you are entitled to your opinion, so we'll end this by agreeing to disagree.

dhg said...

Oh boy, you sound like a gopher fan. You obviously know who I am, yet you rip me for beaking my own team, the you come in here and hide behind an anonymous name. Big guy you are. All of a sudden I can't be a dogs fan because I turned on my team this season for a weekend. NEWSFLASH, was I wrong? Just because you get pissed at your team, this makes you a bad fan? HMMM. I didn't know when I purchased my $14 ticket I wasn't allowed to voice my opinion. So I am a bad fan for booing them, but where is the appology from this team for stinking the joint out this year? I am wrong for getting pissed at them, but their has to be no accountability on their side? I have to sit there and take it because that makes you a GOOD FAN? Weird, the way I see it, I paided for my ticket, a ticket that had a $5 increase this year to pay for the womens team, and I can't have an opinion and tell them they stink. GUESS WHAT, THEY DID. There is no rule saying that you have to support your team 100% when they stink. That night I didn't. And guess what, that weekend was exactly what the season turned into. Do me a favor, why don't you go back to sitting on your hands all game long, blaming the students for there being TOO MUCH NOISE at the DECC, help your wife knit, and whine to the choir. If all goes well, you will be moving to a retirement home in Florida in the next 5 years and we can get fans in there that understand the game, and don't sit back and TAKE IT when there team does not meet expectations. It would be one thing if it was barely missing expectations, but they were the BIGGEST disappointment in UMD history, and they have no one but THEMSELVES to blame. The offseason is on the players, and that is where this season was lost. YOu say skate them extra hard the first 2 weeks to catch up, guess what EVERY TEAM SKATES extra hard in practice the first 2 weeks. Was Sandelin suppose to skate them for 12 hours straight, 2 weeks in a row? That is what it would have taken to make up the ground, then they wouldn't be able to skate for games? That makes a TON of sense.

dhg said...

PS

I speak with PLAYERS on a regular basis, as well as see them out on the town. This is not Minnesota, we have a small school and I used to see them everyday at school, and my friends that are at school still see them everyday. So I think I have a clue what I am talking about with these players being out of shape. I received an email from someone close to the program that I will not post, but this person told me that we would be lucky to be at .500 at the break due to these guys being so out of shape. As for muttsdrool saying the team gets there on July 4th, this was the case in 2003-2004, but not this past year. A lot of guys didn't get into town until mid August, and at least 1 player did show up 20 pounds overweight, and he was suppose to be a very key factor this year. But this is the coach's fault.

Muttsdrool said...

Well Geez, then I must have been Dreaming when I played golf with a number of them in July.

dhg said...

Well my bad, the couple of players I talked to said that most weren't in town. Maybe he ment that they were in town but no one was attending workouts. I don't remember exactly what was said, i did run into them out on the town that night. I just remember a couple of them pretty much giving me and the others with me the impression that they were not working hard.

Anonymous said...

What happened?? What do expect from a glorified community college?

Bruce Ciskie said...

My apologies for the "contributions" of the gutless puke who didn't want to leave his/her name.

Because of that, I have reconfigured this Blog so you have to be a registered user to post. It's a step that some will choose not to take...especially gutless pukes like this last "anonymous" user.

Leave it to one person to spoil the fun for everyone else.