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[JD Scott]

Hockey's season went out with a whimper as they were swept at the hands of Minnesota in the first round of the Big Ten tournament. That's disappointing but not particularly surprising for anyone who watched most of Michigan's season.

What went wrong? Michigan's various problems follow.

Age

Michigan was one of the youngest teams in the country, and the bottom of the age standings are pretty ugly:

image

ND and Denver are in the top 16 of the pairwise. Otherwise this is a list of the teams that generally recruit the best across college hockey and are struggling in the new over-30 NCAA. Not one of Minnesota, Michigan, BC, BU, or Wisconsin is in position for an at-large bid. It should be noted that 50-52 are Quinnipiac, Providence, and Harvard, who are all set for at-large bids, but even those teams in close proximity by rank are almost a half-year older than Michigan and the rest of the "we recruit the NTDP" class.

Under Pearson they've moved to taking more overagers, but those guys are all underclassmen. Michigan is in the process of having some 23 and 24 year olds; they are not there yet. At some point Michigan's going to be a mix of older players and high-level NHL prospects. Currently they are young and had 1.5 high-level prospects. Speaking of:

Talent level

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Norris was M's only PPG scorer and missed half the year [Bill Rapai]

As discussed in the previous post about Michigan's gap year, this year's freshman class had zero drafted players for the first time in probably 20 years. Michigan found a good fourth line as Moyle and Van Whye emerged midseason; that line then became their de facto second line because nobody else was doing anything. Compounding matters was the previous class, which was Hughes and Norris (woot woot!) plus Mike Pastujov, whose star fell precipitously after his commitment, and then whatever Mel could scrape up. That turned out to be Becker and Raabe, two guys who have chipped in but aren't scoring line players at this point in their career.

So when Norris goes out midseason, they have zero underclassman forwards capable of playing on a scoring line. This is untenable for a program that is constantly getting raided by the NHL—you aren't getting Cooper Marody back for a senior year.

Michigan did have some guys: Lockwood put up 31 points in 36 games; Slaker and Pastujov put up 25 and 24. It's not a coincidence that two of the three top scorers were older draftees. There just weren't enough of them. Michigan has always been more talented than all of its opponents, which is how they make up the perpetual age gap. This year they weren't. Opposing goaltenders put up a .914; Michigan was 41st in shooting percentage. Even more telling: Michigan's power play conversion rate nearly halved from 19% (average-ish) to 10% (national worst) when Norris went out.

[After THE JUMP: woe! fie and woe!]

[Marc-Gregor Campredon]

The Big Ten Tournament commences tonight. It’s been a good year for the Big Ten: it’s rated as the best conference in the country by Kenpom, it’s quite possible that over half the league will reach the NCAA Tournament, and there aren’t any truly bad teams (depending on how mean you want to be to Northwestern). I didn’t expect the Big Ten to be this strong. Michigan State, Purdue, and Michigan finished as the best teams in the conference a year ago, and despite significant personnel losses for each program, they’re in a tier of their own again. Wisconsin and Maryland could be Sweet 16 squads. Iowa and Minnesota have really improved.

That said, the Big Ten Tournament doesn’t start with those teams. It starts with the dregs. We begin with a Wednesday evening doubleheader:?a game between post-implosion Nebraska and a surprisingly feisty Rutger team and a rubber match in the Illinois - Northwestern rivalry (the teams have a combined 24-38 record). That 9:30 PM tip-off in Chicago should be a depressing spectacle. Then it’s the Thursday afternoon game — a truly cursed matchup, even by the standards set by the 8/9 fixture in Big Ten Tournament over the years — with Ohio State and Indiana. Stream this game at work if you can: it should be a wonderful combination of the characteristically ugly basketball this conference can produce and open desperation from underwhelming major-conference teams on the bubble in March.

By the time we get to Saturday’s semifinals, there should be a great doubleheader: a combination of legitimately good teams cutting their teeth ahead of the Big Dance and upstarts that have won a few games in consecutive days. On Sunday, we get a delicious appetizer ahead of the Selection Show — a chance for Purdue or Michigan State to nudge ahead of the other for conference supremacy, a chance for Michigan to win its third Big Ten Tournament in a row, or maybe a chance for Wisconsin or Maryland to make a statement and move up a seed line or two. Maybe there could be a longshot winner and bid thief. There’s a pretty good chance that some of the best basketball the sport can offer at the college level will be played at some point this weekend.

[After THE JUMP: The story, the field]

Morticians: MGoHockey Correspondent David Nasternak and Anthony "Neutral Zone" Ciatti.

This Podcast Has a Sponsor: Michigan Law Grad Jonathan Paul is the guy with the C you want skating next to the ref and pleading your case. He's also a good guy to sit next to at the hockey games.

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

1. How it Ended/Minnesota Wrap

starts at 0:50

The ending comes far earlier than we are used to. Dave and Anthony reminisce about simpler times and Red Wings. Minnesota had a good plan, and Michigan faltered as the game wore on Friday. Minnesota came back from being down two goals and their OT winner was a thing of beauty right out of the Quinn Hughes Playbook. Speaking of Hughes, he was hurt late Friday and seriously hobbled on Saturday. Not a lot of time was spent on Saturday's game because it did not last long. Michigan blown out, a rarity this season. Strauss Mann was the player of the weekend.

2. Postmortem/Team Grades

starts at 31:12

We give our review of all aspects of the team. Some positives, unfortunately more negatives. We discuss room for improvement and why we are still confident Mel can get it done at Michigan.

3. The Future of College Hockey and Michigan's Place

starts at 1:04:35

We discuss where the program is, and where we think it is going, and how that intersects with the changes in college hockey over the last 10-15 years.

MUSIC
  • "NHL on ESPN Theme"
  • "NHL on NBC Theme:
  • "When It's Over"—Sugar Ray
  • "Ice Hockey (NES) theme"
THE USUAL LINKS

You want to order off the Taco Bell menu instead of look at all the possibilities

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