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2017 Off-Season Thread

2017 Off-Season Thread

Discuss the future NCAA Men's Ice Hockey Champions here!

2017 Off-Season Thread

Unread postby mdneilson » 12 Mar 2017, 23:30

IMO this season was a culmination of many small things:

- poor goal tending
Especially early. Think of what position we'd be in right now if we'd swept UMD at home, instead of getting swept. Especially when we had 2-goal leads after 2 both nights. Both games lie squarely on the shoulders of the net minders. Smith stepped it up in the new year, but was still shy of a top college player. I'm not going to argue if he should've made a save or not. It is apparent in his play. He's not aggressive to shooter, cheats off the post constantly, doesn't try to keep track of the puck/play through screens, stick is rarely flush to the ice, reaction time is slow/non-existent, and doesn't use the whole crease let alone leave it. He's a decent backup, not a starter.


- absence of team leadership
This team was very similar to the year after Lasch left, to me. Honestly, I was worried about it from the start of the season. Motzko relies 100% on the team captains to carry the attitude and motivation of the team. The successful teams that we've had were chock full of big natural leaders. When I saw Storm listed as our sole senior captain, it spelled trouble to me. You simply can't have a low-skill player that could be riding the pine for a whole year as your leader. Our top captain finished an entire season with 4 points and 0 goals. His character and leadership skills were clearly lacking by his attitude on the ice. I'm not putting the blame on his shoulders, but it was an omen.


- lack of consistency
This year saw little to no consistency. A fault that can be spread over the whole team, top to bottom. Lines were rarely the same between games on the same weekend, let alone for an whole month. Players were not allowed to get used to each other's habits and talents. Nick Poehling stepping up late in the season makes me hopeful for the 3 to be effective together next season. The D would be active and pinch with forwards coming back to backcheck one game, then they'd go on cruise control the next. Few players had real game-to-game high levels of play, and coaching decisions didn't help.


- Inability to finish
We had troubles finishing out a game all year. We let in a lot of late goals, either due to questionable goal tending or poor defense. We failed to finish a lot of plays. There were a lot of plays with great chances; but there were too many passes, no one would crash the net, or we'd just not get puck luck. No matter how you cut it, you needs 3+ goals a game to win, and we just couldn't find our stride enough.


=============================================================================================

The good news is, we know all of these are fixable, mostly due to inexperience, and much will improve.

- Goaltending
Smith brought his game to a new level after the new year, and Driscoll looked like he was ready to do the same. I've been hearing talk that Zevnik and Driscoll will leave over the summer, so I'm not going to focus on them. If Smith sends a good portion of his summer at a goalie camp training, I'm very positive that he can be extremely competitive in the NCHC. Also, I've watched several of Hrenak's (pron. REE-nack) games. He is young, but very experienced. He's been with the Slovak national team 3 times. He would've started for them this previous tourney, but was injured in practice. He puts up decent stats on a team with light defense. But more importantly, his fundamentals are already solid along with his vision and movement.


- Leadership
We lose 2 captains this year, despite only 1 being a senior. For those who don't know, Widman will not be returning, because he completed his masters this year and doesn't want to come back for a second. That leaves Schuldt as the only carry-over. I think next year we'll see the leadership be Schuldt, R. Poehling, and Peterson. All 3 are stand up guys that are responsible in their roles. And they're players that not only are used to winning, they're used to winning big. That attitude will be spread through the rest of the team with their strong voices.


- Consistency
This is a harder quality to judge and improve. Most of consistency comes from team chemistry and attitude. Leadership will help with that. But where we've really been spoiled over the last several years, is having players that click with each other. That mostly only comes with time. Hopefully, many players will stick around this summer, as they have in years past. This helps with conditioning, but also with relationship building, and is actively encouraged by the coaching staff.


- Finishing
Closing out a game is arguably one of the most difficult things to do. Most teams pressure extremely hard in the last 5-ish minutes of a losing game. And it is hard to not relax a little when you've got the lead. Learning to play at full tilt for 60 whole minutes is something that every player knows to do. Being able to do it is another beast entirely. Our team's age showed this year near the end of games, in overtime, and during the second games of a series. Players clearly got tired and made mistakes that cost us games. Maturity and conditioning will help. The same will help with getting that extra goal per game that we need to earn more Ws on the schedule.


It was the end of the season, not the end of the world. GO HUSKIES WOOOOO!
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Re: 2017 Off-Season Thread

Unread postby Rabid_Husky » 13 Mar 2017, 07:44

Driscoll leaving would explain why Hrenak is slated for next season. Shame if he does go but he wasn't better than Smith and Smith isn't leaving so if he is wanting more consistent playing time...it likely won't be here.
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Re: 2017 Off-Season Thread

Unread postby Husky1 » 13 Mar 2017, 09:27

Excellent summary, I think. The Smith comments are pretty spot-on. I was shocked when Smith ended up getting the nod over Driscoll because I still think he has more upside (i.e. not peaking as a back-up on a good team). That said I'm clearly not a coach and obviously Motzko has a plan for the position.

Leadership was absolutely an issue as well; you shouldn't have two-thirds of your captaincy a healthy scratch night after night. Anything will be better than how this group played out.

I'm not sure what the potential is for early departures (other than the goalies), but if no one leaves this team will be in great shape. It won't take much for the incoming freshmen to blow past the production of the seniors. I hope Borgen comes back and realizes that way too often he lets the edge he plays with (which I love) turn into something that is a detriment to the team, particularly when they needed him most.

Overall there is a difference between a team that is young/rebuilding and one that is just bad. Thankfully this is the former and not the latter.
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Re: 2017 Off-Season Thread

Unread postby HuskyFan64 » 13 Mar 2017, 10:40

Agreed on all points MD, the future is bright for this team! :)

However, I seriously hope you've heard wrong on Driscoll as like Husky1 I think he has a higher ceiling than Smith based on what I've seen of the both of them (all their games lol)

As for early departures, off the top of my head I'd think pretty much the only risk is Judd due to NHL rules about Draftee Rights (something about they need to be signed after their Junior season or they're open to be signed by any team) and he's a Sabres pick; Eyssimont will be fine I should think as LA has only pulled a guy once early and even that was after his Junior season AND he was Jonny Brodzinski, and the rest of the players are only Freshmen and Sophomores aside from Papa, Winiecki, and Ilvonen.
And seriously, I really hope The Juddernaut stays as he's arguably my fave current Husky and a fantastic player that adds a whole new dimension to the team.

And #GOHUSKIESWOOOOO!!!! :D
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Re: 2017 Off-Season Thread

Unread postby mdneilson » 13 Mar 2017, 10:44

The difference between Smith and Driscoll is really style. Smith is more of a calm positional-reliant player, where Driscoll is a more athletic style goalie. Hrenak is somewhere in-between, but closer to Smith than Driscoll. If Driscoll sticks around, and gains favor, this could really work to our favor. One of the most effective ways to win banners is to have a 2-goalie system. If you can start 2 good players in net, and especially if their styles are difference but effective. It makes it that much harder to beat them. Not only because you have to try to learn to beat to different guys, but each netminder can lay it all out each night knowing that the other will get the next start.

I'm working a new thread for early departures. I'd make it a blog post (and would've spend more time on this OP/thread starter) if I had time to get the front site back up. Hopefully soon.
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Re: 2017 Off-Season Thread

Unread postby hockeypuck » 13 Mar 2017, 16:21

nchchockey.com
NCHC ANNOUNCES 2017 FROZEN FACEOFF SEMIFINAL GAME TIMES
WMU BATTLES UMD IN FIRST SEMIFINAL AT 4 P.M., FOLLOWED BY UND VS. DENVER AT 7:30 P.M. CT
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Re: 2017 Off-Season Thread

Unread postby FalcoBro8 » 13 Mar 2017, 18:48

I think the biggest flight risk has to be Jimmy Schultz right?
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Re: 2017 Off-Season Thread

Unread postby Boomer » 13 Mar 2017, 22:09

FalcoBro8 wrote:I think the biggest flight risk has to be Jimmy Schultz right?


I don't think so. He isn't drafted and I would think the pro scouts would like to see him get more D-I time under Bob Motzko. In the long run, he and Ryan Poehling seem to be the most likely to advance to a very high (read NHL) level of play. I would worry about them leaving in two years rather than next season.

Guess I am in the minority here, but though Smith was the better choice for most of the playing time. It is obvious that goaltending needs to improve, and coincidently, often does as the defensive play of a team improves. The play of Lizotte and Cholowski--especially in the second half--is a great sign. I also disagree that winning teams often use two goalies on a regular basis. I would guess that statistics would show most really good teams go with basically one tender.

IF I were to worry about someone going pro, it would be Will Borgen. I don't think he is ready yet, but who knows what Buffalo has in mind for the very good potential professional player in Borgen.

And I have never believed in set lines. Here are some coaches that ALWAYS moved players around--during games, series, etc.: Herb Brooks. Joel Quenneville. The guy from the Lightning. Sullivan from Pittsburgh. Dean Blais. Andy Murray. Boudreau. Certainly when you get a top line or a good 4th line/checking line, you tend to keep them together. But often the "top six" or top nine guys are often getting moved around. This way they can "relate" to everybody, not just your regular linemates. Motzko often talks about having two guys play together and then mix in a different forward in. When the team has a hard time scoring goals, you really have to continuously look for combinations that can put the puck in the net.
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Re: 2017 Off-Season Thread

Unread postby FalcoBro8 » 13 Mar 2017, 22:45

Boomer wrote:
FalcoBro8 wrote:I think the biggest flight risk has to be Jimmy Schultz right?


I don't think so. He isn't drafted and I would think the pro scouts would like to see him get more D-I time under Bob Motzko. In the long run, he and Ryan Poehling seem to be the most likely to advance to a very high (read NHL) level of play. I would worry about them leaving in two years rather than next season.

Guess I am in the minority here, but though Smith was the better choice for most of the playing time. It is obvious that goaltending needs to improve, and coincidently, often does as the defensive play of a team improves. The play of Lizotte and Cholowski--especially in the second half--is a great sign. I also disagree that winning teams often use two goalies on a regular basis. I would guess that statistics would show most really good teams go with basically one tender.

IF I were to worry about someone going pro, it would be Will Borgen. I don't think he is ready yet, but who knows what Buffalo has in mind for the very good potential professional player in Borgen.

And I have never believed in set lines. Here are some coaches that ALWAYS moved players around--during games, series, etc.: Herb Brooks. Joel Quenneville. The guy from the Lightning. Sullivan from Pittsburgh. Dean Blais. Andy Murray. Boudreau. Certainly when you get a top line or a good 4th line/checking line, you tend to keep them together. But often the "top six" or top nine guys are often getting moved around. This way they can "relate" to everybody, not just your regular linemates. Motzko often talks about having two guys play together and then mix in a different forward in. When the team has a hard time scoring goals, you really have to continuously look for combinations that can put the puck in the net.



I absolutely agree with the Ryan Poelling thought, in fact I thought he more often than not was not only our most consistent guy each night but more often our best player, kid just brings it and elevates everyone's play. Poelling is absolutely NHL caliber and he wont be here long, we should enjoy him because hes an elite talent and a very special player that doesn't come by often.

Borgen is that nasty good sized and decent skating defenseman scouts love, Buffalo would benefit by keeping him here another year where he plays top minutes once again, he should only come back better and more determined after how he ended his season.

Your not alone on your Smith thought either, he gave this team the best chance to win each night and once he was given the starters spot he ran with it, if this team could have chipped in a timely goal here or there he would be getting more praise than anyone else because he had some great numbers the 2nd half of the season for the most part.
IF I were to worry about someone going pro, it would be Will Borgen. I don't think he is ready yet, but who knows what Buffalo has in mind for the very good potential professional player in Borgen.
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Re: 2017 Off-Season Thread

Unread postby mdneilson » 13 Mar 2017, 23:22

Boomer, I think we're destined to disagree on goalies for all time, lol. Smith was quite good in the second half, but needs to find another level. I think he has it, and this was effectively his freshman year of college hockey. Another goal would've been nice, but a stolen game would've been great too. I think he'll be fine, as long as he doesn't take the summer totally off (but that goes for most players).

I agree. I think Borgen is the biggest flight risk. I hope he is wise enough to stick around for his junior year. I don't expect him to stay for two more, but it'd be a nice surprise.

PS. There is a common theme in your list of coaches, most coach at the NHL level. Yes, you don't need to have all 4 lines static all year, that'd be silly. But I'll always point at Duluth's National Title; they owe that 100% to their top line that was together for an eternity. Many coaches at all levels will find a line that clicks, and let them do their thing. Motzko used to do that after Christmas, on the most part. But, I think that's just another thing we'll just have to agree to disagree on. Alas, you've been around the game of hockey for decades longer than I, so you're likely right, but I guess we'll have to ask the Hockey Gods in the next life. Anyway, there are bigger beefs that I have with caching decisions for this year, like playing a certain player in must-win games while also complaining about lack of scoring.
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Re: 2017 Off-Season Thread

Unread postby Boomer » 14 Mar 2017, 00:15

mdneilson wrote:Boomer, I think we're destined to disagree on goalies for all time, lol.


Ah, yes! Think it began with your's and Izzi's thoughts on Mike Lee. Skeeterman was also a huge Lee non-believer. That's what makes hockey such a great game--it allows us fans to pretend to be coaches now and then!
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Re: 2017 Off-Season Thread

Unread postby hockeypuck » 14 Mar 2017, 06:46

I like Smith a lot as goalie. He doesn't get rattled. He stays between the pipes(doesn't wander) and he's very patient, lets the shooter make the first move.

What I don't like is sometimes he is too patient and deep in his net. He should challenge the farther out shots more and make himself as big as possible and at least move to the top of the crease to cut down the angles. Both tips if he challenges(moves out) at all he probably gets a piece of both of those shots. The one was just over his glove from the deflection by Schuldt's shaft and the other is just over his shoulder because he was dropping down for the low shot, Olson tips it high over his shoulder. If he comes out a foot or two to meet the puck he probably gets/at least partially/ both of them.

Same with passes/shots across his crease, not sure if he isn't tracking or what but almost all goalies I've played with will deflect anything coming from behind the net or just in front of them across the crease out of harms way with their stick. Smith seems to not react at all to a lot of that stuff. Both the Boeser and Poganski goals...
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Re: 2017 Off-Season Thread

Unread postby hockeypuck » 14 Mar 2017, 06:56

My first inclination on most of our troubles this year were breakouts out of our zone.
Especially to start the season against Mankato, guys not moving their feet at all. Torpedo (no touch on them) passes that are virtually uncatchable and panic blind wraparounds to no one.

Positionally the fwd's were drifting too high and it was easy for the defense to pinch on our guys and maintain the zone. On top of that we did a lot of that blind chip crap that I hate because they would drift too high and they felt the pressure from behind them. We were spoiled the previous year because Prow usually made very good decisions bringing it out and didn't force it into fwds that were covered.
The goal to tie it that went off Schuldt's stick I blame more on the fwd's inability to clear the zone when they had the chance.
Oh, and I should also mention passing to guys on the point or on the top of the umbrella when they are already covered instead of the smart decision to keep it deep. A lot of forced passing to guys that had someone on them instead of regrouping and taking the path of least resistance.
Jackson, Lizotte and Benson were good at chipping pucks high and out if they had to.

The other thing was a couple fwd's shouldn't be on the same line because neither do a very good job or not at all back checking- they usually coast or go off on a change. Or if they do back check they don't cover anyone.
On Winiecki's turnover I can see one of the D not providing D puck support but not both.

I said it many times this year. How can a team look so good in the O-zone but so awful in the D-zone. Like Jekyll and Hyde.

Plus our cycles were on the perimeter but rarely did we always have that third guy in front of or breaking to the net to generate anything off it. We saw a lot of nice give and go's last year from Kossila, Benik, Morley plus a grinder/net front guy like Russell and got a little spoiled.

I think we really missed Borgen's right handed stick in that last series. The D's using their left stick trying to keep it in on the right were having a tough time. It will be nice to have Kuster or another right hander out there next year.

Last edited by hockeypuck on 14 Mar 2017, 08:21, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: 2017 Off-Season Thread

Unread postby mikecgrimes » 14 Mar 2017, 07:17

Is there any more to the Driscoll story? He was adequate to good at times after the first few weeks, and then doesn't play other then one time Smith is pulled. I know the schedule made it tough to play a goalie who hadn't seen action in a month or two or three but the situation seemed really weird early in Smith's run. If I'm Driscoll and my competition is Smith I'm thinking this is a good shot to win a job if I work hard in the summer.
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Re: 2017 Off-Season Thread

Unread postby hockeypuck » 14 Mar 2017, 12:43

SB Nation College hockey
2017 Top 100 NHL Prospects in the NCAA: 66-70
70. Blake Winiecki, Center, St. Cloud State(Free Agent)
66. Judd Peterson, Center, St. Cloud State(Buffalo Sabres)
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