Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Desperation Time for Wisconsin?

Wisconsin has started the season a rather dismal 0-5-1. On one hand, it's understandable given that every game they've played has been against a team ranked in the top 10, and only two of those games have been at home. But on the other hand, they've got to win some games. With the new rule that teams must finish the season with a winning record to make the NCAA tournament--likely henceforth known as 'The Wisconsin Rule' despite the fact that the rule was passed, but not implemented prior to Wisconsin's sub-.500 tourney appearance--Wisconsin's hopes of returning to the tournament may be on life support.

The Badgers have 30 regular season games, plus at least 2 postseason games left on their schedule. That means they'll need at least 19 wins in those last 32 games to even be under consideration for playing in the tournament despite what should be one of the country's toughest schedules. That's a big reason why I'm not a huge fan of the .500 rule. Had it been in place last season, Wisconsin essentially would have been punished by playing top-ranked Michigan on the road, as opposed to staying at home and blowing out the worst team in the country. Wisconsin never should have made the NCAA tournament last year, but for completely different reasons.

To make matters worse for the Badgers this year, they'll be without leading returning scorer Ben Street for at least three months after suffering a knee injury against Denver.

The big downfall for the Badgers so far has been their defense. They're giving up a brutal 5 goals per game, worst in the WCHA. Again, keep in mind the tough schedule, but also keep in mind that few teams would give up that many goals even against a tough schedule. The Badgers are loaded with offensive-minded defensemen, which has helped on the offensive side--a third of their goals so far have been scored by defenseman, and two D are tied for the team lead in scoring, while a third is tied for 3rd on the team in scoring--but hasn't helped keep the puck out of the net. Jamie McBain, who was named to most preseason all-conference and all-American teams, carries a dismal -12 rating through the first six games. Ryan McDonagh is at -6.

The next four weeks should tell a lot about Wisconsin's future. Three of their four series are on the road, but they face teams in North Dakota, Michigan Tech, Minnesota-Duluth, and St. Cloud that are more likely to be jockeying with the middle of the pack in the WCHA than leading the way at the top of the standings. To maintain the pace needed to reach the magic 19 wins, the Badgers need at least four wins and a tie, if not five wins. It's a tall task, but necessary to dig themselves out of the hole that they've dug.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

How can a program like Wisconsin be so bad at any point. Top recruits, top facilities, top fans,top education, top coaching pay and they can't win? Time for a change in coaching?
All the excuses of youth,schedule,need to end.

Anonymous said...

for all the arrogance of the UW fans that they wouldn't miss Drewiski, Klubby and Engel with all the NHLers they had coming in looks like their biggest loss was their D that played D!!!! Don't seem to be missing Turris' O as much as the D of these blue collar D who played their position without all the hype.

Anonymous said...

Eaves "kid in a candy store" recruiting is hurting him. He never is content with the talent he has and is always looking for something else. Until he learns to take the talent he recruits, develop it and work on the team game building a cohesive group he will continue to loose. His this team is young, we loose too many to the NHL are excuses. They lost one player to the NHL this past season, brought in top NHL picks and can't win. Coaching is about team building and working with the talent you have. Eaves would make maybe a good pro-scout but isn't a head coach at any level as he can't relate to people, whether it be his own staff, his recruits and teams. Other teams win with far less talent and resources so it comes down to coaching.

Anonymous said...

I was surprised after watching both games this weekend how inconsistent every single Becky D-pair was. It was very difficult to be sure because of all of penalties but Sconnie had difficulty generating pressure in the offensive zone when 5 on 5. They got some good pressure at the end of Saturday's game, but by that time the game had already been decided. In their own zone, all of the BADgers seemed to be doing their own thing instead of playing like a team.

Anonymous said...

There is no doubt that right now, the Badgers biggest problem is sloppy defensive play. Hell they let a rodent waltz out from behind the net and count to 3 mississippi while Connelly flayed about on the ice and the rodent picked which spot of the entire top half of the net he wanted to score his goal in. There is no doubt in my mind, that the triumvrate of Kluby, Engel, and especially Drewiske are sorely missed in Madison. Way to many youngin's on the blueline to win in the WCHA at the highest levels, regardless of draft status. Even the most highly drafted dmen as true frosh look average at best in the WCHA in year one. Eric Johnson, Lee, and Suter, McDonagh were all decent as frosh, but hardly dominated like a top 15 forward usually will. Mix in that Smith missed half of his year one, and you still have a lot of growing pains there.

Anonymous said...

eaves sucks and cant coach, thats why. im not a gophers or sioux fan but i would go there wayyy before uw to develop into a great player and a nhl player. their blue line is filled with nhl draft picks, high ones and they suck so far. eaves cant coach......

Anonymous said...

I think the perception that the high NHL draft picks/prospects are "too good" to play a year or two in juniors is rather ridiculous - particularly defensemen. There is such a rush, and it's probably used as a recruiting tool, to tell someone they can come and play right away. But why a coach and/or player wouldn't want to get valuable experience playing in a top league like the USHL and be better prepared to step in at this level, is beyond me. Granted, there are those "special" players that can make the jump and transition rather quickly to this level of play, but that is a very few compared to a majority who cannot and end up basically taking almost a year to adjust. I would prefer more of the seasoned journeymen than the "projected" NHL stars any day.

Anonymous said...

We could definately use Engel back, and probably Drewiske, but Klubertanz sucked worse than most of these kids look this season. He was a skating short handed goal waiting to happen when on the PP last year.

Anonymous said...

ano @ 2:07 summed it up best; the "stars" think its beneath them to not play as a true frosh; the late bloomers & grinders are forced to play sometimes two years of juniors. The truth is that many true frosh spend alot of time as healthy scratches; kids don't understand that coaches have to budget/plan for injuries; and that if injuries don't occur, someone gets shafted; at which point these young men have to choose between an education (staying in school and supporting team/riding the pine) and their hockey aspirations (quit and play juniors if they have eligibility left). At schools like ND, BC and Miami, it's an easier sell to stay in school, but how many people got into a top notch school/position based on a Madison or Fargo diploma. It's a dog eat dog game, even at the ivory tower ncaa level. Badger hockey is like ND football; the best recruits but not necessarily a good record. It'pretty much of a laugher to boast about all the kids on current roster that are drafted; and then see the on ice production. Maybe they eat too much brie once they get to Madison.

Anonymous said...

"but how many people got into a top notch school/position based on a Madison or Fargo diploma."
Actually, UW-Madison is tied with Harvard right now for most alums serving as CEO's. Can't get much more 'top notch' than that. Does the name Brian Elliot ring a bell? He stayed for exactly that reason--to complete his degree. Same with Joe Thomas in football.
Otherwise, I definitely agree that there is a problem brewing in Madison when such high recruiting classes are failing to produce even mediocre results. Tough schedule or not, its time to win some games!

Anonymous said...

Don't think it is that the stars think they are too good to go to jrs. but that Wisconsin staff tells them they don't have to and then for some they change and have them go: ask Hickey,he was told he could come right out of hs then told to go to jrs. then almost delayed another year. Wisconsin had Wiercoch at Omaha and took in Stepan,Murray,and Gardner right out of hs. Denver got the player with jr. experience that wisc. was delaying. Each case is different but Wisconsin uses the USHL to delay early recruits not as a truly developmental league. Smith and Monpetit two more examples of players in jrs. delayed for hs players this year. Smith is having outstanding start and was delayed by Wisc. due to over-recruitment and them choosing to bring in hs players.

Anonymous said...

"Matthew Ford had four goals in his final season with the Wisconsin Badgers men's hockey team. It took him three games in the ECHL to surpass that.

Ford, a rookie pro, has five goals and seven points in three games for Charlotte of the ECHL, leading the team in both categories.

He always had the scoring touch in him; it just never came out with the Badgers, where he racked up 21 goals in 124 career games." From icehouse blog.

Eaves doesn't know how to use talent or his system doesn't allow for scorers to shine.
But when they leave they get that touch back pretty quick.

Anonymous said...

what the hell happened with the michigan tech ntdp game??? fights everywhere is there video on this?

Anonymous said...

I agree that it would be hard to sell someone on a Fargo (NDSU)education. Now a Grand Forks (UND) education now theres a degree. :)

Anonymous said...

As a Wisconsin fan I shake my head at some of the stuff in recruiting, but in defense of Stepan and Murray they are both looking pretty good out there, and didn't need a year of juniors, Gardiner is a different story.

Anonymous said...

stepan and murray played a triple AAA midget schedule not a high school schedule (more than 25+) games that does make a difference and it shows

RR said...

How soon will it be for some NHL GM to decide their drafted player isn't developing at Wisconsin and pull an "Okposo" and sign them to a pro contract during this season season?

Anonymous said...

The great one wanted Turris to leave at Christmas but staff convinced family to stay to help with academic requirements of NCAA.

Anonymous said...

Bottom line is that defensive defensemen are under rated by fans until your team does not have any. Well maybe I should say the casual fan seems to under rate defensive dmen. However, you would think that a Major Div 1 coache would understand the value of atleast 3 strong defensive dmen per team, but maybe not.

Anonymous said...

http://www.collegehockeynews.com/news/2008/10/29_teamof.php

Wisconsin's losses to pros and nhl much less than Miami and they continue to win.

Anonymous said...

It's very frustrating to be a Badger fan right now but have to realize it's still early in the season and that maybe we all believed too much of the hype and bought into the NHL draft pick syndrome. Hopefully the coaches can do what they are paid to do and develop these players and have them playing the way they need to in order to be successful at this level. Hindsight, I can see where some players would have benefited from playing in the USHL but they're not. I do have more of a concern for our future recruiting with the current over-recruiting that is going on and asking players to wait, etc., etc. At some point, potential recruits (and not just on Wisconsin's radar) are going to realize that they can go somewhere else and not have to ride the pine or take the backseat to the NHL draft picks and move on to a better fit. This may be good for the hockey scene in general as talent may be more equally dispersed, but could be troublesome for some of the more prominent programs.

Anonymous said...

frustrating to be a badger fan how about a recruit put on hold? For all of the diehard fans denials of over-recruitment, delays, and pushing players out it just keeps happening and more and more blatantly. Howard's push had to take the prize. For all the denials of coach's responsibility for the Leavitt incident,Nancy,Rob, Ward and Howie most fans whether they want to "believe" have to see what is happening.

FadeToBlack&Gold said...

Anon @ 5:54 PM - No video that I'm aware of, sorry. Basically, I think the NDTP kids were expecting an easy victory against a team widely picked to finish tenth in the league. They started slashing, clutching, and punching once they began falling behind and it just got chippier from there.

Anonymous said...

Word of advice for Sconnie fans- bench Brendan Smith. He does more harm than good. Whenever the Gophers scored a goal, there was a common theme on ice, Smith was out there. He is one of the most error-prone defenseman I have ever seen. The guys serious has some major brain cramps. I don't know how many d to d passes I've seen from him last weekend where it was just inches away from being an easy breakaway. You need to also tell Pat Johnson that mugging a guy along the boards is gonna be called now-a-days. They were called both times in a matter of 8 minutes.