Why have they been so terrible? It's not often that I get to do this, but my preseason projection for MSU is looking awfully prescient right now:
Much like Michigan last season, Michigan State’s season will depend on how quickly their freshmen can adapt to college hockey, after a string of departures to the NHL this past summer. The Spartans bring in a lot of forwards that were among the very best in their respective junior leagues last season, but those leagues are less traditional recruiting grounds for top NCAA players. Goalie Jeff Lerg may need to carry this team early in the season while those players adjust for the Spartans to be successful. The Spartans could be on the NCAA tournament bubble, but a slump, either early in the season, or in the second half when the youngsters start to hit a wall, could keep them out of the tournament.Those freshmen? They're not adjusting quickly to college hockey, and it's probably killing their NCAA tournament hopes.
As far as freshman contribution, Daultan Leveille has 3 goals, Andrew Conboy has 2, Ben Warda and Trevor Nill have 1, and the rest have yet to score. Obviously they were hoping for more than 8 goals from this freshman class 14 games into the season.
It shouldn't be completely unexpected, however. Michigan State had what was considered a very good recruiting class coming in this year, but in looking at some of the top players--Daultan Leveille(GHJHL), Brett Perlini(NOJHL), Mike Merrifield(NAHL)--they came from junior leagues where they weren't playing against much, if any, Division I talent on a daily basis. Even if they are--to borrow Brian Cook's terminology--their own unique ninja-snowflakes, it's going to take time to adjust to the speed of the game before they really start contributing.
The upshot, of course, is that it's undeniable that these kids have talent, and they should be good eventually. The problem is that it's not likely to come this year, and if it does, it could be too late to get Michigan State back into the national tournament picture.