You’re The GM
It never happens in college sports, of course, but is a staple of the professional scene. There’s an expansion draft to provide talent to a newly formed team. A general manager must protect those players most important to the team in terms of salary, age, position and contribution.
Forgetting about salary, let’s do that for the teams within Hockey East. Assume that there’s a new program at the University of Nowheresville and each existing school can protect only two players. UofN will then get to select a single player, after which more can be protected.
The key is to identify the two most important players, not just for this year, but in the years to come. A senior will contribute for one year, but a freshman for four. So youth is a major factor.
Position is also an issue. There has to be a strong bias in favor of goaltenders since a team goes nowhere without strength between the pipes.
Here, then, are this GM’s choices.
Based on this year alone, the one obvious no-brainer choice would be all-everything defenseman Bryan Schmidt. A second likely selection would be Brent Gough.
However, what about the future? Schmidt and Gough are both seniors and the Warrior program is in the building phase. Wouldn’t it, then, make more sense to go with freshmen or perhaps sophomores?
In this case, we’ll mix and match. It’ll be Schmidt based on pure performance and sophomore Hank Carisio, who already has goals in his first two games.
In terms of talent, Mike Morris is the obvious choice. After that, no other candidate stands out head and shoulders above all others. Morris, like Schmidt, is a senior.
Given the importance of the goaltending position, what about junior Adam Geragosian, who sparkled against North Dakota and might be the answer in the post-Keni Gibson Era? Or what about freshman Doug Jewer, a highly thought of recruit?
Once again, we’ll mix and match and go with Morris and one of the goaltenders. Based on Jewer being a freshman, we’ll roll the dice that four years of him makes for a better value than two years of Geragosian.
There are a host of upperclassmen who might qualify, but none stand out the way that Schmidt and Morris do at Merrimack and Northeastern.
So let’s go with sophomore Tyler Sims in goal. Despite a tough opening game, Sims proved himself last year and is a clear talent among the younger players.
The other spot may be a gamble, but we’ll go with freshman defenseman Matt Taormina. Before even the first practice, PC coach Tim Army was effusive in his praise for what this offensively-skilled blueliner could do, so sight unseen we’re going with the rookie.
One could make a case that the single most indispensable player has been Matt Anderson, but like the other go-to guys at UMass, he’s a senior.
We’ll go with younger players instead. Thinking goaltending first, we’ll take freshman Jon Quick. He was a highly regarded recruit who has gotten off to a good start.
The other spot goes to P.J. Fenton, who some saw as a role player when he first arrived at UMass, but who has turned himself into a productive scorer.
This is the easiest team of all to pick. Yes, there are some strong upperclassmen, but two sophomores stand out.
Joe Fallon is young, a goaltender and very, very good. Last year’s ECAC Rookie of the Year, Fallon is a no-brainer.
The other pick is Torrey Mitchell, who totaled 30 points as a freshman and earned All-Rookie Team honors.
The choices get tougher on this team with a lot of depth, but no real superstars.
But based on his stellar performances so far, there’s no way we can leave freshman goaltender Ben Bishop off the list. Winner of back-to-back league awards, he’s got three games under his belt and already has a goals-against average under two and a save percentage of .923.
Add in Bret Tyler, the sophomore defenseman who totaled 20 points last year, and you’ve got two strong young players to anchor the defensive positions.
With the ongoing preference for anchoring the goaltending position, how can you not take John Curry, even if he is a junior? He was a revelation last year and in BU’s lone game this season picked up where he left off, allowing only a single goal.
The other pick is a tougher one, but goes to sophomore Pete MacArthur, who accumulated 27 points last season and scored twice in the Terriers’ opener against Lowell.
Most of the key River Hawk contributors are upperclassmen, but the significant exception is sophomore goaltender Peter Vetri. Considering how poor goaltending sank Lowell in recent seasons, Vetri is an obvious choice.
And in many respects, so is the other one. Cleve Kinley may be a junior, but you don’t get many defensemen like him, so he and Vetri are the picks.
The first choice is sophomore goaltender Cory Schneider, who despite a misstep out of the gate, will be a big difference-maker for the Eagles this year.
Then it gets tough.
Do you go with junior Brian Boyle, a first-round NHL draft pick and a 19-goal scorer last year? How about highly-regarded recruit Brock Bradford?
Bradford doesn’t have a point yet, but he’ll get the nod since there’s a pretty good chance that the 6-7 Boyle will turn pro next year anyway.
There’s been an emphasis on youth and goaltending so far and we won’t stop now.
We’ll take sophomore netminder Kevin Regan to anchor that position.
Then it gets brutally tough. How do you ignore three juniors — Brett Hemingway, Jacob Micflikier and Daniel Winnik — who are the top returning scorers in the league? Can you project which of them may turn pro next year, making them “virtual seniors”?
We’ll stick with youth and go for sophomore Mike Radja, although there may be last-minute waffling and a possible switch to Matt Fornataro.
Hey, it’s an interesting exercise. Your mileage may vary.
Say What You Really Think
Anyone who was around for Northeastern coach Greg Cronin’s tenure at Maine knows that he was a walking quote machine. In fact, one of his own lines was, “I’m the media’s dream and an athletic director’s nightmare.” (See “Greg Cronin Speaks Out” for Exhibits A through Z.)
After a 2-1 loss in the second game at North Dakota last weekend, Cronin showed he’s lost nothing off his quote machine fastball. The Huskies incurred 37 minutes of penalties that gave the Sioux 13 power plays and both goals. Not surprisingly, Cronin wasn’t happy with the officiating and he spoke his mind to USCHO arena reporter Patrick C. Miller.
“Honest to God, I’ve coached in the National Hockey League, the American Hockey League, the OHL, international, WCHA, Hockey East, and that was the worst officiating I’ve ever seen in my life,” Cronin said. “All three of them — Moe, Larry and Curly — were sniffing glue. It was embarrassing. If I was the league, I’d be embarrassed by that.
“I’ve even coached games in Russia, for God’s sakes. I’ve seen better officiating than that…. [North Dakota has] a better team than us. I don’t have any superficial [delusions] of grandeur…. And I don’t mind when [the referee] calls a penalty. When we get hooks and holds and trips, call ’em. They’re penalties.
“But don’t manufacture [BS] calls because he’s got marbles in his pocket and he’s got three on Northeastern and he’s gotta get twice as many into his pocket for North Dakota. It’s BS.
“I was embarrassed for the guy. It was pathetic. If this game was played in Boston, they would have been booing him and throwing stuff at him.”
No one ever accused Cronin of beating around the bush.
However, fans who enjoy reading such ref-bashing had better enjoy it now because it isn’t likely to happen again. Longtime observers of Hockey East know that any overt criticism of the officials is forbidden based on the principle that the men in stripes don’t have an opportunity to defend themselves and no one hears a retraction when the videotapes later back up the officials’ calls.
And in this case, Cronin didn’t toe the line of overt criticism; he kicked the living stuffing out of it.
It made for great reading, but also a conversation with the league office.
There will be no pronouncement of an official reprimand, as has happened in the past with other coaches. Those public trips to the woodshed are for repeat offenders and Cronin doesn’t fit that profile.
So when you read future stories about Northeastern, expect colorful quotes, but only until you get to discussion of the zebras. Then, in all likelihood, you’ll need to read between the lines.
An Initial Stumble
After BU topped Lowell 3-1 in Hockey East’s first league game, Terrier coach Jack Parker cautioned that too much can’t be read into the River Hawks’ 1-2 start.
“I think Lowell’s going to be fighting for the top four all year long,” he said.
Even so, the game was a disappointment for River Hawk fans. All but two players in the lineup were juniors and seniors, so experience was heavily on their side. Unfortunately for them, that didn’t translate into a win.
“I think they’ve got 11 freshmen and sophomores playing; we had 16 juniors and seniors, and you would’ve never known it based on tonight’s performance,” UML coach Blaise MacDonald said after the loss. “They were everything we want to be.
“I really think we’re a team that’s trying to find itself with the loss of a couple guys from last year’s club, and I’m afraid we’re a team that wants it a little easier than it’s going to be. But really when you a play a team that’s playing like BU, they’ll make a lot of teams look bad.”
BU notwithstanding, it has been surprising that the veteran River Hawks haven’t gotten out of the gate in stronger fashion.
“I knew we had to get better in some areas, and we still do,” MacDonald said. “But this is our third game, and we haven’t even come close to playing a ‘C’ game yet, so that’s not a good thing.”
When asked if this means he’s going to have to coach his players differently, MacDonald said, “Well, we can’t trade anybody, so I guess we’re going to have to.”
Quotes Of Note
MacDonald on whether he got a good look at a particular play: “I actually did not. You haven’t noticed that I’m only five-foot six?”
Cronin on Northeastern’s opening night 6-0 loss to North Dakota: “They just outclassed us. It was not a good effort all around. It could have been 10 goals. It was an ugly game.”
Maine coach Tim Whitehead on his team’s 5-1 win over Denver on Friday: “We got contributions from everybody. There were no weak links.”
Maine assistant captain Steve Mullin after completing a sweep of the defending national champs one night later: “There was a little bit of revenge on our minds. It definitely feels good to beat a Western team after all the talk that they were going to clean up again this year. To do it in our barn, in front of our own fans, makes that even much more special. We went out there trying to prove something for ourselves and if it makes a statement for Hockey East too, that’s even better.”
Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy after a 3-2 win at Bowling Green gave the Warriors their first win since Jan. 1: “When the fall comes around, everybody is 0-0. You have to wipe the slate clean. There are times when you have to have long term memory, and there are times where you have to have long term memory loss. These guys have been dedicating themselves to get ready for this moment.”
Dennehy two nights later after a seven-goal Michigan first period resulted in a 9-2 loss: “Handling success is sometimes harder than handling failure. We really had a gutsy performance on Friday night. I think too many of our guys got too high with the highs, and we weren’t ready and prepared for that first period tonight.”
BC coach Jerry York after a 3-2 loss at Michigan: “It’s a long way to April — a lot of ups and downs. But I like what I saw tonight.”
Way To Go, Higgs
Congratulations to BU freshman Chris Higgins on scoring his first collegiate goal in his inaugural game. And to add icing to the cake, it was the game-winner.
BU coach Jack Parker first saw Higgins three years ago when the goal-scoring machine was playing on a line centered by my favorite playmaker of all time, Ryan Hendrickson. (Yes, that would be my son.)
That duo was a great combination to watch. Ryan’s great ice vision complemented Higgins’s clever scoring touch. If the puck got on his stick, it found the back of the net. And the puck got on his stick a lot.
“Higgs” made a habit of making goaltenders look foolish, a trait that Parker noticed in that game three years ago and led to Higgs wearing the Terrier jersey now.
Congrats and good luck.
Another Tip Of The Hat
Here’s a one-week late congratulation to Eric Frede for winning the Hockey East Media Award. It’s an honor richly deserved by a great guy. He has much higher profile positions — you have watched Red Sox games, haven’t you? — but his passion for college hockey is unquestioned.
Upon Further Review
I mentioned in last week’s “A Little Tidbit” segment my amazement at the note from a colleague about a bench-clearing brawl in Northern Michigan’s intrasquad game.
If you go back in the archives and retrieve the column, however, the segment is no longer there. That’s because USCHO could not vouch for the story’s reliability, so the segment was (correctly) removed.
But since some of you read the segment, you should also read a retraction. Consider that story to be of dubious credibility.
And if it was definitively false, my apologies to Northern Michigan.
And Finally, Not That It Has Anything To Do With Anything, But…
• For those who might be curious, this week’s column was originally to be titled “Forty Days And Forty Nights” and was going to begin:
And so it was that as the rains continued night and day, Hockey East Commissioner Joe Bertagna and Media Relations Director Noah Smith decided to build an ark so that all of Hockey East would not be washed away, never again to be remembered.
Then a terrible thing happened. It stopped raining. And the fantasy of a Hockey East Ark seemed dumber by the minute. (An aside: I find myself using the “dumber by the minute” phrase all too often these days.) All of which explains how I stumbled on the idea of the expansion draft…
• I usually can’t devote much time to college football, but what an unbelievable football game that was between Notre Dame and USC last weekend. My appreciation for Charlie Weis has me pulling for the Irish every weekend.
• It boggles the mind that the Red Sox haven’t signed Theo Epstein yet. The guy has been at the helm for three tremendously productive seasons, one of which resulted in the breaking of the curse, while simultaneously transforming the farm system from one of the worst in baseball to one of the best. Surely, it can’t be compensation, not when GMs cost less than a utility infielder. If the issue is interference by Larry Lucchino and Theo leaves, then Lucchino goes from being an interesting interview on WEEI to the Enemy himself. Theo should consult with ownership on money issues, as does any general manager, but baseball decisions should be his and not Lucchino’s. Exhibit A would be the trade Theo had in place with Colorado at the trading deadline only to have ownership pull the rug out from underneath him.
• The Patriots have certainly missed Tedy Bruschi, but we’ll all be holding our breath every time he’s involved in a big hit. Even knowing that he and his doctors have dotted every “i” and crossed every “t,” you still have to be nervous. Good luck, Tedy.
Thanks to Patrick C. Miller, Scott Weighart, Todd D. Milewski, Lindsey Ungar and Matthew Conyers.