Using Your Bean

I know I’ve been on the quiet side since the calendar turned to 2009, but the folks at the New York Daily News have certainly been keeping me busy. But then, that leads me to my subject for today…

Yesterday, I had the chance to go over to the MSG Training Center and talk Beanpot with Chris Drury. The BU alum and New York Rangers captain will be inducted into the Beanpot Hall of Fame on Monday, and with good reason: he was part of the first Terrier class to win four Beanpots, and was MVP of the 1996 tournament.

By the way, one thing you’ll read in that Daily News article I linked is that BU head coach Jack Parker thinks Drury should have been MVP in 1998 as well, although Tom Poti won the honor. Of course, Drury took home a much bigger individual honor in 1998, becoming BU’s only winner of the Hobey Baker, which is, of course, the award we’re most interested in on this blog.

When I was on Hockey On Campus this week with Bernie Corbett and Paul McNamara, I mentioned something I found a little surprising: only two Hobey Baker winners from Beanpot schools won the Beanpot in the year they won the Hobey. The other is 1989 winner Lane MacDonald of Harvard. Mark Fusco, Scott Fusco, David Emma and Mike Mottau were all eluded by the Beanpot in their big years. 

Of course, given the way we talk about BU’s dominance in the Beanpot, and the fact that the Terriers have produced only one Hobey winner, maybe it shouldn’t be that surprising. But the fact is, half of the Beanpots have been won by someone other than the Terriers, and it would make sense if those were won by a team that had the best player in the country that year.

So, one would think that a big performance in the Beanpot wouldn’t really mean much in terms of the Hobey race, right?

Not so fast, there.

For whatever you may think of the Beanpot – and this means you, western fans who complain about all the attention it gets – the fact of the matter is that the eyes of the college hockey world will be on TD Banknorth Garden on Monday night. That wasn’t really the case when the Fuscos and even Dave Emma won the Hobey, as even though the Beanpot was the only game in town, we didn’t have the same kind of satellite coverage available, so that just about anyone with a digital sports package can watch the Beanpot.

That makes the Beanpot a tremendous opportunity for the Hobey contenders at the Beanpot schools to get noticed in a way that goes beyond word of mouth and statistics.

And as it happens, we have several Hobey contenders in the field this year, and they could all stand to benefit from a big night or two at TD Banknorth Garden (or, as I still like to call it, the KurtCenter).

Brock Bradford from BC and Colin Wilson from BU have both been part of the Hobey conversation from the get-go, but there’s no denying that both could use a boost. Bradford has slipped off his pace since a hot start, with nine points in his last 12 games. That lands him outside the top 10 scorers in the country, and a big night or two at the Beanpot could get him right back into the top 10 in dramatic fashion, with a performance that would stick in the minds of Hobey voters.

Wilson, meanwhile, is the nation’s No. 5 scorer, but could use a goal or two. At the moment, Wilson has nine goals as part of his 30 points. That puts him on pace for 14 goals by the end of the regular season, and 16 if BU plays five postseason games. The fewest goals ever by a Hobey winner at forward was 17, by the first Hobey winner, Neal Broten, and he averaged close to two points a game in his Hobey season. Obviously, this is a different era, but if Wilson – or Quinnipiac’s Bryan Leitch, for that matter – is to have a real shot at the Hobey, 20 goals is probably a must.

Northeastern goalie Brad Thiessen hasn’t been part of the Hobey conversation as much as he probably should be – the insane performamance being put on by Ben Scrivens at Cornell has crowded other goalies out of the conversation somewhat – but that .939 save percentage and 1.90 GAA have been keys to the Huskies’ breakout season. The spotlight will be on him against BC on Monday, and if he can deliver and put the Huskies in the final, it’ll be a major feather in his cap, to say nothing of what will happen if he brings that ever-elusive fifth Beanpot back to Matthews Arena.

Finally, BU co-captain Matt Gilroy definitely merits a mention, because he’s definitely the sort of player who can benefit from the spotlight of the Beanpot. Gilroy has 15 points in 24 games for the Terriers, which puts him second on the BU blueline corps in points per game (by a nose to Kevin Shattenkirk). Now, the fact of the matter is that “better than his numbers” does not a Hobey winner make. However, Gilroy is definitely worth keeping an eye on as a finalist for the award, in a similar vein to former St. Lawrence defenseman Drew Bagnall.

Bagnall averaged 0.64 points a game as a senior at St. Lawrence, but his value to the Saints in the 2006-07 season went far beyond his numbers. You can say the same thing for Gilroy, whose leadership and defesneive play have been keys to the Terriers’ success. I doubt that Gilroy’s play this season has done anything to make those 23 NHL teams he famously turned down glad they didn’t get him, and he should be able to show his complete game on Monday against Harvard.

Of course, there’s much more going on on Monday than jockeying in the Hobey race, but we should definitely have some things to keep an eye on when the puck drops at the KurtCenter.