Rarely has a team won a national championship in recent years only to return the next season nearly entirely intact.
In the case of Boston College, that is the ultimate luxury heading into the 2010-11 campaign.
After BC’s dominant postseason run culminated with the national title last April in Detroit, many wondered if the Eagles might face the fate of national champions of the past.
After BC’s title in 2001, which ended a 52-year drought for the storied program, there was a mass exodus of players. The same held true for the 2007-08 team that beat Notre Dame for the national title.
Not surprisingly, the following seasons were nightmares for BC coach Jerry York. Since 1998, the only two times that BC missed the NCAA tournament were the seasons following the national title.
Don’t expect that to be the same this year. Unlike champions of the past, the Eagles lost only their graduating seniors. Thus, if the Eagles miss the national tournament this season, something will have definitely gone wrong.
“This [summer] we had four players who all could have signed NHL contracts,” York said. “They all kind of got together and said, ‘Let’s give it one more good run here.'”
That run will be paced by a team with few holes. From goaltending, where BC returns arguably two No. 1 netminders in John Muse and Parker Milner; to defense, where four veterans will man the Eagles blue line; to forwards, where all five of the team’s top scorers return, including two 50-point scorers in Cam Atkinson and Brian Gibbons, it’s hard to find any chinks in this club’s armor.
If there is a chink in the armor, it could simply be mental. Remaining level-headed when the expectations of the world are on you is often the biggest challenge. The last two national championships for the Eagles came in seasons where they were never thought to be the team. Neither year did they win the regular season Hockey East title; neither year were they the top seed in the NCAA tournament.
This year will be different. The Eagles will have targets on their backs from day one, and rightfully so.
Including Atkinson (30 goals, 23 assists, 53 points) and Gibbons (16-34-50), seven players last season reached double digits in goals. Six of them return.
But if you think that the Eagles will enter this campaign overconfident with all of this firepower, think again.
“There are always outside influences [on a team’s success],” York said. “But I haven’t seen any complacency at all. After teams win, no one has had a terrific year the next year since Minnesota (2002, 2003) and Denver (2004, 2005). Our guys feel they could do something very special here — win three national titles in four years.”