Northeastern, like first-year coach Madigan, trying to catch up

Northeastern’s first-year head coach Jim Madigan uses the word whirlwind to describe the last eight weeks of his life. Named the replacement for Greg Cronin late in the summer, Madigan has done everything in his power just to try to get acclimated.

“I finally feel like we’re getting into a routine,” Madigan said. “The last few weeks, things have come together and getting on the ice is the most important thing.”

It’s no surprise that Madigan’s shift from academic administrator and fundraiser at Northeastern to the school’s head hockey coach is a bit of a dramatic jump. Add to it that Madigan was the last of the three head coaches appointed in Hockey East — his unveiling coming months after Norm Bazin and Nate Leaman took over at Massachusetts-Lowell and Providence, respectfully. It’s easy to feel like you’re behind the 8-ball.

But Madigan takes his new role in stride and does so with enthusiasm. He’s realistic that offense might be a problem, having lost the team’s top three scorers from a season ago to graduation. Still, Madigan seems confident his team will be competitive.

“Although it doesn’t look like there is a lot of offense [returning], there’s a lot of offensive capability,” said Madigan. “I’m looking for us to generate a little more offense that what people may think.”

If there will be one challenge for Madigan, it will be plugging any holes left by either graduation or early departure with his freshman class. The mid-summer shakeup created when Cronin left the program led a number of recruits to decommit and, as was well publicized, led Jamie Oleksiak, the school’s first-ever first-round NHL draft pick, to leave school.

“When Coach Cronin announced that he was leaving, there were four players who decommitted and didn’t come,” said Madigan. “Then we lost Jamie Oleksiak after the draft. But we’re not complaining about our numbers. We have a good group of players here.”

About the Huskies

2010-11 overall record: 14-16-8

2010-11 HEA record: 10-10-7 (sixth)

2011-12 predicted finish (coaches poll): Eighth

Key losses: Forwards Wade MacLeod, Tyler McNeely, Steve Silva and Brodie Reid; defensemen Jamie Oleksiak and Mike Hewkin

Players to watch: Goaltender Chris Rawlings; forwards Mike McLaughlin, Rob Dongara and Steve Quailer; defensemen Anthony Bitetto and Luke Eibler

Impact rookie: Defenseman Josh Manson

Why the Huskies will finish higher than the coaches poll: Goaltender Chris Rawlings could carry this team a lot further than people expect.

Why the Huskies will finish lower than the coaches poll: The transition from one head coach to another often results in taking a step backward before moving forward.