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Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Hockey has reached the holiday break and thus the midpoint of the season with a good 13-4-1 record.

Michigan fans would probably be extremely happy if the signature weekend of the season, the College Hockey Showcase, had not been such an abject failure. Michigan was blown out 5-1 by Minnesota and didn't perform any better against Wisconsin, losing 3-1. The losses almost guarantee that UM will be behind the two WCHA powers at the end of the season if their records are similar, which means that Michigan can probably make their flight plans for somewhere in New England now.

A word on the grades: Overall I would give Michigan a B for their performance so far, so the grades should average out to about that. Grades are based on performance relative to expectations: I won't knock David Rohlfs for not being TJ Hensick.

On with the show.


TJ Hensick: Hensick leads the team in scoring and has made some absolutely spectacular plays. However, he was benched against Wisconsin for not playing sufficient defense. Hensick's been flying around all year, playing magnificently with 24 points in just 17 games. Several of his goals have been magnificent coast-to-coast rushes reminscent of Mike & Mike. A-. Should be a Hobey finalist.

David Moss: Moss is quietly fourth on the team in points with 5-12-17. He's an able two-way player and penalty killer, as well, and always seems to make the correct, safe play. Not the kind of player who will wow you with his skating, stickhandling, or shot, but is in the right place to make plays time and again. A real unsung hero of the team. A-.

Jeff Tambellini: After a tough sophomore year, Tambellini is back on track with an 8-13-21, +14 line through 18 games. He leads the team in plus minus and has unleashed his lethal shot with better effectiveness this year. Despite his statistical effectiveness, he hasn't seemed nearly as dangerous as he was as a freshman, rarely taking defenders wide with his incredible speed. He leads the team in shots by a wide margin with 80. B+. He's played very well, but is capable of dominating like TJ and hasn't.

Brandon Kaleniecki: Kaleniecki's gotten off to a slow start this year after starting last year on an absolute tear. He wasn't the most talented player on the team last year, but led the Wolverines in scoring anyway. This year he hasn't had nearly the same success, but still has a decent 5-4-9 line. B. He's done okay. He's been just as active as last year (62 shots, second to Tambellini) but not as lucky. Should see his production pick up in the second half.

Kevin Porter: Porter's the Hunwick of the forward corps: good in all areas, great in none. He's been effective both ways as a freshman, playing both the PK and PP and has 6 goals and 6 assists. He's not as offensively flashy as Kolarik but is the kind of forward that helps you win games. B+.

Chad Kolarik: The freshman has obvious offensive talent but needs to be introduced to the other end of the rink sometimes. He has 7 goals and 6 assists in 18 games, which is pretty good for a freshman who's not getting tons of time. However, he's just even on the season. B. Needs to get back with more fervor. Has the potential to break out offensively.

Milan Gajic: Gajic emerged as a steady performer midway through last year after two years of inconsistent, frustrating stick squeezing, and he's continued to perform as a senior. He's averaging a point per game with 8 goals and 10 assists so far, and he's even started to get a little physical, burying the occasional opponent he's found with his head down. Gajic finally looks comfortable. B. Scoring effectively but a team worst -1.

Andrew Ebbett: Ebbett's scored all of one even strength goal and two total, but has 15 points from setting up his teammates. His lack of goal scoring isn't from lack of trying, either: he has 43 shot. Dude just can't shoot. But he can pass. B.

David Rohlfs: Rohlfs isn't going to make many opportunities for himself or his teammates but won't kill you with mistakes, either. He's got 4 goals and 2 assists, only three penalties, and is +7 in his limited ice time. He may see more time in the second half of the season as Red tries to get the team's GAA down. B-. Yet to be seen whether he can handle an increased role.

Mike Brown: Brown's role is to run around causing havoc, killing penalties, and keeping the opponent off the scoreboard. He hasn't had a huge impact this year, with only four points. He's been hurt by the NCAA's extensive crackdown on anything resembling bodily contact, leading the team in penalties with 19, all minors. C+. Hasn't found the middle ground he needs to thrive. Hopefully the WJC can be a springboard for him.

Eric Nystrom: I don't think anyone expects Nystrom to be a huge scorer at this point in his career, and he hasn't been asked to fill that role this year. Berenson gave him the "C" and moved him to center on the checking line, where he's been okay. He has had several memorable penalty-killing shifts where he's singlehandedly killed 20 or 30 seconds by harassing and bothering opposing players in their own zone, but has only gotten 18 shots and 8 points all year. B. Getting killed on faceoffs and hasn't been the emotional force Jed Ortmeyer was but performing effectively in his role.

Jason Ryznar: Ryznar is healthy for the first time in a long time and has been a positive physical presence. Has a bit of Georges Laraque-syndrome where he'll dominate the puck along the boards for 30 or 40 seconds with his exceptional strength but not do much with it in the end. Strength combined with remarkable speed for a man his size makes him an effective penalty killer. B-. Would like to see more offense from him. Has all the tools to be a dominating player but just hasn't put it together.

Mike Woodford, Charlie Henderson: Neither player has seen much ice-time. Will be called upon for the GLI and to cover injuries the rest of the way out. Incomplete.


Eric Werner: Werner's been his usual self this year, a dynamic player with the puck on his stick and a bit of a loose cannon without it. His line reads 5-8-13, +6, respectable numbers. If you're looking for stay at home, stolid responsibility, you're not going to get it-Werner has been and always will be a riverboat gambler of a defenseman, plunging into the opponent's zone whenever space opens up or a puck pops loose. B+. A key cog in the powerplay and a reliable player in transtion who's learned to minimize his physical shortcomings.

Brandon Rogers: Rogers has been the team's best defenseman for a year and a half now. Rogers leads the defense and is second on the team with a +12. Mixes grit and skill effectively, always sticking up for his teammates in scrums. Second most reliable defensive defenseman behind Hunwick. B+. The team's #1 defenseman, not up to the Komisarek standard but playing well enough.

Matt Hunwick: Hunwick was just named the USCHO National Offensive Player of the Week for his 3-2-5 weekend against Bowling Green. Hunwick's not a masher or a banger but is an effective, reliable defenseman who is good to very good in all areas of the game but excellent in none. B+. Steadiest player on the team.

Tim Cook: Cook is beginning to settle in. He'll never be particularly mobile and can be exploited by small, quick opposing forwards, but he brings needed size to the Michigan blue line. Cook is an offensive nonfactor, with no points this season and only four shots, but is +7. B-. Effective in his role but lacks any sort of mean streak. Needs to up his physical play significantly.

Jason Dest: I can't reconcile what I see in Dest's play with his statistics. To my eyes, Dest has been a liability. He has been ineffectual in his own zone, turning the puck over frequently, failing to clear the zone when given the opportunity, and avoiding phsyical play at all costs. Offensively the numbers speak for themselves: one goal, one assist. But somehow he's accumulated a +10, third on the team behind Tambellini and Rogers. C-. It's hard to argue with the +/-, but I see what I see. He's been fortunate so far.

Nick Martens: Martens was the defenseman bumped out of the lineup after the Showcase to give Reilly Olson some run. Red is obviously not enthralled with his play, after he platooned with Tim Cook most of last year. Martens is a stay-at-home guy who will occasionally make a glaring error. C+. He's done okay; his benching was probably more of a sign of dissatisfaction with the whole team after the Showcase debacle instead of him personally.

Reilly Olson: Olson actually got on the ice for a couple games and played acceptably. He will be needed for the GLI and any subsequent games where one of the top six defenders can't go. Given Michigan's late-season injury luck of late, you can expect to see Olson on the ice in some critical games, perhaps even playoff ones. Incomplete.


Al Montoya: Montoya's save percentage is under 90%, which is absolutely unacceptable. Who was the last Michigan goalie to go through a season with a save percentage that low? Montoya has been allowing soft goals all year and has lacked focus in the first period over and over again. Michigan leads the nation in offense, and that's the main reason that Montoya hasn't come under more fire. D. Can't really be blamed for any of UM's losses, since they scored 2, 0, 1, and 1 goals in those games, but can be blamed for the 4-4 UNH tie. He has the ability. He needs to get his head out of his... er. Report card OVER!