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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

This not good. Baseball coach Rich Maloney has been interviewed for the Tennessee job and is reportedly considering it. This is not good. For those unfamiliar with college baseball, it was controversial when only five SEC teams made the tournament this year. Meanwhile, the three the Big Ten sent (and the Vanderbilt upset) was an improbably excellent year for the Big Ten. This is sort of like hiring John L. Smith away from a then Conference USA Louisville to coach at a midlevel Big Ten program. Except Maloney is not likely to implode like John L (not that anyone outside of Charles Mason is likely to do so).

The Daily has the most useful article on the potential departure since they caught up to star pitcher/DH Zach Putnam for some quotes. Most relevant:

“For me, personally, Coach Maloney was a large part of why I decided to come here,” Putnam said. ”Part of it had to do with being from Ann Arbor, but I’d say that the deciding factor was definitely Coach. I know some of the recruits, but not on a personal level, so it’s hard for me to say what it was that attracted them to Michigan - but I would think that the head coach leaving would definitely leave some questions on their minds.”
Money probably isn't a major issue. The Daily article...
The Volunteers fired head coach Rod Delmonico after 18 years, three College World Series appearances and a 699-396 record. He will be paid the final three years of his salary for a total of $430,000. This could mean that Maloney, who earns $98,000 per year at Michigan, could see a significant pay increase if he decides to go to Tennessee.
...thinks otherwise, but Maloney is due a significant bump after leading Michigan to its most successful season since Barry Larkin was stroking line drives instead of playing Marcelo Balboa in the booth. $136,000 / 3 years - meaningful bump for successful season == piddling chump change for athletic department w/ multi-million dollar surplus this year.

What it will come down to is the AD's commitment to make Michigan the sort of program that can seriously threaten for Omaha and national championships. The eleven million dollar renovation of the Fish is a good sign; the failure to bid on a super-regional is not.

Regrettably sports-talk-radio-ish soapbox: it's imperative that Martin does what he needs to do to keep Maloney around. College baseball is on the upswing. Major league teams now prefer their kids to have three years of college seasoning. ESPN is now broadcasting the super-regionals and pushing the CWS as a major programming event in the otherwise dead days of late June. A uniform start date, newly implemented for next year, will help level the playing field a bit for northern teams. The Big Ten has become downright mildly respectable in recent years. There is a real opportunity for Michigan to add a fourth major program to football, hockey, and, uh, basketball, but not if they let a potential Bo/Berenson walk. This is a Texas A&M moment for the baseball program; Bill Martin, step forth into the breach and commit. This is not a guy you let go.

Two years ago I only vaguely knew of the baseball program's existence. A week ago I was crushed when a guy named Wong broke up a no-hitter in the bottom of the ninth. (mutter mutter stupid Wong.) When I can watch a baseball game and think to myself "this stabbing pain in my temple reminds me of football... I need a drink" this is progress. Continue progressing.

NHL draft-o-rama. WCH points out an epic NHL draft preview that features three incoming recruits and one current Wolverine. In order of ranking:
16. RW Max Pacioretty, 6-2 205 11-20-1988, Sioux City USHL, 52 gp – 19 g – 36 a – 55 points.
++ Vision and play making
+ Size, top gear, work ethic, hands
- questionable finishing ability.

The best forward available for the 2007 draft out of the USHL and deserves a selection in the first round for his intriguing blend of size, speed, and play making ability . He owns a power forwards body at 6-2 205 with long limbs and strong lower and upper body strength. He’s sturdy on his feet and shows good footwork to fend off checks as well as impressive leg strength. Displays decent agility with good stops and starts. His first step is a bit awkward but once he gains momentum he has a commanding stride as he can really fly with a superb top gear. Pacioretty’s hands are soft with some impressive quick moves. He’s strong on his stick and covers the puck well with his big frame. He’s blessed with exceptional vision and impressive creativity as he emerges as a gifted play maker. Max can thread the needle with a crisp pass through a small lane and displays good touch as he can execute a nifty saucer pass in limited space. He owns a quick shot with good velocity and a quick release, although accuracy still needs to be upgraded as he gets his shots on net but doesn’t pick corners. He does a good job stopping at the net for rebounds and is a useful big body in front to create traffic in front of the goaltender. He began to use his size more away from the puck late in the season. He tracks the puck well as he anticipates the play well and maintains good positioning at both ends of the ice. Pacioretty back checks adequately and marks his man well as he’s a decent two way player. Can get feisty at times but isn’t a power forward. Will attend the University of Michigan next fall.
Next is USHL sniper Aaron Palushaj:
47. RW Aaron Palushaj, 6-0 185, 9-7-1989, Des Moines USHL 56 gp – 22 g – 45 a – 67 points.
++ Ability to finish or create near the net in heavy traffic
+ Long reach with soft hands and can stick handle through traffic.
- Skating, inconsistent effort, poor defensive play.

Palushaj is a team player who communicates positively with coaches and teammates that will do the dirty work for his linemates and displays good body language on the bench. His skating needs improvement as his first few strides lack power and appear sluggish and his turns can be sloppy but with his superb anticipation and economical approach he gets where he needs to and can slip around the opposition. Is as dangerous as they come from within 15-feet of the net. He has a long reach, is a patient puckhandler with soft, quick hands that can really dangle and can make something out of nothing in heavy traffic using the toe drag to slip off the opposition. Scores many goals with his willingness to get his nose dirty. Has a knack for pouncing on loose rebounds using his quick release to finish and displays hunger, bears down and finishes his chances. He can also make a deft pass through heavy traffic and can draw the opposition and execute a creative pass with defenders draped all over him. Aaron shields the puck well and can maintain possession allowing his teammates to get open. Ever improving defensively, it just has not come full circle yet as he needs to backcheck harder and leaves the defensive zone too early but picks up his man well and will come down low to help. Palushaj pursues the puck adequately, clogs passing lanes, and maintains proper positioning. He handles traffic well and is very effective battling along the board. He fits the mold of a real offensive threat if he fixes his skating concerns. Palushaj had a phenomenal playoff in which he displayed that he can elevate his game in the critical moments and that there is more upside to him. Aaron will play for Michigan next fall.
You probably won't believe who's next. No, seriously.
74. D Steven Kampfer, 5-11 200, 9-24-1989, Michigan NCAA 35 gp – 1 g – 3 a – 4 points.
++ Poise, vision, hockey sense
+ Skill
- Does nothing special.

Plays a mature two-way game that goes unnoticed by the untrained eye but he’s the type of reliable defenseman that the more you see of him the more you like. He’s mobile with exceptional lateral mobility and a strong stride heading forward. He sees the ice well and distributes the puck crisply. Possesses underrated skill that shines through every so often, and it is something that should be on display more next season with increased ice time. His defensive positioning is impressive and he can skate with anyone making him a formidable one-on-one defender. He’s not a big guy, but is sturdy on his feet and can land the odd nice open-ice body check. Steven is a smart player with superb two-way awareness. While he’s not a first-round prospect he definitely deserves to be drafted before the mid-rounds.
...really? I've watched a lot of kids wander through the Michigan program and the ones who stood out as potential NHLers didn't spend half their freshman year on the bench because they were turnover machines. Last, a guy who many thought would end up rated much, much higher:
97. D Tristin Llewellyn, 6-1 195, 5-2-1989, Tri-City USHL
++ Physical defensive game, confidence
+ Character, untapped upside
- Decision making without the puck.

At one point Tristin was a phenom in the American Hockey system as a possible top 5 pick in this years draft as he was playing in the USHL at the age of 15. Playing against players up to five years older then himself stunted Tritin’s development and now he’s a mid to late round pick. He likes to stand up his man at the blue and for the most part does an effective job but he does caught flat footed every now and then, as he can be beaten to the outside. He usually maintains a tight gap and takes the proper angle to his man before standing him up with a nice body check. Can get too aggressive seeking the open ice hit but that presence he brings is a plus. Skating is in need of improvement as he lacks that initial burst forwards or backwards and his turns are a bit choppy although his feet are adequate. His composure with the puck has improved and he makes a strong first pass. He makes good decisions with the puck for the most part but his decision making without the puck is the question mark. He uses a long stick and has adequate hands and escape moves. He was sensing danger better by the end of the season. He possesses a heavy shot but he must improve his shot selection as he’ll force shots into traffic.
As noted on the sidebar, Pacioretty went in the first round of both TSN and Redline mock drafts. Yost Built found this gem of a quote in an article on "Patches" (I am leery of calling a power forward by a nickname more suited for a one-eyed teddy bear):
...models his game after his favorite player New York Rangers’ forward Jed Ortmeyer “because he does all the little things right in both ends of the ice"...
I love the guy already. If the Kings take him and sign him I will collapse in a sobbing heap before planning my terrible revenge. (There is also this Hockey's Future article.)

Side note: nine of TSN's first round are college or college-bound; at least nine of Redline's are, and this is with the unfortunate defections of Sam Gagner and Patrick Kane (ack) to the OHL. Actually, this first round is one of recruiting pain, largely. There's Kane, who many people considered a very good bet for Michigan, and defenders Kevin Shattenkirk, Ian Cole, Nick Petrecki, and Brendan Smith, any of whom would look awesome next to Quick and Llewellyn. It would be reassuring to have some more high-end talent in a year of major transition on the blueline.

BCHL center Ben Winnett is also likely to go fairly early. HF rated him the fourth-best prospect in his league recently:

4. Ben Winnett, LW
2006/07 Team: Salmon Arm
2007/08 Team: University of Michigan
6'0, 173 lbs.
DOB: 4/3/89 Shoots: Right
NHL Central Scouting final ranking: 90th among North American skaters

Winnett went into this season in many books as the No. 2 prospect behind Turris, but injuries and surprising performances but other players in the league likely moved him back a few spots. Winnett appeared in just 39 regular season games, but put up very strong numbers including 27 goals and 30 assists in that time. He also added 10 points in 11 playoff games.

The 6’1, 180 lbs winger uses his speed to create chances and beat opposing defenders to the outside. He is an effective attacking player with the ability to control the puck at top speed. At this point his defensive game is very limited and he will need to get a little bigger throughout his collegiate career.

Winnett has committed to the University of Michigan after spending two years with Salmon Arm. Winnett is expected to be a fourth or fifth-round pick. He is a higher risk prospect because it is unlikely that he will effectively convert to a role player in the professional ranks. Winnett is an offensive player who could develop
into a second liner scorer, but it will take a number of years.
FWIW, on the multifarious and neverending mock drafts that go on at HF's boards Winnett is consistently going at the end of the third or beginning of the fourth. The thread that article spawned also had a couple interesting posts:
When the Silverbacks came to Langley, I was much more impressed with Winnett than Nash, but that's just a personal opinion. I thought Winnett was a bit more assertive on the puck and had a lot of tenacity in his game.
"Nash" is Cornell recruit Riley, a guy who is projected at the top of the second. In response:
Winnett is definitely the more impressive looking guy on the ice (compared to Nash). But my understanding is that teams absolutely love the well-roundedness and simplicity of what Nash does on his ice. He's been described as simply being years ahead of most players his age in that regard.

From all accounts, Winnett projects better as a college player than he does a pro. It may be a little much to compare him to Hensick, who lasted until the third round his draft year, but he slots into that draft sweet spot where kids are talented but teams are content to let them develop for three or four years.

St. Michael's Buzzer Louie Caporusso will also go somewhere in the middle to late rounds. "Ferjo" on HF posts in any threads that mention the OPJHL and had this to offer:
I'd take Louie Caporusso late second, or early third, but he will probably be a sixth or seventh round pick. he's a bit like Mike Comrie.

He's only about 5'10, and while a very good skater, could be a bit quicker for someone of that size. built well, great hands, and a rocket of a shot. Good penalty killer, forechecks, backchecks, and great on the powerplay. had trouble earlier in his career at entering the "danger zones", but he seems more willing to take a beating now. the fact that he's heading to Michigan should be a plus as well.
A bit like Mike Comrie? I'll take three. He also provided this on Caporusso in a previous post:
14. Louie Caporusso, St Mikes Buzzers (Jr. A) 150 - 200
5'9, though very strong and a great shot. also attractive because he is heading to Michigan. an unbelievable release, hes almost unstoppable in the offensive zone. Probably has better skills than Ex-Buzzer Andrew Cogliano, though comes nowhere close to matching his skating ability.
NTDP center Matt Rust, meanwhile, has a chance of going late.

Etc.: BTN confirms App State game is exiled; Slate has an article on the crappy USMNT unis; woe unto copy editors.