Monday, March 15, 2010

State of the Union...

Harvard has ended its 2009-2010 Men's Hockey campaign with a demoralizing sweep at the hands of its arch-rival Cornell by a combined score of 8-1 in both games. This comes at the end of a brutal season and for this Harvard fan, probably the worst in recent memory, particularly given some of the expectations by fans, the media, and the coaches coming into the season.

Before we focus on the future (and there is much reason to be optimistic that I will get into later), let's talk about what went so horribly wrong for much of the season. Why did we see Harvard display its talent on such few occasions:

1) Conditioning - I would think that this would be a commodity at the D1 level, but what else could explain the colossal 3rd period collapses of this team (youth as well) that led to being outscored 49-32 in the 3rd period during the course of the year. Harvard gave up nearly half of its goals in the 3rd period. Yikes!!

2) Youth - Harvard was the youngest team in the ECAC, by far...particularly if you rank players by class (D1 experience) as opposed to age. Lots of guys simulataneously having to not only adjust to the rigors of college academics, but also the pace of D1 hockey - that is not a recipe for success. As we all know, ECAC and NCAA success is often predicated on the performances of the upper-classmen.

3) UpperClassmen Leveling out on the Improvement Spectrum - This is a very worrisome trend. Freshman and sophmores peaking early in their Harvard careers, and flat-lining during their Junior and Senior classes. There were many, many examples of this on this year's team. Is it the decision to focus more on academics and life after hockey? Is it frustration with the team and the system? Something else?

4) Coaching - This is the 2nd year in a row where Harvard has failed to earn a double-digit win total. Few would argue that Harvard does not have the talent to win. What is troubling is that lack of chemistry and the lack of systems that allow for players to come in and integrate into a well-honed system (See Cornell and its Left Wing Lock). I think next year is a make/break year for Harvard and if there is another performance like the last 2 years, the whispers will amplify.

5) Face-Offs - Harvard finsihed the year at a 45% clip which translates into a lack of puck-possession and the inability to create offensive-zone scoring opportunities.

6) Penalties - 302 -> 421 -> 459 ---These are the last 3 years of Penalty Minutes for the Crimson. Harvard was 17-13 in the 2007-2008 season. We know the results these last 2 seasons. This is a trend that MUST be reversed. This probably has direct implications on the 3rd period collapses - guys are dead in the 3rd period from killing penalties all game.

So, after 2 years of burying my head in my hands on Friday & Saturday nights during hockey season, why does this fan have reason to be optimistic. Well, the numbers don't lie:

  • Harvard returns 85% of its goals scored next season (70/82 for all of you quant folks out there)
  • Harvard returns 84% of its assists next season (109/132)
  • 6/7 Harvard's leading scorers are back (Doug Rogers is #7)

On the flip side, the major thing that give me pause is:

  • Harvard loses 3 of its Top 6 Defenseman. Next season's regulars will be Danny Biega, Chris Huxley, Ryan Grimshaw, and Brendan Rempel. The remaining 2 spots will be filled by (Dan Ford, Peter Starrett, and Dan Fick) - Harvard is going to be dangerously young and it will lack depth on its back line
  • Given that lack of depth, there are some available folks to provide much-needed depth (Brandon Russo at Salisbury comes to mind)

Expected line combinations assuming no late additions or early defections:


Killorn Leblanc Biega

Everson Morrison Fallstrom

McCollem Michaud Moriarty

Greiner Moore Kroshus

Extras: Valek, Bozoian, Coassin, DelMauro


Biega Starrett

Huxley Rempel

Ford Grimshaw

Extra: Fick

I welcome your thoughts and comments and hope to generate some healthy discussion as we look forward to the 2010-2011 season which will hopefully reflect a vast improvement from this past season!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Fick is probably the best addition the team could get, no one on earth skates like he does. Talent, drive, attitude and effort is all there.