Thursday, September 07, 2006

Quasi-Pundit Prognostications

There have been very few seasons since I've been a Seawolves fan (1984) that I wasn't optimistic at this time of year. I always like to think that just about anything is possible. A favorable combination of circumstances and who knows what could happen? The consensus among the usual internet crowd is that UAA will finish at or very near the bottom. But then, that's the word every year; isn't it? We're used to that in Alaska on virtually every aspect of this place. It's a long way from the rest of the world and sometimes people just don't do their homework. The Seawolves have finished down there often enough though to, in general, warrant such predictions from outside. Naturally, I differ with the quasi-pundit prognosticators (nothing new in that). Here's why:

Coach Shyiak understands what is needed to compete with "the big boys". His years at Northern Michigan include coaching through heated high intensity rivalries with top D-1 programs. A single year behind the bench certainly isn't enough time to turn a program around in the WCHA (4-5 years minimum) but it is enough time for him to get a good feel for the right direction. He knows what sort of system's will work and won't work with the team he has. He's to be congratulated on bringing in a new staff with great credentials who bring their wealth of experience from other top D-1 programs; they'll have an immediate impact. In the hackneyed words of long suffering low paid small town newspaper reporters across America ... He's been around the racetrack before and shouldn't be underestimated.

There isn't a player on the squad that doesn't want to be there. Three regular players that didn't want to be here left. From the freshmen excited to skate their first D-1 shift all the way to the Senior class, they all want to be here. This years team will have perhaps the best overall attitude coming into the season since John Hill's first year. And they got to the Final Five that year. A good attitude should grow into some confidence. Confidence and a belief that the team can win are always huge factors. This is as (my friend and frequent commenter here) "Suze" calls it the "Will can defeat skill" argument. And she's right.

There's enough defensive talent and experience (by that I mean that these players would succeed on the rink at any other WCHA school). When Nathan Lawson was a freshman at UAA I called him the most talented goaltender in the WCHA. And that hasn't changed. He still is. There is every reason to expect that Nate "The Great" (I heard Lawson prefers that nickname but ya know what ... I like "The Law" better) is going to do everything he can do to make his Junior year his best. If he does it could very well mean an offer next season from the professional ranks that might be good enough for him to take. But I've said enough about "The Law" because I'm superstitious about writing about goaltenders. Seriously, I am. Look back through this blog. You won't find me pontificating as much about Nathan as I do about other players. Nothing against him ... Olthuis will get the same from me. Mark Smith and Luke Beaverson are proven defensive veteran talent. Luke came into his own the second half of last season and and along with Chad Anderson brings a lot of size on that end of the ice. They'll rule their zone this season. And I'd bet dollars to donuts that Mark Smith will get an All-WCHA nod this season. And oh yeah ... Lovdahl's got a rocket.

The Seawolves will have a better "goals for/goals against" ratio than they've had in a decade. Beagle, Waldrop and Tarkir will put up good numbers. Kronschnabel and Bourne will regain respectable numbers and some balanced scoring throughout the rest of the lineup will be the ticket; along with a defensive effort that will yield close to a 1 goal per game decrease from last season.

That's why they won't finish in the basement.


Anonymous said...

i think clark and lunden will have an immediate impact in the lineup and should contribute to the offense althought they are freshman.

Donald said...

I think that is a possibility but I hate to deviate from trying to not have expectations for freshman.

Even if all the freshman just fill a role then UAA won't finish as low. If a couple of them shine ... then a higher finish will be possible/probable.

Anonymous said...

UAA has suffered far too long from not having anyone show up consistently for an entire year. Maybe last year was just a blip with players trying to adjust to Shyiaks way. This year we have kids that will have no "baggage" when they get here and let's hope they are hungry for success. Mike

Donald said...

That a clear difference from last year. I hoped that last year would be similar to Hill's first year. But I greatly underestimated the situation. When Talafous left, there didn't seem to be a single player that wasn't "glad" to see a new coach. But it's clear to me now that a contingent of players from last years squad were at least partially loyal to the the coach that recruited them and couldn't find a way to mesh with the new coach. And as you say ... there's none of that baggage this year.

Will said...

The start of a new year for the Seawolves and if you are a diehard fan you have to be optimistic and think the guys will do well this year. Where they finish in the standings depends on whether this team believes they can win, learn to win and then play to win every game. Coach Shyiak needs to get the guys to shoot the puck. Shots on goal - UAA 21; Visitors 45, just won't win games for the Seawolves.

Donald said...

I don't know if I can take sitting in the stands listening to fans yell "SHOOT" all night long ... so these guys better be firing the puck at the net every possible chance this year.

Anonymous said...

DTP, wow ~ you must sit in a very well-behaved section of the Sully if they say "shoot"!

The section I sit in, it's more like *&%$#@!*^# !!


Another great article BTW!!


Suze said...

I heard the players have a great attitude this year and are working their butts off to get ready for the season.

You're right, all the players who are here WANT to be here. I did hear that Jolly didn't return to school, but he was a walk-on, so there are many possible reasons why he didn't return.

I hope the players buy into Shyiak's offense, and Blair's defense. Drop the puck already!

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