Friday, March 20, 2009

End of Season Report Cards

This will not be some sort of even handed objective comparison. Grades given will be subjective and take into consideration the player's history as well as my expectations. In other words, like everything else around here ... it's how I see it. Doesn't mean that comments aren't welcome; in this case they're encouraged.

So ... in alphabetical order:

August Aiken: B
After joining the team in mid-season August dressed and skated in 19 games. He tallied 2 goals in those games. More importantly, August showed he will grow into a valuable offensive asset. He was never shy about shooting the puck and many of those shots proved dangerous. August has real good wheels. The only negative to mention is that intermittently he wasn't in the best place on the ice. That's to be expected in the first half of a freshman player's season. 99% of freshman aren't going to get an A from me at the midpoint of their freshman season.

Nils Backstrom: A+
Without a doubt Nils had his best year in a Seawolf sweater. He filled the role of a lockdown defenseman all season and had one of the top +/- ratings. He didn't let his defensive responsibilities limit smart offensive forays and he was rewarded with tying for the highest goal total among UAA blueliners. In his own half of the ice though, Nils was MONSTER-good. From using his speed to catch-up to a break, clearing the front of the net or winning the puck in the corner Nils was excellent.

Brian Bales: B+
Brian missed out on an A grade for only one reason. You have to score more than one goal to get an A. I think he was a bit snakebit when it came to scoring. Brian is a natural playmaker and as such always looks to pass. He hit an ungodly number of posts which was reminiscent of Merit Waldrops career here. Brian's defensive work ethic (particularly in the neutral zone) was outstanding all year long. His skills were shifted around a bit from line to line during the season. I thought he played his best hockey with Kevin Clark and Josh Lunden.

Jeff Carlson: Incomplete
Unfortunately for Jeff, UAA's defensive lineup this season was a tough nut to crack. Jeff filled in on a couple of occassions at forward but only dressed for 5 games. It's almost impossible to fairly evaluate him based on his limited appearances. I haven't seen any particular weaknesses in his game. His history as the leading blueline scorer in the NAHL tells me he should be more than capable.

Bryce Christianson: B+
Inconsistency was the defining factor in the first half for Seawolf goaltending. Sharing time equally with Jonny O, Bryce never established any great difference between him and his goaltending partner. But once the staff made the decision Bryce stepped up spectacularly. Not only was he solid. He was crazy good at times. Bryce's abilities with the puck on his stick are a clear asset and he utilized those abilities well. He'll be the number 1 going into next season. And if he plays the way we saw him play at the end of the season then the Seawolves won't have to worry about goaltending.

Kevin Clark: A
I didn't give Kevin an A+ only because I believe he wouldn't give himself one. He had an VERY strong run over the last 8 games where he played at his absolute highest intensity for every moment he was on the ice. The result was 7 goals and 3 assists during those games and a WCHA Offensive Player of the Week award after lighting up Duluth for 4 goals and 2 assists during UAA's regular season ending sweep. Kevin's usual modus operandi includes being a major pain in the ass for anyone he's on the ice against. He is a pest in the best tradition of Ken Linseman but with better offensive tools. Occassionally, Kevin takes a selfish penalty.

Paul Crowder: A+
How can I give Paul anything less than an A+? I couldn't. And it has nothing to do with him earning a shot to play for the Rangers. Paul made every player who skated on a line with him a better hockey player during all three years he played here. It's a bit of bummer that he won't be back for his senior year. But that doesn't take away any of the shine from the past 3 years. I'd have to say that by a smidgen Paul was the best all-around player on the team this season. I think the guy has eyes in the back of his head.

Tommy Grant: A-
Tommy had a super-soph year. He spent a long time at the top of the WCHA scorers list until the late middle part of the year. He developed a good chemistry with linemate Paul Crowder and benefitted greatly from it. His team leading 15 goals speaks as much to Crowder's abilities as it does his own. Tommy has a sharp release on his shots. His shoulder injury late in the season seemed to affect his confidence upon his return. In 7 games prior to his injury he scored 7 goals. After his injury he was limited to one goal in his final four games.

Nick Haddad: B
Only production kept Nick from a higher grade. His effort was A+ all season and he was a much more effective player this season than his first year. Nick utilized his size exceptionally well this season. Filling a role on the checking line kept his numbers from being higher perhaps. He is an intimidating looking force when charging hard up the ice and next year bodes very well for him in the green and gold. Nick did have chances that we would all like to see him finish. That's the crux of the reason I gave him a B.

Trevor Hunt: A-
Trevor had his best season in a Seawolf sweater this season. Buoyed with obvious confidence from the coaching staff, Trevor hit the ice running and never looked back. He tied with Nils Backstrom for the most goals by a blueliner. His rink long rushes with the puck became more and more effective during the season. He improved DRAMATICALLY at the point on the power play. In past seasons, pucks often got past him but that didn't happen nearly as often this year. I think Trevor can improve his play in his own end so I only gave him an A- because of that.

Kane Lafranchise: A
As the season progressed Kane's presence on the ice became more and more apparent. In fact, I'd say he became a force to be reckoned with. He is exceptionally smooth in so many aspects of his game. He is fast as can be but rarely had to show it since his postional play was so solid. His passing is always sharp. His head is always up. By the end of his senior season I'd expect we'll all be relishing the fact that he lived up to his surname. There's no real knock against him keeping him from being an A+ in my book but since he's just a sophomore I wanted to leave room for growth. Kane has all skills necessary to gain some league honors over the next couple of seasons.

Curtis Leinweber: A-
From the first moment I saw him hit the ice in the preseason Wasilla game, I knew Curtis was a stud. With a couple of dings that kept him off the ice there was perhaps a little bit of inconsistency in his play. But hey ... he's a freshman. His potential upside is unlimited though. I mentioned at some point during the season that I thought he was a bit over-excited a couple of times. Managing that enthusiasm is perhaps the one thing he needs to work on. His skills with the puck and his speed will take care of the rest. Curtis has the potential to be the most productive UAA defenseman ever.

Shane Lovdahl: A
Maturity and steadiness were the two biggest factors for Shane this past season. He filled whatever role he was asked to fill and did it 100%. He had stints at wing, center and defense in all situations. Shane killed penalties, skated on the power play and always gave his best. Coach Shyiak wasn't ever a fan of Shane's skating abilities but he wouldn't disagree if I said that Shane's soft hands made up for any lack of jets.

Josh Lunden: A-
Finishing the season with the 2nd highest goal total on the team ought to rate an "A" instead of the A- I've given Josh. But he only matched his total from his sophomore season. If he'd nabbed 15 goals instead of 14 then perhaps I'd have raised his grade to a full A. Josh has to be one of the "got to" guys on the team in terms of scoring. The team's success depends on it. The junior year in school can be very tough. Schoolwork gets a bit more intense as a junior so perhaps that kept him from increasing his production on the ice.

Tyler Moir: B
Tyler opened the season with a game winning goal against UConn. Little did I know that he wouldn't match that production over the course of the season. He sure didn't look like he wasn't going to score. Tyler filled a crucial role for most of the season on the 3rd line. He was often called upon to play a defensive role and his +4 rating over the course of the year shows he learned that part of the college game well. It can be a tough road in the WCHA for a freshman but Tyler adapted quickly and should turn into a dependable goal scorer when given the opportunity.

Jon Olthuis: B
Jonny O proved what he is capable of doing between the pipes over the last few games he played. He was nothing less than stellar. Unfortunately, his play in the first half of the season was a bit inconsistent and we never really saw him stand on his head. It seemed that after Bryce was named #1 that Jon decided he had something to prove. He proved it to me. If he hadn't played so well in his last few games I would have given him a C+.

Craig Parkinson: B+
I thought Craig had an up and down year. His obvious strength was his ability to win faceoffs and he used whatever tactic he could to do so. That skill earned him the + onto the B. But his finishing was streaky. He had two long stretches without a point including no production in the last 10 games. Craig played most of the season on the top two lines and clearly has the necessary skills to continue in the top six. He matched his output from his freshman season with 7 goals; his production however must increase in the future.

Jade Portwood: B
Along with Tyler Moir, Jade was a key cog in the cycle game for the Seawolves this past year. Jade showed some potential to be the next Paul Crowder in my opinion. He has the size and strength to possess the puck and control play deep in the offensive zone. If there was any player on the team that deserved more goals I'd say it was Jade. Down the stretch he was inches away from providing game winning goals against more than one team. His shorthanded play was exceptional I thought. I leaned heavily toward a B+ but instead left room for growth. If he doesn't tally double digits in goals next year I'll be surprised.

Mat Robinson: A+
Mat was often the fuel for the Seawolf engine this season. I really don't know if there was anything that he could have done better. I guess he could have found the back of the net more often but with everything else he brought to bear that wouldn't be a fair criticism. His ability to carry the puck was a strength all year long. He keyed so many rushes and set up so much in the offensive end it was sometimes difficult to realize that his job was also to keep the other team from scoring. His team leading +11 rating though tells that story well. Mat was the clearest team leader this season. Though his captaincy was stripped for whatever happened in Denver at the end of January he continued to lead on the ice.

Ken Selby: B-
I've been a fan of Ken Selby since day one. I've often complained here about his lack of playing time. This season he dressed for 23 games which is more than his first two years combined. He was often called upon to "fill in" for injuries and that led to some inconsistency in his play. I'd love to see Ken find a permanent spot on one of the top two lines. It's been commented here that he lacks hockey sense and since the first time I read that I watched him specifically looking for such signs. I don't want to blame him specifically for looking confused or being out of position from time to time since he hasn't ever played consistently enough to make such a judgement fair but ... he did look out of place often enough to warrant the B-. Sometimes a player and a coach just don't meld. I think that is the unfortunate situation for Ken and Shyiak.

Jeremy Smith: A+++++
For a guy that honestly had marginal D1 skills Jeremy performed in the absolute best manner he could have this season. He was given an opportunity and he rose to the occassion. If there was a guy on the team that deserved to score a goal more than Jeremy I can't think of his name. He defined Seawolf Hockey for me this season. Hire him as a graduate assistant!

Jared Tuton: A
I can give no less of a grade to the one guy on the team that absolutely embodies the term "coaches player". Over his career Jared has been the one guy that Coach Shyiak could count on to fill any role that needed filled. And he has done it well in all cases. This season Jared spent most of his time on the blueline. He's probably the reason that Jeff Carlson hardly sniffed the ice.

Luka Vidmar: B+
I thought as the season progressed that Luka began more and more to come into his own. There was little if any time spent with his head other than up. His skating was strong and his passing sharp. He was responsible in his own end and showed he could be an offensive threat moving forward. He played a couple of games at forward and did well. With two more years in a Seawolf uniform he should grow into a leader.

Sean Wiles: B
Sean filled a number of roles during the season skating with different lines. He found a solid niche though on a strong checking line with Nick Haddad and Jade Portwood which I named the WHiP line. If he can learn better how to use his size and strength to be even stronger on the puck and utilize his skating in open ice then we'll likely see more and more production from him over the next couple of years.

Coaching Staff: B
I almost went with a B- here. I was mostly satisfied with the way the staff prepared the team over the course of the season. I feel a little critical of the way in which they handled the Denver curfew incident. It may perhaps be easy to second guess the situation. I have to say it was both a positive and a negative. Mostly the reason for the B is the fact that the team finished 9th. It was perhaps the best 9th place finish in WCHA history but nevertheless ... it was still 9th.


puckdangler said...

Great review of the season. Best wishes to smooth skating Paul Crowder, for his next team. I really like Clark as the next captain of the Seawolves. He has battled, and won the respect of the fans, and his teammates. Who else, can say they battled as hard to win the WCHA tourament? 2009-0010 Hockey season will be the the season UAA will deal out pain towards uppity mid-west teams. I believe in you UAA.

akhockeyfanatic said...

Clarkie would be great as captain next year but I say Tuton should be strongly considered. He is a positive role model both on and off the ice, including the classroom.

Donald, I give you an A+, which is well deserved. Thank you for all the work you put into making this the most entertaining and accurate hockey blog. What am I going to do now that the season is over???

Thanks, Seawolves, for a great season!!! To the returning players, rest up and have a great summer. See you in September!

Donald Dunlop said...

I give myself a B+

Anonymous said...

B: For the most part a good year for the seasoned blogger. However when it counted most, when we all looked to him for what to think, his computer crashed. Lack of technical preparation and relying on a goofy chatline when Denver robbed us blind left me a lttle cold. The new Apple should shore up his performance next year. (And thanks for being so kind to our boys. Cheers.) -30-

Anonymous said...

Clarkie would make a ideal Captain for the Seawolves, he is a leader on and off the ice. I would not care if clarkie gets penalties as long as he leads this team to their first home series at the sully. The team has the talent to get there, 2 strong goalies for next year, 8 juniors returning, and 8 sophomores returning. Clark does not get selfish penalties, he knows when the referees are on him and when their with him. Uaa must play physical and tough to succeed in the wcha. Next year will be there year.

Anonymous said...

Wow...i see Mat Robinson Played really well last night in the ECHL. He won't be there long before he moves up i think.

Anonymous said...

Minneota-duluth playing denver for the final wcha championship game.
Did we note beat minnesota-duluth and play a close series with denver.
I look back at the curfew issue, and it still annoys me, we sat out players for that period. Our team may have ended up 5th or 6th in the standings. Where was the leadership from our Captains and assistants during the season.

They have moved on and we must start over for next year.


Runninwiththedogs from her blackberry said...

Donald always gets an A+++ in my book for posts like this. People from other fanbases are going to shit all over themselves trying to explain all that is wrong with this post, but it is right on. Donald is like me: an unflinching and unwavering supporter of his team. For programs like ours, especially, it is a hard job, but he is always 100% behind the team, and it sets a tone for the readers of this site.

On another note, UAA's sweep of UMD was an impetus of change for our team. Thanks for playing us hard and getting our team back where it needed to be!

Anonymous said...

And best to your team, Joanie Two Dogs. -30-

PoopingWithTheDogs said...

Anyone know when tentative schedules become available for next season?

Anonymous said...

Wow Donald...those rose-colored glasses are extra tinted on this one. Pretty heady praise for a ninth place team.
Crowder was good, not great this season. His signing with the Rangers is much more about potential than what he's accomplished. The Seawolves were good at times, great a handful of times, and the rest added up to the losses they took in their non-winning record. I really like the Seawolves, but to heap praise on a mediocre team is a bit much.
Goaltending was a concern and problem. Bryce brought his game up, but still lacks the control that great college goaltenders, like Fairbanks goalie Chad Johnson has. Jonny needs to work on rebound control. As you could see, 88 per cent goaltending won't get you into the top 5 in the WCHA.
Clarkie came on as the season progressed...Lunden was OK...Grant has some maturing to do, lots of potential there...Haddad was much improved, but can't shoot worth beans...Moir and Portwood banged but couldn't score.
Parkinson showed flashes but got into this bad habit of falling on faceoffs and putting himself out of position.
Hopefully next year's recruits will add what we need...and hopefully the coaches will find a stud goaltender that's the real deal.
Also, I hope UAA will fire the Nerland Agency for all the lame commercials they've come up with in the past few years and market the team as they deserve to be marketed in the WCHA. There are junior teams with more marketing moxy, and they operate well within what would be WCHA or NCAA guidelines.
Make the game experience more enjoyable, tell the public announcer that mispronouncing names of UAA or visiting teams is not acceptable, and get the music guy to join the modern era and play stuff that would attract a younger more energetic crowd.
You can get excited all you want about the last home crowd, but remember that half the folks there were cheering for UAF.
C'mon everyone. Let's get real about UAA hockey, and quit with the feel-good stuff. Give us a real WCHA program we can get behind, or just go back to Division 3 with the program and it's outdated, Division 2 basketball facilities.

Anonymous said...

I see Chad Johnson didnt do jack shit against Uaa and the piece of shit Nacrapnooks were god awful in the Governers cup...Nice comments Anon at 9:11 about the program. nobody can deny that the overall Marketing/commercials/college enthusiam should get a D- minus but really Goaltending is set as long as they go with the number 1 guy and that was a fact the last 10 games of the season..But the fact is for UAA and even a Minn Duluth its all about the Team which encompasses ever single facet to determine who wins and losses...And guess what Bitch...Duluth just proved it...

Anonymous said...

As a HUGE Denver Pioneer fan, I gotta say hats off to the Seawolves. I talked with a couple of DU players after last week's games and they agreed UAA was the best 9 seed we'd ever seen. To top that off, we have you to thank for UMD's tear through the playoffs. You woke a sleeping giant!! GO PIO'S

Anonymous said...

It's me, the Denver fan again.By the way.. I thought UAA coaching was brilliant late in the year. Losing to DU Friday, suspending your top two players Saturday, and beating DU in OT with a great game plan sent a huge message to your team. Gwozdecky suspended one of Denver's better players on the eve of the National Championship game and we won!! Players learn unselfishness in many ways.

Anonymous said...

No ones ever addressed the question why our whole team was out late in denver, where were the captains and assistants leadership.
Next year make sure the captains and assistants are on the same page as the coaches.

Anchorage fan

Anonymous said...

The whole team wasn't out.

Donald Dunlop said...

These grades aren't an exercise of comparison to other teams. They are my subjective analysis of where individual guys are in terms of living up to the potential I believe they have.

As always this blog is open to anyone with a differing view. I've just about begged others to provide their views and promised I'd post them (the only requirement being they are readable).

So far nobody with a different view has taken me up on that and instead just relied on drive by comments.

Anonymous said...

Denver Fan -I wholeheartedly agree with you!! I think the suspensions is what kept this team playing with intensity and drive the whole second half of the seaon. Many of our players stepped up for the cause and look what results were had because of it? Some UAA fans are still saying "What if..." but I believe that the suspensions is what kept this team on fire right up until the end. Hats off to Coach Shyiak for standing his ground and not giving in. This will be remembered for a long time and I am confident that what happened in Denver will not re-occur for some time to come.

Anonymous said...

anon 2:43 pm

Can't remember exactly but around 16 players were suspended for one game each. Rumor has it that they broke curfew after beating DU in Denver. Robinson, LUnden and Crowder were stripped of their letters so obviously they,as the leaders of the team, also took part in whatever. Tuton remained wearing his "A" so apparently he was the only leader of the team at the right place at the right time.

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