Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Milla's Front ... I'm Back

I'm back. Quit looking at that picture. There is still more than a fair bit of time before any hockey (that any of us will see) actually begins. It's been a relatively quiet off-season in terms of any news coming out about the Seawolves. If I'm not mistaken, the "press-release" last week and yesterday's roster update have pretty much been it. Of course, outside of Alaska there has been the little conference reshuffle.

Starting in 2010-2011 the WCHA will have two new members .. meh. An old D3 team from a berg even less significant than Mankato and some Cornhusker wannabes called by the Spanish language word for "one". Hooray ... new Internet fans that will grow to despise me!

Let me clarify something here. I don't want UAA to go to the CCHA. What I want is for UAA to no longer be required to pay for 12 freaking airline tickets to all these schools that have been provided a mechanism to recover those costs already. It's double-dipping ... I have a little 2 part plan to make a more powerful statement with regard to this blackmail that our school is paying. Stay tuned.

The official roster was finally updated yesterday. Obviously, the late additions for this season kept it from appearing earlier. It takes some work to get all the Euro-schooling transfer rig-a-mah-roll through.

Here's the breakdown:
28 players (25 skaters -- 3 goalies; 7 defensemen; 15 forwards; 2 forward/defensemen; 1 redshirt forward and 1 transfer eligible next year). The squad has 15 returning skaters -- 4 on D and 10 forwards with one returner listed as F/D. Of those 15, 12 are either juniors or seniors.

One recruit was lost to major junior after he was drafted by the Calgary Flames (Bennett) but he was ultimately replaced with a comparably resume'd prospect (Bruijsten). Even with a reasonably strong group of returning players the Seawolves will look quite different this season. 8 players will make their debuts at some point. This season it looks like the Seawolves will be the largest squad in all of Division 1 hockey. THE ... by a fair margin as well. More on that though when CHN updates it's "Almanac" section with corrected rosters. As it stands today, UAA has a more than 15 pound per player advantage over the smallest WCHA school which is Minnesota-Duluth ... 191.75lbs versus 176.36lbs. Only Cornell is taller on average than UAA ... by .05 inches. Some of all that is due to the fact that we have two pretty tall goalies; so they tend in a small way to skew the figures. Nevertheless, Coach Shyiak likes NHL size and must believe it will pay off. Solid thinking, I think. We haven't suffered from any speed problems the past couple of seasons, so there is every reason to believe that the team won't have any issues along those lines.

What am I excited about? Of course, I'm as curious as I can be to see all the rookies skate and get some sense of what if anything they might be able to contribute. It's all a bit of wait and see right? There are some pretty interesting possible combinations. I think I'd like to see August Aiken, Curtis Leinweber and Kevin Clark skating together. They're all three left-handed ... so I'd put Leinweber on the off-wing. Those three guys could really fly up and down the ice. It could be a winner ... Coach Shyiak is a bit conservative at times so I'm guessing he won't try such a thing. But I'd add that such combinations have sometimes prospered in college hockey in the past.

I like the team's defensive lineup this season. Backstrom and Hunt are both seniors and obviously very capable. There are no flies landing on Lafranchise or Vidmar in their 3rd year. Lee Baldwin will have some pressure to perform well right away. I'm unsure at this point as to whether Curtis Leinweber will return to the blueline regularly or play forward a bunch. And what about Gorham? Is he better suited to play up front or in the back? Will Drew Darwitz make those questions easier by showing he can step onto the blueline and do the job? His former junior coach called him one of the best players in the NAHL last season. In any case, I think the D should be considered an overall positive for the team. It will be very important for this group to contribute more offensively than in the past.

Offensively, there are legitimate questions about the level of scoring the Seawolves can acheive. Lunden, Clark and Grant are the primary offensive threats. But each of them suffered from some inconsistency in putting the puck in the back of the net last season. They'll all be counted on to at least match their production from last season. For team success, they'll have to each increase their scoring. Secondary scoring is the BIG question. Where will it come from? There are lots of possibilities. Can Parky find the net more often? What about Portwood or Wiles? Will Selby play a lot? If he does, will he find the twine? How about Tuton or Haddad? Or will it be Aiken? More than a couple of guys will have to step up their past production dramatically to get the secondary scoring the team will need.

Perhaps we'll see a rookie make an offensive impact? Coming from the same league and having similar numbers, Mickey Spencer and Alex Gellert both could be compared reasonably to Josh Lunden. Bruijsten has the good resume ... maybe he'll contribute? Naslund is a complete unknown to me but is said to be a strong skater with a good nose for the net. I think Chris Crowell isn't likely to pot a mess-o-goals ... but I think he'll be a very valuable presence physically.

I'll start my season previews with the usual class by class breakdown beginning with the seniors and working my way down to the rookies. Expect about one a week of such posts between now and then. Expect some sort of post with me guessing about how the entire league will shake out ... for whatever that's worth. I will also try to be at practice a couple of days during the first week and I'll report what I see then. I have new glasses this season and shouldn't be complaining about all the details that I was unable to see.

And ok ok ... Here's Milla's back.


A Seawolves Fanatic said...

To get more wins, we need to average at least 3 goals in WCHA play. But, whose gonna pass and set us up? A line of Lunden, Clark, Grant...............well is downright amazing. But, after that.........We have great potential, but we need passing from last season, and from the get-go our D to skate away from the blueline (or whatever works) and jump into the offense and score. The lineup possibilties are endless and Coach needs to take that advantage.

A Seawolves Fanatic said...

OMFG, if my Vikings sign Favre.... I'll have a heart attack. I was super excited for the season but now.....the Seawolves will get my undivided attention. Hoping Favre's plane crashes.....is that bad?

Donald Dunlop said...

Yes ... the wishing death on douche-bags doesn't seem to be a popular thing on the internet. I got all sorts of grief for celebrating Billy May's death.

Anonymous said...

Why do people care so much if a celebrity dies? If I die will I make CNN, 99.99% chance I will not. Who cares if Michael Jackson sold millions of albums and did lots of shows? That doesn't change the fact that people will and SHOULD still go on with their lives.

As for the latest Donald Blog, it was a good one, it asked the right questions about the team this upcoming season. This will be the first season that Shyiak will have all of his recruits on his team, none left over from Hill. Not to say that some of them were bad for the team, but that when a coach builds a program, he needs to have all of his recruits in the program in order to get it headed in the direction that the coach wants it to go.

The WCHA hasn't won a national championship in two or three years? I think the WCHA is a better home for UAA than the CCHA. I would rather be a bottom feeder in the WCHA than a 4th place finisher in the CCHA. UAA will always have a disadvantage due to geographic location and having schools with a longer hockey history, but that is not an excuse for our team seriously contending now and then.

Donald Dunlop said...

And the pictures are excellent. Going with Milla Jovovich is never a bad decision.

Anonymous said...

To start Kevin Clark is a right handed shooter. The team had some guys who put some pucks in the net but you should be more concerned with who is going to create offence with Crowder and Bales gone. This team has to be able to score 3 and possibly 4 goals a game to win in the WCHA and under shyiak they have not been able to achieve that. The d corps has some depth but who is going to play 25 min per game like Robinson was able to do last season. Lastly this is YEAR 5 for shyiak. You will find out this year if he is on the right track. Actually after 8 games you will have a good idea (MINN,UND,WISCO,DENVER)

Donald Dunlop said...

My bad on the right/left for Clark ... in any case he'd be my center on my imaginary line.

Backstrom can skate a load of minutes. My understanding is that Detroit dropped him from their draft list making him a free agent. This is his year to make an impression on someone. Hunt, Lafranchise and Vidmar are also capable of taking extra shifts if needed. They're all solid on both ends.

And yes ... you are right about the goals per game. Last year UAA scored 2.64/game and their opponents scored 3.11/game against UAA. Those numbers will have to do a 180 (at least).

As for "replacing" the things that Crowder and Bales brought to the ice ... every team in this league loses key guys early. All anyone can hope for is that other guys down the depth chart step it up. UAA isn't the only team with that concern.

And again ... you're right about the significance of the first 8 conference games. They'll need a strong start which is fortunately something they've accomplished over the last several years.

Consistency in scoring over the entire season will be THE most important factor in the difference between success and failure.

Anonymous said...

All teams need one top scoring line, clark, grant and lunden will play against the top lines in the wcha. They will have there hands full, we need a power play, clark lead the team in power play pts. last year. Three small players would get killed in the wcha, clark is right handed as you have been told. The seniors deserve a chance to excel, lets go with the top six forwards who are playing well. Backstrom will lead our defense. The goaltending will be stronger this year. Average 4 goals a game and 2 to 3 against and we will be a middle of the pack team.
Go team


Anonymous said...

I think Backstrom, Lafranchise, and Hunt will not only be strong defensively this year but will contribute immensely in the offensive end.

Donald Dunlop said...

I'm thinking along the same lines. I'm also certain that Curtis Leinweber will contribute offensively no matter if he is listed/plays D or F. If he can apply the lessons he learned last season then we could be in for a treat.

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