It's been a fully delightful break for me since the season ended. Years of year round focus on Seawolves Hockey does come with a price in personal time. So I took lots of time off. With that explained and excused, onto a big announcement. I'm moving. To Chicago. Around September 15th. What does that mean here? It should mean very little actually.
I plan to make substantially the same effort during the season as in the past. As the next 6 weeks progress you can expect all the usual yearly run-up to the season. I'll provide a comprehensive look at each of the incoming freshman. We'll look at the returning players on a class-by-class basis. And I'll analyze what the team's chances for success look like in this last year of what is now the old-WCHA.
The blog's media credentials will remain in place and of course JimJames is free (and encouraged) to expand his coverage as he chooses or is able. As always, I'm happy to publish relevant submissions from any reader and if there is someone out there who is interested in a regular writing role ... I'll happily entertain that possibility. I hope the move affords me the chance to catch the team on the road. I'll talk more about doing that though as the opportunity to do that comes up. At this point I don't want to say I'll be able to do any particular date. The UW road series in late January is calling my name though.
Now onto hockey. I've seen a bit of noise here and there (some hopeful it seems) that the hockey program is something less than it has been in the past or that it's a sinking ship. Nonsense. Players leave sometimes. Yes, the Seawolves had a couple more than usual seek out other hockey opportunities. The two players that decided not to return who leave holes are Eric Schied and Sam Mellor. Let's face it ... they showed a lot of potential in their freshman seasons. These guys would have been key offensive players and/or leading scorers as future Seawolves.
Their decisions were both probably difficult and I don't know any details other than they both were making developmental choices for their future professional hockey careers. Perhaps it came down to a question of playing 70 or more games versus 34? I dunno. I do expect to see them both at big named schools in the 2013-14 season. Did college hockey's realignment play a factor in their choices? I have no idea.
Is their departure a major loss for the Seawolves? Meh ... it's a loss; not major. It's understandable to be concerned about the upcoming season since I think many of us hoped the success curve was something on the upswing. Instead it seems to me that last season was full-on status quo. In other words, not too much one could call success.
That said, this season as fans I think it is wholly appropriate for us to focus on the coaching staff's role in achieving more success. There isn't a player on the team who they didn't recruit. In Shyiak's first few years we saw more than a little bit of size come onto the ice. And the game plan utilized that size differential. Clearly that has changed ... and to me that signals an upcoming change of game plan.
I have major doubts that this year's expected lineup will be a good match for the same possession oriented offensive tactics. I think they have to open it up and be willing to skate. There's lots of good wheels on the back-end to support that style. I think everyone would prefer to lose a game 5-4 than 1-0. Ammirite?
I think there's good potential for the counter-attack to be a key strategy for the coaching staff to utilize. Some timely turnovers generated by smart tactical traps resulting in odd man rushes sounds good to me. Anyway, the coaches need to influence success moreso this year than any other since they've been here. They need to find the right players for the right roles and make sure the team plays a style that leads to more winning. It's time for that. No excuses.