What's this season going to be like? Well, if you ask the internet the answer is going to be; something a lot like last year. We're picked 9th and 10th by the coaches and media in a preseason poll. This blog and it's readers already know that the polls don't matter. Here's some reasons this team won't finish in the basement in 2015-16.
Last year's team was far better than it's ugly record. The team last season was at times, not much of a team at all. The camaraderie that one would expect at this level just wasn't there and that was most evident in the 2nd half. It's my impression that some events in the first half of the season muddied the team waters and over the course of the season we saw individual players not really giving it their all. Some guys just started going through the motions. Guys were maybe fed up and in turn they gave up.
You don't have to even fully give up to negatively affect team camaraderie. Just a little bit of giving up here and there does a lot of damage. And I think we had a fair bit of giving up spread out over a long enough time that it just destroyed the team dynamic which is frankly the most important thing a squad like the Seawolves need to use to win.
So last season is the result of a negative team dynamic versus being the result of having less talent on the ice than other teams.
As evidence of a positive team dynamic being a crucially important factor ... just look at the year before last. You know, where we smoked our rival at the end of the year and went to the WCHA Final Five? Was that team really THAT MUCH BETTER than last year's squad? Nope. It wasn't.
So the thing is ... we were not a 5-21-2 team last season. Which means the hole we're digging out of isn't quite as deep as it appears when you only look at the numbers.
There are however numbers which must be examined. We scored 70 goals last year. That's a pathetic number. In 34 games. My calculator says that's 2 goals per game. I really don't think you can call a season a success unless you get to the Final Five or at least host a home playoff game. And for that to happen we're gonna need to score half-a-boatload more goals than 70.
As I wrote the class previews over the last coupla/three weeks I kept a running imaginary tally of goals from each guy I wrote about. My imaginary total for this year came to 118. In 2013-14 we scored 105. Yeah, 118 is an increase of almost 60 percent. It seems like a big number. But it just over 3 goals a game really that much to ask your team to score?
Last year we gave up 107 goals. In 2013-14 we gave up 107 goals and went to the Final Five.
Just let that stew a little bit. I think that says a lot about the team we had last year and is a good segue to talk about our defensive unit. It's going to be one of the team's strengths this season. The six returners are experienced. There's some work to be done to ensure everyone does their job in their own zone first but it's as solid a returning group of defensemen as any other WCHA team.
And they've got Mantha behind them. I don't see how we give up more than 100 goals this year. I'm just not capable of accepting that scenario knowing the cumulative skills our returners have.
So big s urprise: I'm optimistic at the start of a season.