Offseason Hockey Banter: Successes and Failures

Elsa

Has it really only been a month? Looking back on the 2013-2014 BC Hockey season.

Joseph Gravellese: It's been over a month since the BC hockey season ended, so it's time to take look back just a bit more before we start turning our focus to 2014-2015. Today's theme: successes and failures. What went well for the Eagles this year? What didn't?

But let's start with the biggest question right off the bat, and the one with the most complicated answer. Was the season, as a whole, a success?

Grant Salzano: Well the answer was a lot easier before they won that battle of the titans against Lowell to advance to Philly. Had they not won that game, we would be getting dangerously close to BU territory in winning the Beanpot and then crashing and burning post-February.

JG: Well, yeah. I think I'm inching toward "no" just because of the Hockey East quarterfinal loss against Notre Dame. Ultimately, while it's unfair and unrealistic to call anything short of a national title unsuccessful, I think it's reasonable to expect that, with the recruits this team gets, they should be at the Garden and go to the NCAA tournament. Now it just so happens that they had the unlucky matchup from hell in 8 seed Notre Dame. But regardless of who it was... they lost, and threw away a chance to win a Hockey East title.

It's no guarantee they would have won a Hockey East title if they advanced to the Garden, but they certainly demonstrated their ability to do so in beating Lowell.

The Lowell game was certainly some much needed redemption, though. Between winning that matchup and winning the regular season crown, it's fair to say BC can be the happiest of any Hockey East team with how their season went, even despite not winning any of the big hardware.

You can't really cast any aspersions upon the team for losing to Union. That was just the best team, period. This was their year.

The big "what if" to me is if BC would have beaten Minnesota if the seeds were different and they got another crack at them in April. It doesn't really matter, because going to the Frozen Four and losing in the NC game isn't really that much of a difference, but it's worth wondering if BC ended the year as the second best team or third best. But I think it's definitely one of those two.

GS: That's a pretty good way to look at it. I think given how comprehensively Union dominated everyone they played, it's tough to gauge how we would have matched up, other than "we were both worse than Union." It probably would have been similar in difficulty, if not in style, to the Lowell game.

I should probably care more about not making it to the Garden, particularly with losing a 3 game series rather than just a one-and-done. That was pretty crappy.

I know Notre Dame was a bad matchup, but Lowell wasn't really dissimilar. And we beat them. Perhaps that's why despite being #1 for much of the year I was not feeling optimistic going into Worcester.

JG: Well, it was a bad matchup, but BC had a better team, so they should have won in spite of the matchup. I think that's fair to say.

To put it succinctly: I would probably have, once the disappointment of the Frozen Four wore off, looked back on this season warmly if BC had gotten past Notre Dame (ESPECIALLY if they went on to win the Hockey East title). But since they didn't, I have mixed feelings, and it feels like the final month(s) of the season were full of disappointment. When in reality, the big winning streak wasn't snapped until the last game of the regular season.

A quick note about the Beanpot in all of this: I think we're in general agreement that the Beanpot is something we care deeply about and want badly for BC to win, but it doesn't really go into the calculus of whether it was a successful season overall. (With apologies to Northeastern.)

GS: Yes, it's true. It's nice to have the trophy, of course. But I like to think that just being better than Harvard and NU and BU doesn't mean a season was good.

I guess what it comes down to in determining "success," for me, is one of two things:

1) Did we win the Hockey East tournament? I think if you win the tournament title and have the maroon and gold banner flying at the Garden, then the season can be qualified as a success. There are obviously bigger goals out there, but this is a more realistic base level of success. The nice thing about that is you go into the NCAA tournament with a feeling of having accomplished something significant and it takes some of the weight off your shoulders.

Then #2) If you didn't win the Hockey East tournament, for BC the Frozen Four should be the next metric. Winning it all is the goal but sometimes, like this year, you just aren't the best team.

I think had we lost to, say, 2012 Ferris State in the semifinals, it would be a little tougher to say 'alright, that was a successful year.' But single elimination, it happens, etc. etc.

JG: Moving past the question which has no real answer unless you win it all, let's talk more about individual successes and failures. Obviously everyone knows the exploits of the G-A-H line was a tremendous success. No need to really talk about it for too long. We already know.

I think another major success of this year was the integration of the freshmen defensemen. They were everything I could have hoped for and maybe a little more, especially McCoshen, who is just a freakish talent.

As an addendum to that, I'll add that the sophomores, Doherty and Matheson, both made big leaps in their game from their freshman to their sophomore seasons. If they make another leap this year, and this year's freshmen make the same kind of step up going into next season, the blue line will be in good shape.

GS: I want to give a shout out to Santini. He had his brain cramps but mannnnn oh man oh man is he fun to watch.

It's too bad BU was so bad this year because if any students actually followed Hockey East this year they would have HATED him.

JG: Honestly, I wouldn't even use the term "brain cramps." He's adjusting to Hockey East officiating. Of his major penalties most of them were borderline.

Or, if they were just, they were because of overeagerness at throwing a crushing hit in an attempt to influence the game or make a defensive play, not because he did something stupid like retaliate after a play or make a run at someone to knock them out.

GS: I'm not even talking about penalties, because for a truck like Santini he got called surprisingly infrequently for his hits. He is a very clean player.

By "brain cramps" I just meant your typical periodic freshman defensive breakdowns. It happens. But they were infrequent.

JG: Yeah, without looking at a stat sheet, just thinking back through the season, I thought he was remarkably steady.

Of course, despite the flashes of brilliance from the blue line, defense was, for much of the season, a weakness for the team. And while by the end of the year they ended up in the top 10 nationally in team defense (Edit: Nope! 12th.) , it still never felt like a total strength -- you rarely felt like they could just lock teams down.

I attribute some of that to one of the team's major failings this year, the inability to develop a true shutdown line.

With a relatively healthy roster to choose from in the Hockey East Quarterfinals, Jerry York rolled out Quinn Smith, Michael Sit, and Danny Linell as his defensive line against Notre Dame. And they were summarily roasted.

This isn't to pin everything on the forwards, obviously. Matheson had his noteworthy turnovers. Linell made a lot of people nervous when he was on the blue line. The freshmen were freshmen.

GS: I think that's a really good point. For how talented the D was as a unit, there's only so much they can do if 3 of the 5 skaters on the ice can't contribute toward keeping the opponent pinned in their own end for a while.

That was the one thing that never really did feel right about this season. Opponents will aways have their chances but this year it felt like we didn't hold possession as much as we have in the past.

We didn't feel dominant, in that sense, and you won't reliably make your way through a single elimination tournament unless you are.

JG: That's an excellent point. Other than the top line, BC wasn't a dominant possession team.

Unfortunately, while college hockey inc. has greatly expanded their stats offerings, we don't have a breakdown of shots for/against for individual players while they're on the ice.

However, just from remembering the games we know that we didn't see much cycling done by the other attacking lines; the offense came more in spurts. And from the numbers that we do have, we know that Gaudreau, Arnold and Hayes accounted for 39.5% of the shots amongst all forwards. Given that BC tended to outshoot opoonents by an average of just ~3 shots per game, it's reasonable to infer that the other lines were outshot when they were on the ice.

GS: You gotta feel good about Demko though, eh?

JG: Yes, I would call Demko's first season a "qualified success." It had its shaky moments and he was rightly challenged as the starter in the early going. But he definitely deserved the starting post by the end of the year, and showed signs that he can become a dominant NCAA goalie going forward.

It was when Demko solidified himself as the starter that BC began its climb up the national defensive rankings.

GS: Not bad for a 17/18 year old.

It's easy to forget, for me anyway, how young he is, seeing as how he's so freaking big.

Nice to have the extra year with him before his draft. You get the sense he may not be here 4 years.

JG: Yes, that's a great point. Same deal with Hanifin. Flight risks, but since they won't even be drafted until after their freshman year, it increases the chances of getting 3 years.

Major success: special teams. The nation's #5 power play, and #1 penalty kill. Very much needed, given that BC had an awful disparity in penalties taken vs. penalties drawn. Without efficient special teams BC would have had a rough go of it.

GS: Still can't figure out the lack of penalties. Maybe we're just diving less than everyone else.

I hope fans of other teams that are reading this take that 100% seriously.

JG: Along those lines, I think it probably has to do with the known conspiracy against BC. ANd possible lingering anti-Catholicism due to the Harvard guy being in charge of the league.

Obviously I am dead serious about this and think maybe there should be a special Congressional Oversight Panel.

B oston college
E very game
N ever
G ets
H ooking
A nd obstruction calls in the neutral
Z one
I t's bullcrap

You do the math.

Mild success, I think, although not all the way: the freshman forwards. They provided a lot of depth that wasn't there in 2012-2013; for all the talk of BC as a one line team, we've sort of debunked that. They had one dominant line, but two lines that were pretty good, and that's due to the four major freshman contributors up front (Cangelosi, Fitzgerald, Calnan, Gilmour).

The slight downside is that none of them really jumped out as "the next BC dynamo." Cangelosi did early in the year, but when he was playing with Johnny Gaudreau, so, grain of salt. Fitzgerald started to get that look about him at the very end of the seaosn, and may have scored the non-Gaudreau goal of the year to tie the game against Lowell. So there's potential there.

It certainly wouldn't be a problem if all four of those guys remain "solid" even if none become Hobey-finalist-caliber, but given expectations I'm hoping at least one becomes a real dominant force.

GS: Fitzgerald reminds me of an Arnold type who is good in all three zones. Cangelosi is more in the mold of a guy who might go off, but never really got there.

I'm interested to see what these guys can do with the first line guys out of the picture.

JG: Well, they will be needed in a major way. Certainly there are high hopes for Milano and Tuch, who are even more highly regarded prospects than the guys already on the roster. But you certainly don't want to be counting on freshmen to be your leading scorers.

GS: I think we've about covered things for now. I wish it was October.

JG: I agree. Readers, if you've made it this far (I know, tl;dr), let us know if you think we missed any key themes.

There's a lot to discuss as next year's roster and schedule comes together, so keep it here for more offseason coverage. Go Eagles.

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