Joseph Gravellese: As Grant so perfectly put it in the wake of Saturday night's game, the season ended up right about where it deserved to, despite the early-season mirage. The Eagles falling in the first round after a solid but unspectacular year sounds right and feels right based on what we saw all year. And now we wait for October.
To let you know what to expect on BC Interruption in the coming days: today and tomorrow, we will have a two-part autopsy on the season that was, discussing what went wrong and major themes for the year. Friday we'll be back to talk about some of the early offseason storylines, such as potential early departures. Next week and the week after we'll talk Frozen Four and Hobey Baker. Then, regularly during the summer, we'll delve into topics that we otherwise wouldn't have time to talk in detail about during the season, ranging from BC-specific topics to general college hockey issues.
To start with... well, not much more needs to be said about the Union game, really. But let's take one final look back.
JG: Everything BC did wrong this year was magnified in this game. Turnovers. A lack of punch beyond the first line. A sense of dejection after falling behind. Bad penalties. Lapses by Milner.
Pretty much checked off all the boxes, I think. It was a fitting end.
GS: Very fitting. Quite the microcosm.
I think what was most depressing to me was the feeling, once again, of not having a chance.
JG: It was pretty much the last 30 minutes of the BU game, plus that Providence game on Senior Night, on repeat.
GS: I don't remember a season where we were out of it before we even hit the halfway mark. That was a completely new experience.
JG: Yeah, you never felt like there was a four-goal explosion around the corner. Because there never was.
Once BC stopped the bleeding, they were pretty even with Union and even controlled play for some stretches - much like after going into the hole against BU. But they just didn't have the firepower to climb out of the hole. They never did, really.
JG: Ultimately, as much as we hoped for it or joked about it, it was pretty clear by the last few weeks of the season that there was no "light switch" this year.
GS: Yes, unfortunately. Although, Gaudreau really did have a nice turnaround at the end of the year. He ended the season on a pretty nice 6 game point streak in which he averaged 2.00 PPG.
Unfortunately... there turned out to be really too many flaws than one dynamic forward could fix.
JG: Yeah. So the discussion turns to what went wrong.
Before we delve too far into it, I want to preface with this:
90% of the reason for BC "underperforming" (by BC standards, anyway) was simply this: the combination of graduation losses and early departures, along with two consecutive freshman classes that only produced a total of one dynamic forward, left this team far too thin to seriously compete for national hardware.
The reason for the mirage early in the season was that Whitney, Mullane and Gaudreau were on a statistically unsustainable run, all getting hot at once and covering for BC's over flaws.
That's pretty much it in a nutshell. The reason for the preface is that I don't want to be your typical sports-radio-idiot overanalyzing things like complacency, grit, etc. But those things are, of course, more fun to talk about.
GS: Haha. Grit. If only we had a David Eckstein on our team.
JG: In terms of "Grit," actually, I thought this was quite the gritty team. They worked hard. They just were what they were. Guys like Brown, Dyroff, Smith, etc., were never going to set the world on fire.
But they worked hard and earned some points they probably didn't deserve (that game at Merrimack stands out in the mind's eye).
GS: Smith developed into a more than serviceable forward. He's going to be the next Lombardi or Almeida, I think.
JG: I DO think this team lacked physicality. They were pretty easy to push around, and didn't have a guy (other than Matheson) who seemed to want to bring the lumber every night. We missed a guy like Gibbons, who wasn't a big guy but played with an edge.
GS: I will say that Arnold seemed to want to be that guy. In particular there was a moment in the Union game where he just said 'screw it' and started throwing some great hits.
JG: Unfortunately that moment was when we were already down three. But, yeah.
GS: He DESTROYED one guy behind the net, and then about 15 seconds later got called for a Hitting From Behind along the boards that I had no problem with -- he lined up the guy's shoulders and the player really just turned at the last second.
JG: The best BC teams over the past ~10 years have played with a nasty edge, and we never really saw that this year.
GS: We lacked a whole lot this year, really. In all phases. The list is a long one.
Total lack of depth. A really, really thin defensive corps. No speed. One shorthanded goal on the year, an empty netter. Milner was painfully average...
Really we were extremely pedestrian all over the ice.
JG: As time was winding down on Saturday, I said I was torn between being thankful the team accomplished all they did (Beanpot, #York925, another trip to the Garden) despite being short on talent, vs. being annoyed that a program that reloads consistently seemed to lack for talent up front. I think I'm definitely becoming less inclined to choose door number two as the days go on.
Not only because this coaching staff generally gets a pass for most things, but also because when I think about the general roster management, it hasn't been so bad, for a couple of reasons:
1) Vatrano was supposed to be here this year. We don't know how big a difference he would have made, but he probably would have been at least a top nine forward.
2) There were other guys who were supposed to come here over the past couple of years who didn't (Tiefenwerth, Cody Ferriero), partly because of how stacked the roster was, before so many of our top players (Atkinson, Hayes, Kreider) left early.
3) Next year's class is a friggin' beast and there are only so many scholarships. We theoretically should have had enough talent to tide us over to next year if Vatrano and one of the other two, or one of the early departures, were still around.
GS: Given how even things were this year, we were One Guy away, I think, from being able to make a deep run.
JG: So while it's not UNFAIR to say the coaching staff "Whiffed" on the past two recruiting classes, I think a deeper analysis says to not despair over it.
I disagree with being One Guy away, unless that guy was another Gaudreau. We needed help all over the place, especially on the blue line.
GS: I'm referring more to one of Dumo or Kreider.
JG: Well, okay, that may well be fair. Especially in the case of Dumoulin.
GS: Dumo would have definitely been a difference maker.
JG: For sure.
Now the other thing that impacted depth was injuries, of course.
Destry Straight has been disappointing for both of his years, honestly, though in his defense, the high ankle sprain he suffered in that game at BU in November is the type of injury that can mess you up all year. That may have made a difference.
GS: Well, we were shallow to begin with, and I don't really think we had a *crazy* amount of injuries. It was just magnified by how little depth we had to start.
JG: Kevin Hayes had his various issues, starting with discipline and ending with injury, right as the team seemed to be "light switching" after the Beanpot.
And of course there's Patch Alber's injury, which came, not coincidentally, just before we got creamed by Minnesota, which kind of started the whole downfall. His loss really exposed the rest of the defense and he wasn't the same player (naturally) upon his return.
GS: Haha. Minnesota. Downfall. Haha.
Stop by tomorrow for part 2 of our BC Hockey Autopsy, where we look at the effects of Jerry York being away from the team, and argue about Johnny Gaudreau.