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Hockey Banter: 2012-2013 Autopsy, Part II

Where we wrap up our discussion of what went wrong this year.

via Graham Beck, BC Heights Sports

Grant Salzano: It's funny how much of an important cog Patches ended up being. But, once again, it all comes back to the shallow roster and how important *everyone* ended up being.

Joseph Gravellese: All that stuff happened at around the same time: Alber getting hurt, Straight being out, plus Gaudreau being away -- and it really started the slump. I kind of think the Minnesota game ended up being a bigger deal than we thought it would be. I think that game stole their mojo, and revealed to them how susceptible they were to a good thwacking. (Is that a word?)

It was the first time we saw the sort of deer in the headlights look from BC, something that would rear its head again down the line.

I think we did see, on multiple occasions (especially the season's final two games), a bit of a mental block, a lack of a killer instinct or what have you. They didn't respond well to adversity.

Obviously 90% of that is just talent, I'm sure. But there did seem to be a snowball effect with this team sometimes when thinks weren't going well. You can chalk that up to youth, and maybe a lack of dealing with adversity over the past few years?

GS: No, I don't really think the 'responding well' thing has much to do with it. I think what you saw was a lesser team getting everyone's best every night. We are BC, after all. And we were #1 in the country for quite a while.

Once teams got a lead on BC I think it was really more them getting an extra jump in their step than BC falling apart. Sometimes facing a team with that extra jump can be like stepping in front of a train.

If we had some more talent we could have fought back a little more, but I think that's what happened.

JG: That's a perfectly fair assessment. I just... was not used to seeing BC seem so down when they were behind. Slumping shoulders, etc. But then, it's easier to feel confident when you have a Chris Kreider or a Cam Atkinson on your second or third line.

With the exception of MAYBE Kevin Hayes, nobody other than Destry Straight (discussed ad nauseum) really underperformed relative to expectations of talent level, I think. The top four forwards were great. Matheson was everything we could have asked for and more. Doherty was disappointing down the stretch but he's a freshman defenseman.

Everyone else was honestly roughly what you'd expect. Just not many of them had high-end ability.

GS: Geez where would we have been without Matheson? Certainly not in NCAAs, I don't think...

JG: Oh definitely not. He was just extraordinarily valuable. And we improved with his improvement down the stretch. The top guys were always what they were.

Two York-related factors:

Do you think the hunt for York 925 had anything to do with the team's hot start, and subsequent decline? And, how big of a factor did York's health have in the lack of a "light switch" late?

GS: Not much at all, for either. With regard to York 925 -- there were signs of problems when we had that tie to Providence. That was a game we never would have lost in another year.

And if York's health was more of a factor, we wouldn't have gotten run out of the building against Union when he came back.

JG: I'm going to agree with #1. Though it should be said that game in Providence was kind of the first trouble sign. I remember thinking it was rare that BC hockey lets you down in a big situation.

I disagree with #2 though. It can't be understated what York means to those late-season runs, and to the mentality of the team. Not having him around for several weeks certainly couldn't have helped.

Obviously none of us are in there, so who knows.

GS: That's fair. You'd have thought they could have used his return as a springboard though.

At least that's what we were all hoping. There was a weird sense of optimism like we had all forgotten about the previous several weeks (or, pushed it our of our mind anyway), that we'd be the BC hockey of old out of nowhere just because York was back and it was playoff time.

JG: Well, if you can't have hope, what can you have, you know? But we all knew the team's issues. We just hoped the parity and a little hot streak would give us a chance.

Another topic for the autopsy: I hesitate to go there because I don't want it to sound like I'm being negative toward someone who contributed greatly to two titles here, but let's be honest, Milner wasn't great down the stretch.

GS: Oh God I feel bad, but I'm really on board with you. I don't really think it was so much 'down the stretch' as 'overall.'

Milner rode a 19 game streak of magic to Legend status, but he just wasn't anything more than Good.

JG: A great goalie and a great top line firing on all cylinders probably woulda-coulda been enough to maybe make a splash in this crazy year. But Milner wasn't great.

And, yeah, I agree, I feel bad saying it. Honestly.

He seemed to be susceptible to some serious lapses, I think Union's third goal on Saturday being the final example.

The bomb he gave up at Matthews in the season opener was the first warning sign of that tendency.

If you're going to play by the '08 playbook and ride the short guy to glory, you need someone standing on his head a la Muse. Especially with how leaky the defense was.

GS: Yes. That was a big problem. A few too many brain cramps.

There was also the blue line goal against UNH.

JG: Yeah. Thatcher Demko becomes a very important man in BC's future. I know there's a good chance he starts the year splitting time withi Brian Billett. But we have to kind of hope, I think, that he becomes Muse 2,0 and takes the reins from the start of his freshman year. That would be a huge factor in stabilizing the team as they "bounce back" from this year.

No pressure, kid.

GS: I have to say -- he has some POTENTIAL with a capital POTENTIAL. He's already winning games against D1 hockey teams, playing for the USA U-18s in exhibition games against college clubs.

I'm very hyped up about him. And I agree, I really hope he's the guy to take the reins from the get-go.

JG: This may fall into the category of lipstick on a pig, but I had a feeling York might reunite the Mullane, Whitney, Gaudreau line on Saturday. Do you think he should have? Do you think it could have made a difference?

I do kind of think it would've been a good idea. When he broke up the line, the idea was to try to create some scoring depth. It didn't happen; this team didn't have enough to make it happen, and there's something to be said for running the horse you have.

It would NAHHT have made up for all the other problems and we probably still would've been skunked by Union. I just thought it was worth a shot.

GS: I'd stopped worrying about the lines because no matter how they were lined up, the horses just weren't there. It was all going to even out I think. Plus once they were broken up for so long, the chemistry probably wouldn't have magically been there off the bat in Week 1 back together.

JG: Maybe. I just kind of figured we needed some lightning in a bottle and that was the most likely source.

GS: Well, we'd been searching for lightning in a bottle for a long time at that point.

JG: Speaking of Gaudreau, while we kind of disagree on this one, I do think he was very human down the stretch. Do you think he looked tentative at all? Do you think teams were simply playing him differently? It seemed like he relied on some of the same moves a lot, as well... or was that just me?

GS: I really thought he was very good down the stretch. It was more the middle third of the year that things wouldn't fall for him.

I know it was weaker competition but he put himself on a very nice run at the end of the year. A point streak of 6 straight, 12 total points, and at least a goal in 5 of those 6 games.

That's a hell of a run.

Most importantly, I think was the 5-of-6-games with a goal. Those had really been missing.

JG: Four of the games were against Vermont. It needs to be said. But yeah.

GS: Sure 4 were against Vermont. But everyone else in college hockey plays weak competition too. They shouldn't just be discounted.

JG: I know. But Gaudreau wasn't the (literal) world-beater (see what I did there?) down the stretch that he was in the first semester. That's not an attack on him, it's just the truth. It's fair to say that his start was statistically unsustainable, and I'm willing to accept that as the reason. But it's worth delving in to.

GS: I don't know. He was on just as impressive a streak at the end of the year as he was at the beginning, albeit for a few less games.

His run at the start of the year had two games against NU, two against UMass, and two against Lowell, who while destroying college hockey right now, couldn't beat the Little Sisters of the Poor to start the year.

In fact, he had less PPG in that streak than he did in the end of year streak.

JG: That's crap and you know it. Lowell was playing pretty well. They lost two one-goal games to us, they beat one of Colorado College or Denver (too lazy to look it up) and had the other get away from them late, and the first half of the year "streak" was a lot longer than six games.

GS: He only had more than 2 points *once* in that 14 game stretch.

Okay, Lowell wasn't that bad. But I still maintain that his numbers to end the year were actually more gaudy than they were to start.

JG: Yes, if you're going to consider six games (4 of them against Vermont) any sort of significant sample. I understand you're the president of the Gaudreaubey Baker pubilicity committee, but let's be real.

GS: I don't care who he's playing. That six point game against Vermont was *ridikkaliss*.

Not to mention the games to end the year were 'more important' (you know what I mean) than they were at the beginning. Crunch Time.

We disagree here I guess.

JG: It appears that way. Anyway, my point isn't to pin any of the mediocre second half on him. I just think he was covering up for a lot of our other problems.

GS: Well yeah we definitely agree there. He was certainly covering up a lot of our blemishes.

JG: Yeah, I know. Anyway, that dead horse is not worth beating. At the end of the day... I don't think it's a coincidence that BC's worst performances in recent years ('02 and '09 missing the tournament, '11 and '13 the ONLY FIRST ROUND EXITS IN THE YORK ERA? WHAT?) were the years after the titles.

It's SO hard to repeat. The physical toll of the extra games you've been playing. The mental toll of the target on your back. And at the college level, the exodus of guys who elect to leave early who may have stayed if they weren't given the opportunity to leave as champions.

So... I'm none too pleased to not be making arrangements for Pittsburgh right now, but I'm not worried about the future. It was, for the most part, a Good Year. We got to celebrate another trophy, we earned a good seed in the NCAA tournament, and we went to the Garden (talk about things we take for granted, but that are a HUGE deal for most of Hockey East).

The only thing that sucks now is the long offseason. Speaking of which, we'll be back tomorrow to discuss some early offseason topics, such as early departures and potential coaching changes around college hockey.