Greetings from sunny Orlando, Florida! (yeah, it’s pouring rain right now.) The offseason is thankfully more than halfway over, and though I won’t be experiencing the utter joy of Minutemen hockey in person until January (I’ve got that home-and-home with Blowell marked on my calendar), I’ve been able to follow the offseason online here and there. Of course many rightful thanks go to Rocks and his fabulous work at Fear the Triangle, but we’re finally getting some official information out of the UMassAthletics camp; specifically, the 2010-2011 roster, which is now available for your viewing pleasure.
Now, as one might expect, there are a lot of unfamiliar names on that roster. A LOT. If you haven’t been keeping up with FtT’s offseason coverage of the newcomers, now’s your chance to take a look at the last month or two’s worth of reporting he’s done, which includes seeing some of the guys in person. We can’t claim to offer anywhere near that level of in-depth analysis of these players yet, but obviously a big theme of the season will be Matt and Derek’s (and, eventually, my) first impressions of the freshman class. I see a lot of potential with this freshman class, especially with a solid, veteran backstop in Dainton to anchor the team, but a lot is going to ride on a) how NCAA-ready the new guys are (and how many can break out the way Jimmy and Casey did their freshman year), and b) whether the remaining old guys, like Langeraap, Concannon and Keane among others, can finally realize their potential, much like Will Ortiz did last year.
I’m not as worried as many people are about the defense; I think Kublin-Mikey will be better than people realize, I like Donnellan and I think Rowe played well down the stretch last year, and I like (at least on paper) the incoming guys like Phillips and Hanley. But the offense has a ton of question marks, although I do like that these incoming freshmen, like Gracel and Power, are being described with words like “scrappy” and “gritty,” things the trying-to-get-way-too-fancy-too-often UMass offense has lacked in recent years.
Realistically, we should have expectations of a season much like last year’s men’s basketball team, minus the coaching problems but also with the senior leadership and scoring of Harris replaced by the goaltending of Dainton. Both can keep a team in the game by themselves, but both need more than just potential around them if the season will be a success. A big help to the Minutemen is that, unlike the bball team last year, the coach is certainly not still learning his craft. Toot, in the final year of his contract, has his work cut out for him, but if the immediate success of the team rests on the coach’s ability to get the best out of freshmen, I’d put way more stock in Toot than in DK.
Having said that, it’s impossible to overlook the amount of sheer talent this team has lost since the end of last season. It would take a great number of these freshmen reaching their potential right away, the upperclassmen significantly improving, and a little bit of luck for this team to contend for a Hockey East title this year. A little bit of luck and we might be talking home ice, but I’d be satisfied with a 5th or 6th place finish with momentum going forward and with a handful of the new guys establishing themselves in the league. I also think missing the HEA playoffs would be a huge disappointment this year, given a senior goaltender and how bad teams like Providence (because they’re Providence) and Lowell (whose “best team ever” lost about a jillion players, including their two goalies, to graduation, and also because we hate them with a fiery passion) figure to be. Is it possible? Sure. But our motto is “stay positive” for a reason.
And as I type that, the sun’s coming back out down here in Orlando, so I’ll leave you with that for now. No matter what happens with this team, we’ll be there for the ride and we’re delighted to have you with us. Help us out and spread the word on campus, and let’s make Fight Mass truly by-the-students, for-the-students this year. Until then, continue to enjoy your summer, and…is it October yet?