Hey, let’s start with the good news! Lacrosse downed Providence 17-3. Now for something a little darker…
Dick Baker reports (it’s too depressing of a story, so I won’t even worry you with a link) that Jimmy’s going pro, too, although where has yet to be determined.
You heard that right: he gone. (Or as good as gone. But you know how agent-speak works, since I presume you are a Red Sox fan. By the way, you should be a Red Sox fan if you’re a UMass fan. I make no exceptions to that rule unless your weird cross-dressing uncle happens to be A-Rod.)
I’ll get this all out of the way now: James Marcou is the best hockey player I’ve had the privilege of watching (aside from the two Bruins games I’ve attended). His creativity, passing skills, and heart have been unmatched, and he’s been a joy to watch since my second-favorite player, Quick, left early after my freshman year at UMass.
So where do we go from here? Well, I hate to say it, and I will have a lot more to say in the near future, but the words “rebuilding year” keep popping into my head right now. It’s one thing to lose a pure scorer like Wellman, but he was the beneficiary of so, so many of the brilliant setups of Jimmy’s. That is a hell of a lot harder to replace.
From the “glass-half-full-but-still-sort-of-empty” department: where, exactly, did James Marcou get the team? In Jon Quick’s triumphant year (sans-Marcou/Wellman), UMass went to the Elite Eight. In Jimmy’s three years? Three straight second-half collapses, three straight first-round exits in the HEA tournament.
Simply put, the offense last year was far too reliant on Jimmy and Casey, to the extent that, at one point, someone (Lecomte I believe) said in the Collegian that they were just waiting for the top line to get it going. Did anyone else notice a recurring theme for the teams that are playing at the Garden right now? They don’t rely on one line for all their offense. Even with two of NCAA’s leading scorers, the Minutemen were 8th in Hockey East in goals scored. That’s not getting it done. (Don’t even get me started on the defense, because damnit, I’m tryin’ to be optimistic here!)
Now, in no way am I saying I expect the Minutemen to be better at the start of next season. They just lost their top 5 scorers…duh. But I could see a team with a lot of young talent and some promising freshmen that will improve as the year goes on, and maybe surprise people in the Hockey East Tournament while setting up for a run the following year. And yes, it has been extraordinarily painful to write that last sentence, especially considering that it reminds me of the basketball situation. (So, basically,
I don’t mean to cut-and-run, but I’m not exactly devastated that this is all happening after my final season as a UMass student. Rebuilding sucks, especially if your head coach isn’t named Jack Parker, Jerry York or Dick Umile. Just remember, when Marcou and Wellman came in, like any touted recruits, nobody knew they’d immediately become contributors. Now it’s up to this year’s freshman class to step up and fill the void. Could it get ugly? That’s always a possibility, especially if the injury bug bites what’s left of the team, or a good number of the prospects don’t pan out. But this team’s still got plenty of unsung talent and guys who underperformed or battled injuries last year.
It might not be immediate, but life moves on without #7 and #19. We could wallow in self-pity…but optimism’s a lot more fun. Now I don’t know about you, but I intend to get out there today and let Guinness and Irish car bombs wash away the sting.
Oh, and godspeed, Mr. Marcou. As with Wellman, we will support you wherever you go. (Hopefully, if you DO make it in the NHL, you and Casey will end up with Boston somewhere down the line. …Please?)
Looks like it’s official, according to the local Minnesota beat writer: Wellman to Minnesota is almost definitely a done deal. Honestly, I think they’re overpaying for such a raw prospect, but if you’re Casey Wellman and someone’s handing you $2 mil, you gotta do it. Like I said earlier today, this is probably for the best for UMass, considering how much of a distraction it was having the scouts around, and now that playing time can go to guys who have a lot motivation to prove themselves. Still, a small part of me was holding out hope that Casey would both a) return next year and b) have the experience to know how to block out the mental distractions. No such luck.
Thanks for everything, Casey, and make UMass proud in the NHL. How much of his success came from playing alongside the best passer/play creator UMass has ever seen? We’ll never know, but it was a fun ride either way. I certainly won’t soon forget that game-tying buzzer-beater against UNH, which set up another departed Minuteman, Boehm, for the game-winner. And for all the hubbub about him being arrogant and not caring, his final gesture – a raise of the stick to salute those of us who made Conte Forum our home-away-from-home this past weekend – was nothing if not classy. I have no ill will toward the guy.
Now we cross our fingers on Marcou.