clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Season Preview: Michigan

My (less controversial) pick for third place is Michigan.

Projected Depth Chart

LW Kevin Porter C 19 T.J. Hensick RW Chad Kolarik

LW Jason Bailey C 7 Andrew Cogliano RW David Rohlfs
LW Tim Miller C 9 Travis Turnbull RW Brandon Naurato
LW Brian Lebler C 26 Danny Fardig RW Anthony Ciraulo
LD Jack Johnson RD 6 Matt Hunwick G Mike Mayhew
LD Mark Mitera RD 25 Chris Summers G Steve Jakiel
LD Steve Kampfer RD 8 Jason Dest G Billy Sauer

Strengths:

Without bothering to research it too much, I believe T.J. Hensick is the only returning player in the CCHA or WCHA with over 150 career points.(Scott Parse just misses the cut with 145.) The Wolverines also have a talented pair of veteran wings in Kevin Porter and Chad Kolarik. For the first time in years, Michigan will be deep on defense. They’ll have three first round NHL draft picks on the blueline, in Jack Johnson, Mark Mitera, and Chris Summers, as well as all-CCHA senior defenseman Matt Hunwick. The rest of the defense is rounded out by experienced seniors Jason Dest and Tim Cook, and talented freshmen Steve Kampfer.

Weaknesses:

Michigan was already paper-thin at forward, and the surprise departure of Trevor Lewis didn’t help. Michigan used to be able to roll four lines consistently and wear teams down with their depth. Now they may be forced to skate walk-ons on the fourth line. There also has to be at least a little concern in goal. Billy Sauer is extremely talented, but struggled, especially mentally, last season when he was pressed into service a year earlier than expected.

Overall:

There’s enough high-end talent on this Michigan team for the Wolverines to be a very good team, but I don’t think there’s enough depth for them to make a run at a league title. The Wolverines have a lot to prove after last season, which was their worst in over a decade, but it will take a focused effort from some of their star players, like Jack Johnson, Matt Hunwick, and T.J. Hensick, rather than concentrating on their future pro careers.

Question Marks

Did last year shake Billy Sauer’s confidence irreparably? More than likely not, but if Sauer gets off to a slow start and the fans lose confidence in him, things could go downhill quickly. Who will score goals for this team besides Hensick, Porter, and Kolarik? Travis Turnbull showed some potential last year, but third and fourth line goals could be rare for Michigan this year.

Key Player: Billy Sauer. This year, there’s no safety net of Noah Ruden to fall back on. If Sauer struggles like he did last year, Michigan’s back-up is freshmen Steve Jakiel. Sauer definitely has the talent and potential to be a great college goalie. It will be a matter of whether or not he can gain the confidence needed.

Breakout Player:
Travis Turnbull. Michigan will be desperate for players on their lower lines that can score goals, and Turnbull showed some potential to do that last season. If he can increase his goal total by 5-10 goals, Michigan will be a much better team.

Bellwether: Michigan’s season will likely hinge on the defensive pairing of Jack Johnson and Matt Hunwick. At the start of last season, they were dominating both offensively and defensively, which led to Michigan’s early success. They seemed to become bored in the second half of the season though and became extremely prone to bad defensive miscues that led to scoring chances and goals. If they’re playing well, they could effectively shut down a team for almost half the game. If they’re not playing well, it could be another frustrating season for Michigan fans.

Did You Know?

Michigan leads the nation in famous murderer alums including Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, Nathan Leopold, who along with Richard Loeb, thought he could plan "the perfect murder" and ended up just throwing the body in a culvert, causing a sweeping change in our nation’s views on the death penalty, and Ann Coulter, who famously ate a live infant on national television.

President Lyndon B. Johnson proposed his "Great Society" while speaking at the University of Michigan. The following day he drove down US-23 to Columbus and gave up hope of it ever happening.

Iggy Pop, known as the Godfather of Punk Music, first got the idea that he could be a successful musician after watching an obviously intoxicated Jim Morrison stumble around on stage during a concert at Michigan’s Yost Ice Arena.

If You Go There:

You Have to Eat At:
Blimpy’s. Possibly the greatest hamburger you’ll ever eat. It’s cooked right in front of you on a giant steel grill and is amazing. The atmosphere on a game night is great too, as many fans stop in to get a meal, before walking a few blocks to the arena. If you go there and ask for the "Western College Hockey Blog special," they’ll look at you and say "What the hell are you talking about" But if you’re man enough to try it, my favorite is a Quad(patties are each 1/8th of a pound for faster cooking, thus a quad is four patties) on a kaiser roll with grilled bacon, egg, and onion on top, with American cheese, and topped with mustard. It’s the greatest thing you will ever taste.

Honorable Mention goes to Mr. Spots. I’ve snuck sandwiches, and on a couple occasions, chicken wings into games at Yost. If you do, the people around you will be jealous. Also, Bell’s Pizza. You might get a tiny bit of pizza with your grease, but it’s excellent pre/post game food.

You Have to Stop At: Ann Arbor offers many diverse hockey options for fans looking to catch an extra game. The US NTDP, the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL, Wayne State, and the Detroit Red Wings all play hockey within an hours drive of Ann Arbor.