Aside from puff pieces from the UND.com propaganda wing
the radio silence from the hockey program will be deafening until the fall.
It's too bad because I would at least like to hear some reasoning from the coaching staff as to what potential changes we can expect for the team to start moving in the right direction. I'm wondering about any number of things. I noticed here in Wisconsin the Madison paper sent the hockey beat writer to Columbus to cover the Badgers quarterfinal series and already has published the first post-season article about the state of the program. Somehow they manage to cover that even with a football and basketball program that are pretty successful, as well as a women's hockey team. What I wouldn't give for our local media to do a tenth of that.
For a coach who complains about being forced to play inexperienced players, why, when the season was clearly going no where, did Jackson not seek to find playing time for another goalie at all once Morris came off the injured list? What was there to lose? Nothing, as it turns out. If red-shirting St. Cyr was the way to go, the coaches must have had SOME confidence in Bishel, yet other than a couple of mop up appearances, he was on door duty since making one start when Notre Dame was in the midst of their worst stretch in 15 years. Hopefully the coaches found some way to convey they have at least a little confidence in him, or hopefully St. Cyr is going to be as good as Morris or Peterson or Pearce at their best.
What will be done to address the woeful scoring? The program has backtracked severely for two straight seasons on overall scoring and on goal differential. As a program Notre Dame should never be in the bottom half of both scoring and goal differential. A portion of that was the horrible inconsistency Morris showed in net this year, but that just brings to mind the question of why the other netminders were not given a chance. Even then, the offense was terrible for too many games. We can make almost any team look like they have Richter award winner in net or New jersey Devils circa 2000 defense.
What is going to be done to ensure that we never see a penalty kill as bad as Notre Dame's was in the first 2/3rds of the season? Even as well as it had turned a corner over the 6 games before giving up 2 PP goals today it finished the season rated just 47th. When you can't score many PP goals of your own, and you're 5X5 play nets you under 2 goals a game, you better find a way to be successful killing penalties.
What is the staff doing to better manage the roster? By nature you have players for a defined amount of time, and turnover is ever-present. But if you consider a player inexperienced until they are a seasoned upperclassman, what are you doing to maintain a pipeline of 3rd and 4th year players, or what are you going to do to find a way to do what every other good college program does, winning with players from all 4 classes. Minnesota is more inexperienced than Notre Dame, and their season continues. Inexperience is a tired excuse and if Jackson coached basketball or football at Notre Dame the media would have a field day with him for trotting that meme out almost as if on cue.
I tried hard to find some positives in this season, but truthfully what were the positives? Alex Steeves responded pretty well to an expanded role to lead the team in scoring, but he only netted 28 points, about half what the team leader managed 3 years ago. It's also the fewest points any scoring leader had in the Big Ten this year. I wouldn't be surprised to see Steeves improve even more next year. Spencer Stastney had a good year and was Notre Dame's best overall D-man, and will be counted on next year to lead the defensive corps.
The Irish will have 5 upperclassmen to choose from on the blueline (Stastney, Nick Leivermann, Nate Clurman, Charlie Raith and Matt Hellickson) so maybe that will be experienced enough. Of course the netminder will have little or no experience... And what to do with Matt Hellickson to get him back on track? He struggled badly this year. Is it a pairing issue? If the coaching staff is going to run a guy out there as many minutes as that, he simply has to be more effective. His +/- is currently worse than any other player in the league. He's a better defender than he showed this year. Find him a defensive partner that works well or don't put him out there 20 minute a game.
When Jackson arrived at Notre Dame the program had no relevance to the sport. It had one tournament appearance and a couple of near misses. Right away he turned it into something with potential. We were then led to believe the only thing separating Notre Dame from the true elites of the sport were modern facilities. Well, much like is frequently pointed out on one of the other boards around here, he's been given everything he has asked for. Since his arrival, 4 different programs have claimed their school's first ever title. One has turned into one of the actual elite programs. And while winning a title is a bit of a crap shoot, it's not ENTIRELY a crap shoot. The fact is we're no closer to seeing one now in year 15 than we were in year 2. I think it is fair to ask why.
Addressing your first paragraph...
...I have it on good authority the recent changes in ownership at the SBT has resulted in suspension of all non-football road game coverage.
Not sure if anyone is going to the ACC tournament for men's hoops, but....
I noticed that with the women's basketball team
already. Had it already started with men's basketball? It's been true of the hockey team since the 1980s anyway. John Fineran, who freelances, was at the recent Frozen Fours, but I don't believe the paper sent anyone to cover first or second round NCAA hockey games.
That paper sadly, at least in its print version, has to be on its last legs. Half the football games do not have coverage in the Sunday paper due to the fact the papers are no longer printed anywhere near South Bend and the press time comes when the games are in the third quarter.
This sophomore class is really good, but it makes up
half the team. Outside from Janicke, there doesn't appear to be any natural scorers or dynamic players in the freshman class like Bjork, Hinostroza, etc. Landsell was the only other freshman forward to receive consistent playing time and he may have had only 1 goal. Its too bad Jack Perbix decommitted last year and went to the Gophers as he looks like he has some scoring ability. They better hope that there are some scorers in the incoming class or we could be in for a prolonged dry spell. Hopefully we aren't developing a reputation as a school where high-end scoring talent need not apply. One wonders why Alex Steeves brother,who is a Mr.Hockey Minnesota finalist is going to UMD and not ing his two brothers here
Ben Steeves might want to
distinguish himself from his brothers?
A lot of people assumed Mario Lucia was going to Minnesota to play for his dad. After all his brother Tony did. But I think he wanted to skate his own path.
A more snarky response would be that Ben Steeves wants to win an NCAA championship, and the odds seem better at Duluth than in South Bend.
Things have surely changed from a scoring perspective
While we've been in a gradual decline w/r/t goal scoring/scorers over the last several seasons, they've fallen off the cliff from 10 years ago.
The 10/11 team scored 151 goals in 44 games on 1439 SOG with six players registering double digits in goals scored. At least five guys on that roster are playing in the NHL currently. While I know that our approach to building our roster has changed since then, it's a pretty stark contrast nonetheless.
Including that season, we've had just seven 20 goal scorers in our system - Lee (2x), Tynan, Rust, Lucia, Bjork and Oglevie. In that same time period we've had two in the same season just twice - 10/11 and 16/17. Both seasons had six guys who registered double digits in goals scored. This season we had two.
I think the staff needs to revamp the recruiting philosophy
Obviously you need to bring in players that can function within the abilities of the coaches to teach and their own strong points. Also you need to recruit student-athletes who will fit into Notre Dame's academic expectations, although with hockey this is not the same challenge as it is with football or men's basketball. But clearly Notre Dame needs to recruit players with more skill.
I wouldn't think that with the success Rust and Lee are having on good NHL teams it should be impossible to get players to come here who have the potential to be decent scorers in the NHL.
From Jackson's second through sixth seasons here (06/07-10/11) the team finished outside of the top 20 in scoring just once, in 2010. From 2007-2009 they also finished in the top 5 in both defense and on the PK. We generally have not seen teams as complete as his first few since then. The 2018 team finished in the top 10 in defense and on both the PK and PP but was only 25th in scoring.
You don't have to do it all to win, but you either have to be pretty good at both ends of the ice or great at one. The 2008 team was only 19th in scoring and their PP was awful, but their overall defense was great and they had a shut down penalty kill. The 2011 team was really the only successful team that was not particularly well rounded. They had some great scorers but they did not defend well and the special teams were anything but special. That Frozen Four was really the result of a late 6-0-2 stretch that cemented an NCAA spot and then some very timely goaltending out east.
And you can find offensive skill that doesn't project ...
high first round.
Seems like some serious evaluation is in order
Hopefully this is just a one year decline for Jackson, but I agree that there are several aspects of the program that need to be improved markedly. Next year will be a big year for Jackson in terms of the overall direction of the program and his future.
ND has a number of venerable coaches whose teams have declined in various degrees over the past few years. I'd imagine that some major turnover is in order soon and my hope is that Swarbrick won't be around to replace those coaches.