Prep recruiting has been a disaster. Every commit with NHL Draft prospects and without a existing family connection to Notre Dame seems to bolt for greener pastures at the first possible opportunity.
The portal is a good way to fill short-term holes in the roster, but championship caliber teams need to have a strong core of freshman enrollees.
I don't know how to fix this.
the last couple of seasons. Our best freshman checked in at 20th on our list of scorers this year. Only Penn State came close to that with their leading freshman their 15th best. But they put 31 points on the scoresheet from their 5 freshmen. Notre Dame skated 3 and over 52 games they managed 5 points. Five. I think there were injury issues with one, but no matter how you slice it, that's awful. Maybe Notre Dame should petition the NCAA to go back to banning freshmen from playing.
Minnesota's top 2 scorers were rookies. 4 of Michigan's top 6 were too. Ohio State was paced in scoring by a freshman and had another checked in to their top-5. MSU was led in scoring for a good part of the year by a couple of freshmen, and they finished 2nd and 3rd. Even Wisconsin got production from first year players, with a freshman leading their scoring, posting 11 more points than anyone in an Irish sweater and 4 of their top 9 point producers first year players.
Last year wasn't much better, with our leading freshman our 15th best scorer and a total of 27 points out of 4 freshmen skaters. 2 years ago Landon Slaggert was 3rd in scoring (he played on the only line that could score that year with his brother and Alex Steeves). But his offensive output stagnated as a sophomore and all but disappeared this year, with only a 4G/1A streak at the end of the regular season getting him out of single digits. He wrapped up what should be his penultimate season at Notre Dame by getting shutout completely in the playoff.
If you're a player with that kind of talent, that is clearly thinking about the NHL as a big hope for their future, would you REALLY come to Notre Dame? I get the argument of truly learning to play in a system, but you also want a place that both develops your skill and allows you to show your skill. Especially in the modern game, that's huge. And that doesn't happen here.
It's not a surprise that a decent amount of the more talented kids that ND Hockey does get are either flat out legacy/family kids or kids that might as well be (ethnic Chicago kids, Lee growing up loving ND, etc).
offenses more and more. The way it's fixed is to have the coach show he's willing to adjust to the way the game is being played in 2023. It is especially true in the Big Ten.
If a player like Logan Cooley liked what he saw from Notre Dame to initially commit to the Irish, I don't imagine he would have bolted if he saw an offense that didn't look less interesting than watching the ice finish freezing after the Zamboni does its job.
It's all Jackson's doing, and he needs to fix it. Or Notre Dame should find someone who will.
Cooley committed before the recent recruiting timeline changes in late 2018 (4 years before he would set foot on a college campus). Pretty sure McGroarty committed right around then too. Certainly our success in 16-17 and 17-18 played a big role (which debunks the fallacy that JJ wasn't trying to capitalize on our success).
Cooley saw our pretty good 2018-19 season. He didn't decommit.
Cooley saw our not great 2019-20 season. He didn't decommit.
Cooley saw our OK 2020-21 season (a season without non-conf play which makes it impossible to determine how good we were vs anyone outside the B10). He didn't decommit.
Cooley entered the NTDP in 2020. He wasn't on anyone's draft radar. He started as a 3rd/4th liner (which usually is a player who will be drafted mid/late draft round or undrafted).
By winter 20-21 he was usually centering the U-17 top line. Around this time McGroarty was the first promotion to U-18.
I forget exactly, but Cooley was moved to the U-18 team around Jan/Feb 2021. Pretty quickly he was centering the top U-18 line (between Dylan Duke and Pastujov).
His draft hype started picking up steam around summer 2021 as a first rounder. He started getting top-5 hype winter 2021-22.
He saw our team playing "dynamic" hockey in 2021, but never officially decommitted publicly.
Nov 2021, everyone signed LOIs. Except Cooley. Still no public acknowledgment of commitment issues, but clearly a problem. What exactly should JJ have done different at this time? Everyone signed for 21-22. We have problems with a center we banked on (and reserved scholarship $$) for years. And he bailed.
Cooley shopped around. For months on twitter there were random "insider" tweets declaring a shocking imminent flip for Cooley to schools like OSU, PSU, UND, UW, and a couple Boston schools. Who knows where else he looked. Finally one of those came true in Feb 2022 when he committed to the goofs. What was JJ supposed to do at that time? Where do we find a 1C for 22-23 in Feb 2022?
Wild speculation on my part -- but I got the sense Cooley might have been NIL shopping. I know he ended up with a Chipotle deal (which may not be related to signing with Gophers). Don't know if he has other NIL $$. I don't think NIL is playing a big role in NCAA hockey, but it may be something that gets used selectively to attract high end "talent" by teams with a rabid fanbase that will spend the $$ (I also see it as a possible way to circumvent the scholarship limit issue). If NIL is exploited in hockey, Irish will likely be in trouble with 5 star "talent".
Recruiting in hockey is a different animal. FB and BB recruiting gets all the press, but hockey recruiting (androster management) is wildly different. You can't find stud players last minute.
Irish committed to Cooley in 2018. He left us standing at the altar 3.5 years later (while we were in the midst of a season where we were playing great "dynamic" hockey).
With the Cooley problem we had 2 realistic solutions -- portal or bring in a freshman. Freshman options were probably either Fleming (who had the opposite draft hype trend to Cooley and left the NTDP in Nov 2021) or Ali. What decision should JJ make at the time? The portal was the right answer then. Pierson was brought in as the 1C. He had proven good production on a terrible team in Hockey East (the only critique I'd give is if they actually watched tape on him or did they rely on stats and phone calls with his coach) .
Hindsight is 20/20. Pierson was terrible at 1C. Ali on the team would've been the better option by a wide margin.
Given the above, tell me what JJ was supposed to do different?
I can present the timelines for Pastujov and McGroarty as well. It's hard to criticize JJ's decisions at the time. Heck, if Pastujov doesn't bail in Aug 2021 (after he was already on campus) I bet last season has a very different outcome. He was really the missing scoring talent needed on a team that played great hockey. JJ had no control over Pastujov getting drafted by the Ducks. He had no control over Guelph owning his OHL rights. He had no control over the Ducks wanting Pastujov to play with Guelph so he has access to some famous skating coach. And he had no control over the Ducks signing him to an ELC (which burned his NCAA eligibility).
All JJ can do is roll with the punches. Continue to adjust. Which he has been doing.
Why is the attrition rate for Notre Dame recruits so much worse than our peer institutions? Jeff Jackson isn't the only coach who has to deal with NCAA, CHL, and NHL poaching, but he certainly seems to be doing far worse at preventing it than anyone else.
Those questions are not for ndmd99 to answer and I'm not trying to pick a fight. Yet for whatever reason I don't think JJ is doing a good job making himself and his program appealing to prospective athletes. Whether he can fix it is a valid question for which ND athletics should be demanding an answer.
But it seems everyone has pitchforks out without considering the root causes. And lots of demands to "fix it" without realizing it realistically takes years to address roster issues in NCAA hockey (which is why I wanted to point out Cooley/McGroarty/Pastujov were all commits in 2018 -- a major criticism of JJ was not capitalizing in recrutiing on our Frozen Four success).
Already explained Pastujov. There was no way to predict it. We even had the kid on campus in August 2021 when it happened. I don't even know what could be done to prevent it from happening again. And the excuse was Ducks preferred the OHL because of the specific skating coach (which means it theoretically would've happened regardless of where Pastujov was enrolled). I'm all ears if anyone can explain how that's JJ's fault (or how it could be prevented in the future).
McGroarty in interviews openly admitted a big attraction to ND was the stud recruiting class that getting put together. He decommitted soon after the Pastujov issue. Michigan had back-to-back stud classes lined up. Those classes would've been impossible in normal years due to scholarship limits, but COVID came along at the right time (BTW August 2020 Matty Beniers needed a place to play since Ivy League was shut down -- we made a strong push, but he ended up in Ann Arbor). Michigan was aided heavily by Pat Brisson who pushed kids to MI to join his son. It was a confluence of freak events (Pastujov leaving, COVID, and an NHL super-agent recruiting kids to Michigan) that likely led to McGroarty decommiting. What should JJ do to prevent this from happening again? I'm all ears...
Cooley was almost certainly a product of McGroarty/Pastujov leaving as well as his rapid improvement in draft status. He did an interview with NHL.com the week before signing day that said he was going to ND.....but then he didn't sign just days later. He shopped around for months while while still brandishing ND on NTDP lineup cards. It was a turd sandwich that snowballed from random uncontrollable events that will likely never happen again.
Like most on here, I had concerns there was something poisoning the program. Danny Nelson was my litmus test.
He isn't a top 10 prospect like Cooley, but he is probably in the 2nd round range. He had plenty of options. Gopher fans targeted him as the key recruit after MN HS tourney last year. His brother signed but stayed in USHL for a second year (the initial plan was only 1 year in USHL). But clearly Danny and the family trust JJ and ND because he committed in August and signed his LOI a couple months later.
Overall (despite the decommit problems earlier) we put together a very good group of commits last fall. Star ratings are pretty stupid and unreliable for hockey, but I believe Nelson/Stewart/Belle were 4.5 stars, Pardue/Mackie 4 stars, and Bartell 3.5 stars. And Kempf may be the first goalie on the team that gets drafted since Cal Peterson.
That class also shows me one of the first changes to "fix" things -- avoiding the mega stud 5 stars for the time being (although Belle might be the type of player that ends up a first rounder). I 100% agree with that strategy (at least for the short term). We need to get back on track ASAP and can't risk another "Cooley" or "Fowler" decommit in the near future. Once things get stabilized, then maybe push for the 5 stars again.
Cooley/McGroarty/Pastujov all committed before the recent recruiting timeline changes. Those changes alone should help "fix" things too (it's a heck of a lot easier for both player and coach to predict expectations/roster to a 16 yo that may be on campus in 2 years than a 14 yo who won't be on campus for 4 years).
It looks like there is a push to recruit more of the local Chicago kids too as a "fix". 2021 commits Slaggert/Fischer/Ali and 2022 commits Kempf/Pardue/Bartell are all products of the Chicago Mission program. We'll have more Chicago-area kids on the roster than I can ever remember.
The portal was great for us in 21-22. But it sucked in 22-23. It remains to be seen, but the next "fix" I expect will be avoiding the portal. Looking at the roster, unless Bischel doesn't come back for a 5th year I don't think we'll need the portal. If we dip heavy into the portal again I'll get my pitchfork out and join you guys LOL.
I also expect a "fix" with play style. It started in 21-22, but for the most part we mostly reverted to a very conservative game in 22-23 just to get wins. Although I have to say I thought we played a great game on Sunday despite the loss -- recruits/NHL/agents want to see us play that way.
Overall I also think we're just frustrated fans. At the end of the day, I expect JJ will retire whenever he feels ready (maybe it's this year or maybe it's 10 years -- and maybe he's "encouraged" to retire by leadership). We've seen the multi-year setbacks that occur with recruiting disruptions, so if we're smart we'll try to keep Slaggert around in some capacity. But I'll be fine if we jettison Pooley into the sun.
Stewart turns into the second coming of Max Ellis
shed some light on some of the nuts and bolts of how we got here. And we are frustrated fans. Your sound reasoning is a good counterbalance to my emotion. I think I probably just feel a little more strongly about how much blame Jackson deserves as the one ultimately responsible for fixing things.
I absolutely concur with the Pooley note. Jackson needs to listen to a new voice as far as assisting in gameday prep, special teams contruction and anything else Pooley has a hand in.
As I was reading your post, I couldn't help but remember the linked article and the effort UConn made in recruiting Matthew Wood, the youngest player in D1 hockey.
I would like to believe that our coaches were as aggressive in trying to retain our previously committed players, but I am left wondering how much effort was put into it.
the Gophers since the two were roommates in the NDTP program? Motzko was salivating publicly in the paper about how he wished Cooley was a Gopher before he "officially" committed to Minnesota
think Jackson knows any other ways to run an offense?
assistant coach was an attempt at this? If so, seems halfway at best.
In 6 seasons there his teams led the CCHA in scoring or finished 2nd five times. Yes, a higher scoring era, but his teams still shone offensively compared to teams in those same seasons. Hell, in 6 trips to Detroit for the CCHA finals his teams scored 63 goals in 11 games (on the way to 4 CCHA playoff titles). It took his team this year 31 games to score 63 goals.
bode well for next year.
I think he is pretty humble and reasonable. But we'll see.
Fans are finally coming, even with this mediocre season.
Of the 20 home dates (not including the exhibition game):
7 over 4000 tix sold
1 under 4000 (N Mich on a Sunday)
Even the Alaska games sold about 4900 each, and those were on NY Eve and NY Day.
I want to think that his bosses will support what he needs to do, and not say that everything is ok now that we are filling the Compton.
But the program has declined over the past 3 years and he's got to find a way to coax more offense out of the group. I agree with your point below about needing to find another gear to win a championship (and even just to get out of this malaise).
This was an appropriate ending to a disappointing season.
but that means he needs to fix this. After 18 years and a whole lot nearer to the end of a career than the beginning, I'm not so sure he will.
I don't want to see another crop of 24 year old grad students being the only significant addition. I don't want to see someone like Logan Cooley commit and then bolt. I don't want the coaching staff to simply just try to roll out people they think will fit in Jackson's system. This game is changing and if Notre Dame is going to succeed at the level he built in his first half dozen years, major change is needed.
If next year we see the same staff, the same garbage special teams, the same vanilla offense, and the same mediocrity that we've seen for years now, it's time to try someone new.
coach who would deserve the benefit of doubt. But for those who think he deserves a whole lot more benefit of a doubt, I would remind them this mediocrity has been going on a long time.
After starting our Big Ten life with a huge splash, going 13-0 in our first 13 Big Ten starts and cruising to an easy title, we've basically been .500 since in 5 1/2 seasons (55-50-26). We won those first two Big Ten playoff titles, going 6-0 in the process, but since then, we've stumbled along to just a 4-7 record in Big Ten playoff games, losing in the first round 3 times. 2 of those three first round losses and 7 of those 11 games have been at home in the CFIA.
This is also coming off 4 rather mediocre regular seasons in Hockey East, with finishes of 8th, 5th, 3rd and 4th, an 8-8 record in Hockey East playoff games including two blowout losses in the Hockey East Semi finals.
I think those who note that for 40 years this program was basically nowhere before the arrival of Jackson and that somehow means Jackson deserves way more of a benefit of the doubt than others are willing to give are mistaken in that sentiment too. Those 40 years sure didn't seem to prevent him from doing great things, basically right away. Then the CFIA was supposed to be the final piece of the puzzle. 6 seasons in the JACC had 4 combined regular season and playoff titles, 2 FFs and a 6-4 NCAA record. But 12 years in the CFIA has brought the same 4 combined regular season and playoff titles title, a .500 NCAA record (7-7) and just 2 more FFs. And we are in a 5 year downward trend with less and less success. All of that means a whole lot more than for 40 years the program was an afterthought. It isn't, or at least shouldn't be, an afterthought anymore.
I think it’s time for JJ to retire from the college hockey shit-show with his held high enough for legacy.
Will the next guy we get be better? Probably not but maybe
Good guy, elevates the program then it stagnates & begins to slide