Tonight, I left Gutterson early for the first time, like, ever.
It was 4-1 BC when I left, and they’d scored a fifth by the time I got back to my dorm. We’re 3-7-1, the worst start since I started watching UVM hockey in 2013 (that was my senior year of high school – I’m actually a year behind in college). And at least in 2015-16 a slow start was understandable, as the starting schedule included four teams who were top 10 at the time plus a Northeastern team that would go on to win the Hockey East tournament. And I want to talk about the team that I started following UVM hockey with – the seniors that graduated last year.
Over four years they were one of the winningest graduating classes we ever had. In each of the three years CollegeHockeyNews tracked CF% (there were no numbers for 2013-14), they were above 50%.
I should probably explain CF% (Corsi For %) since I refer to it a lot. It’s shot attempts for divided by shot attempts against. It’s a good indicator of possession and how well you control a game. (I know “Corsi” has a weird reputation, but it’s literally just attempted shots, and is named after a former goalie coach.)
Even in their biggest down year (that 2015-16 season), they had a 52.2 CF%, and all you needed to know about why that team didn’t win as much as they could have was their 6.7% shooting percentage (fifth-worst in the nation that year).
I mention this because the question is: did UVM get lucky with that class and we’re showing our true colors as a bad team once again? Is it a cultural problem? Is it a leadership problem? Is this a blip? Should I even care? Who knows?
Let’s examine this year. First year since that group (who only ever saw one NCAA tournament) graduated. We’re going to look at shot attempt counts.
Vs CC: 55-41 CC (Fri), 50-47 UVM (Sat)
@ QU: 64-53 QU
@ Union: 71-43 Union. How the hell did we get out of that with a W???
@ Michigan: 86-49 Mich (Fri), 62-62 (Sat)
Vs UNH: 77-44 UVM (the one time we’ve looked like last season’s UVM)
@ UConn: 60-54 UConn (Fri), 65-55 UConn (Sat)
Vs BC: 67-44 BC (Fri), 54-39 BC (Sat)
So yeah. Drink some of those in. We’re controlling our zone about as well as the president controls himself on Twitter. We have the eighth-worst CF% so far in the nation. Who are we ahead of? Lake Superior State, Sacred Heart, RPI, Army, St. Lawrence, and the two Alaskas. Last year our CF% was better than that of five tournament teams. That’s not just regression, that’s ALARMING regression.
Want more bad stats? UVM is now 1-5-0 after scoring first. Every time you think they’ve turned a corner and started a game strong, boom, 3 goals against in the second and now you’re in shambles.
Someone pondered on the USCHO forum, and I think it’s a FANTASTIC question – is it a lack of talent or lack of effort?
Because really that answer determines who the blame’s on.
First, I won’t buy “young team” for a second – the BC team that tore us a new one this weekend has only six players above the sophomore grade year. One of those six is their third goalie.
If it’s lack of talent, then that’s poor recruitment, which is primarily the role of Sneddon’s right-hand men, Kyle Wallack and Kevin Patrick. (Friendly reminder that we just lost a recruit to the WHL recently, as Orca Wiesblatt signed for Calgary. Did he see the writing on the wall? Maybe.)
If it’s a lack of effort, then it’s more difficult. Some would have to go to Sneddon for failing to motivate his players, and a decent chunk would have to go to the players for…well, not caring. (I do think effort has been an issue, for the record.)
I know the #FireSneddon train is back. I tend to be patient with coaches (I’m a Southampton fan and didn’t call for Claude Puel’s head until, like, April), but there should be questions about how this team is doing, and if the senior class of 2017 was just an anomaly.
And then there’s the culture question. UVM had a hazing scandal at the start of last year, and since 2013 has lost 14 players to early departure (transfers/cuts/going pro/CHL etc.) Those both bring up questions about the culture and atmosphere of this program. (Also, the high penalty minutes – 13th most in the country – could also be a symptom of this, but it could also just be frustration; that said you have to stay disciplined in this sport.)
I know this is a rant, and I know I’m crapping on the men’s team a lot right now. But that’s because I care, I want this team to do well. But right now they’re hard to watch. And it’s not going to get easier with a road trip to a very good Northeastern team coming up.