Better Or Worse?
Examining which teams have more to look forward to in 2007-08
Aug. 30, 2007
By Elliot Olshansky
With the 2007-08 season just over five weeks away, there are plenty of questions remaining ahead among fans across the country. In the end, though, it all comes down to one simple question: Will the season ahead be better or worse than the one behind?
For the 16 teams that made the NCAA tournament this past spring, the questions loom just a little bit larger. With a successful season, the expectations are always raised for the year ahead, but as is always the case, some of those higher expectations will not be met.
Who will rise to the occasion? No one will know for sure until the puck drops, but in the meantime, here are a few ideas.
Alabama-Huntsville - The last year behind the bench for Doug Ross ended with a tremendous flourish, but in all honesty, the season itself wasn't exactly a ringing success. The veteran leadership of that team is gone, but new head coach Danton Cole should bring a new energy to the program, and it's hard to see the Chargers in last place again coming off the high of what they accomplished in March. VERDICT: Better
Air Force - The Falcons aren't the only defending Atlantic Hockey champions, of course, but they are the ones who went to the tournament, and they are the ones with the returning Hobey Baker finalist. Eric Ehn will be without linemate Andrew Ramsey, but the Falcons return four of their five top scorers, and if they can find more consistency in goal, Frank Serratore's team should be able to pick up right where it left off. VERDICT: Better
Miami - The graduation of players like Marty Guerin and Matt Christie should not be minimized, but the RedHawks stand to gain the most of any team in the nation. To return two players with the talent and experience of Nathan Davis and Ryan Jones is a rarity in these times, and the goaltending tandem of Jeff Zatkoff and Charlie Effinger is back. With a good recruiting class coming in and a less demanding schedule, Rico Blasi should have something to smile about this season. VERDICT: Better
Maine - On one hand, seven of the Black Bears' top 10 scorers are gone. On the other, with a recruiting class filled with 1986 and 1987 birth dates, Tim Whitehead's team won't be hurting for experience. With Bret Tyler heading up the defensive corps along with Matt Duffy and Simon Danis-Pepin, and Ben Bishop back in goal, the Black Bears should be solid from the blueline and back, but unfortunately, the quality of defense in Hockey East is strong across the board. If the Black Bears can't find some scoring, the calls for Tim Whitehead's head will be louder than usual this year (of course, with three Frozen Fours in four years, they'll be ignored, as usual). VERDICT: Worse
St. Lawrence - The Saints and their rivals from Clarkson put the
Massachusetts - UMass was not a great scoring team, and the man most responsible for the team's success, Jon Quick, is getting ready for his first professional season in the Los Angeles Kings organization. It also doesn't help that the Minutemen's most reliable scorer, Chris Capraro, graduated. Toot Cahoon has a solid recruiting class, but he still has some work to do before UMass can make back-to-back NCAA appearances. VERDICT: Worse
Michigan State - Of course, it's hard to be better than the best, which the Spartans were when all was said and done in St. Louis in April, but there were some pretty nasty stretches in East Lansing in 2006-07, which is why Rick Comley's team was an afterthought heading into the NCAA tournament. The pro signing of Jim McKenzie and the graduation of Tyler Howells are the most significant losses on paper, but the beauty of the Spartans' NCAA title campaign was the way everyone bought into the team concept, so that it's hard to imagine individual losses throwing them off balance too much. Of course, no one outside the Spartan locker room knows how much Chris Lawrence's leadership will be missed, but
Michigan - No T.J. Hensick. No Jack Johnson. No Andrew Cogliano. No David Rohlfs or Matt Hunwick. The jewels of the recruiting class that came to
Boston University - The Terriers' most serious graduation losses come from the blueline and back, which is convenient, given the arrival of Kevin Shattenkirk and Colby Cohen, who head up the Terriers' recruiting class. As for John Curry, the good news there is that he held the starting job despite some pretty good backups in Karson Gillespie and Brett Bennett. Given how erratic the BU offense was -- anemic, at times -- the forwards definitely have something to prove. If Brandon Yip can stay healthy all year, it should be less of an issue, and Nick Bonino and Colin Wilson are expected to have an impact in that department as well. VERDICT: Better
St. Cloud State - It's hard to imagine the Huskies being any better than they were last season with Bobby Goepfert now trying to carve out a professional career in the Anaheim Ducks organization, but then again, Jase Weslosky looked good in most of his appearances last season. More importantly, the high-scoring freshman duo of Andreas Nodl and Ryan Lasch is back for a sophomore campaign, although the early signing of Andrew Gordon will take its toll, as will the graduation of Dan Kronick. Bob Motzko has shown himself to be talented at getting the most out of his team, but there's only so long you can hold off the
Boston College - Once again, the losses for the Eagles are limited in number, but once again, they're key players: big, versatile Brian Boyle, do-everything forward Joe Rooney and of course, Cory Schneider in net. The goaltending will tell the story there, although this junior class led by Nate Gerbe, Benn Ferriero and Brock Bradford has to be feeling the heat after two unsuccessful trips to the national championship game. Dan Bertram and Mike Brennan are feeling it even more. Still, with six total minutes of college goaltending experience on the roster (they belong to Adam Reasoner), there's a big question mark at the Heights. VERDICT: Worse
Clarkson - Top scorer Shawn Weller is gone, but Nick Dodge was the straw stirring the drink in
Notre Dame - The Irish were the story of the 2006-07 season, and part of the challenge facing Jeff Jackson's team in 2007-08 will be to do the kinds of things that Notre Dame accomplished last season now that they're expected. The other part of the challenge is doing those things without David Brown, who was a rock in goal for the Irish last season, and the three senior defensemen who graduated. The good news is that