Here is the deal: Northeastern should never be missing the Hockey East playoffs. NU is in Boston, they play in a historic rink, with a brand new weight room. They get to play in the Beanpot. They have great student support. They offer good academics. Hockey is the biggest sport on campus. And now with GONUxstream, you can watch all home games for free. With all these assets, they should be an attractive option to both coaches and recruits. And that should be turned into positive results on the ice. Or at least the ability to finish in the top 8 of a 10 conference that features several teams that do not have these assets.
But in 2 out of the past 3 years, that has not happened. And for some reason, most people seem OK with it. I don’t care about how bad this team has been in the past. Losing is unacceptable. And people need to start acting like that. So who is to blame for the failure? Well a lot of different people, some more than others. But here is a good start if you are looking to play the blame game. (and you should be. If you support Northeastern and you are OK with mediocrity, you are part of the problem)
The problems run deeper than just the players on the ice, but this is probably the best place to start. Being bad is one thing. Being talented and wasting it is an issue. This team was very much the latter. This team was talented enough to make the playoffs. They showed that with wins over Notre Dame (x2), Michigan, Lowell, BU, and Minnesota. But that effort was not brought on a consistent basis. It was actually a rare occurrence. There were far too many games that this team was outworked by an opponent who just wanted it more. And when you miss the playoffs by 1 point, its hard to forget about all of the winnable games that were lost because of a lack of effort. The way the team quit in the Beanpot was beyond embarrassing. And if any fan stopped going to games after that, I would not blame them. When a team plays like that, it doesn’t deserve support. The worst part of the season may have been the final game. With nothing to play for, the Huskies played their best game of the season. They finally looked like they cared. And they showed their potential. To finish behind less talented teams, like Providence is just unacceptable. (This cannot be applied to the few guys that absolutely worked their asses off every chance they got: Mike McLaughlin, Robbie Vrolyk, Zak Stone, and Steve Morra. There were a few others, but these 4 guys didn’t take a single shift off all year, despite their teammates not returning the favor).
The Coaching Staff
No coaching staff will ever be perfect, but this group left a lot to be desired this season. Early in the season, spreading out ice time was a huge issue and it took far too many 3rd period/OT collapses before Madigan decided to change it up. Eventually they got the lines to click and got the ice time figured out and thats when the win streak happened. By the end of the year, there were so many injuries that the lineup was going to a mess no matter what. You can’t blame them for that. But here is what you can blame them for: SPECIAL TEAMS. Here are the facts. The Huskies in even strength situations: +21. The Huskies during Special Teams situations: -17, including scoring just 21 PP goals while giving up 11 shorthanded ones on their 153 power plays. If you had to pick one single reason why the Huskies missed the playoffs, this would absolutely be it. Northeastern’s complete and year-long failure on special teams, especially the power play made them a team that was fighting for a playoff spot instead of home ice. It took the coaches over half the year to figure out the passive box wasn’t working on the PK. And they never figured out how to fix the PP or even who to put on it. The stats are bad enough but when you add in how demoralizingeffect giving up a shorthanded goal had on the team and their playeafter that, its just brutal. How many times did the Huskies not convert on a PP late in the third in tied or 1 goal games? A million? Just unacceptable. Even if you don’t have the pieces to have a great power play, you should at least figure out a way to stop the other team from scoring while you have the man advantage. The one other thing you can blame the coaches for is their refusal to go with Witt. They stuck with Rawlings through stretches where he clearly didn’t have it and Witt never got a chance. So by the end of the season, it was either stick with a struggling Rawlings or go with the guy who had seen the ice 4 times all season. There was no reason for them to be in that situation. They should have known what they had in Witt. He turned in a tremendous performance in the final game and with a little more ice time, the Huskies may have picked up that 1 point they needed.
You’d think the Athletic Director would work hard to make sure the school’s biggest sport is successful, but Roby does just the opposite. He suspended Greg Cronin during the crucial stretch of last season for sending too many texts to kids that had already committed. Possibly the most minor violation possible. One that probably happens all over college sports. He made it impossible for Cronin to do his job, and basically forced him out. Whether you liked Cronin or not, him leaving set the program back. If Cronin stays, so does what would have been one of the best recruiting classes Northeastern ever had. (led by Johnny Gaudreau who has flourished at BC) And there is a chance Jamie Oleksiak would have stayed. Dan Cornell did a great job this season but the difference between him and Oleksiak is just enormous. Roby knew what the repercussions were when he forced Cronin out, but he did it anyway because Cronin actually cared about winning games and clashed with Roby over it. When Cronin left, Roby was forced to make the biggest hire of his tenure, he conducted a “national search” and wound up with the following 5 candidates: 1. Sebastian LaPlante 2. Jim Madigan 3. Darren Yopyk 4. Mark Carlson 5. Greg Carvel. Um what? You are telling me a head coaching job in Boston at a Hockey East, Beanpot school could not appeal to anyone better than these 5? And then he hires the one guy out of this group with no coaching experience, and in turn pissing LaPlante off so much that he leaves the program. If he wanted an alum to run the program, why not LaPlante? The guy who had been an assistant with the team. And then just to make sure the hockey team could not be successful, he limited the amount of paid recruiting visits Madigan could go on and only allowed 1 scout on the road at a time. The man hates hockey for whatever reason. And his Tee-Ball coach attitude is what is holding Northeastern Athletics back. Everyone gets to play and everyone gets trophy. If Roby had it his way, we probably wouldn’t even keep score.
Northeastern seems intent becoming one of the top schools in the country. But somehow it has never occurred to them that Athletics can be a big part of that. They allowed the AD to cut football, but they still have a hockey team that plays in the premier hockey conference and a basketball team that plays in one of the best mid-major conferences. But does the school support them? Barely. Do they use that as an advertising pitch? Of course not. And do they make an effort to improve Athletics? Hell no. If you want to be considered a top school, having a well-run, successful Athletics Department needs to be part of your focus. So when it sucks and thats not an issue, heads need to roll. Mediocrity is not OK, and lately NU hasn’t even achieved that. Its time for that to change and its gotta start from the top. Fire Roby and start supporting the teams and maybe we can finally have some quality teams and the fan support they deserve.
Simple Solution: Fire Roby, Make Madigan AD, Bring Cronin Back.