Thursday, June 18, 2009

2009/10 Badgers will be old

When the Badgers take the ice this October, they will be the oldest Badger team in the past five seasons. Age obviously doesn’t equal experience, or success, but at this transitional stage of life, there will be more men on the ice for the Badgers than boys.

I’m looking for something to analyze as the summer begins, (I’m bored) so I’m going to take a look at a few indicators that should shed a positive light on the upcoming season. After teetering on the line between distress and elation the last three seasons, Badger fans need more positives to look forward to.

In my analysis I used October 1 as the start of the season to determine the team’s age. I believe that is usually the first day of practice for the teams by NCAA rules, and overall it’s a good baseline for comparison.

Below is the average age of the teams:

2005/06: 20.97 years
2006/07: 20.81 years*
2007/08: 20.49 years
2008/09: 20.69 years
2009/10: 21.04 years**

*Includes Nigel Williams on the roster, despite his early departure to the OHL.
**Assumes no one else is leaving or coming in.

There isn’t a HUGE difference in age, but when you add up 25+ players’ ages and divide, a half a year is a big amount. The 2006 Championship team was old, and similar in some ways to next season’s team. They had a core group of older players, w/ a talented sophomore forward, and unproven goaltending. Next season’s team has that old group of players, a talented sophomore forward in Derek Stepan and some questions in goal. Maybe the stars are all lined up for another highly successful season, just w/ a better blue line.

I forgot how old the 2006/07 team was. That wasn’t a bad team, and beating a nearly dead horse, if Skille, Carlson and Klubertanz don’t all go out w/ injury (along w/ Nigel Williams’ defection) at the same time early in that season that team coasts into the NCAA tourney. After all they were the first team on the wrong side of the fence much like last season.

The 2007/08 team was YOUNG. The difference doesn’t seem like much, but looking at that team that freshman class was just learning to walk. Five players started the season under 19 years of age, more than any other team in this comparison. If any team was inexperienced that was the one, which should show when I take a look at games played tomorrow.

A few months back I broke down the last few freshman classes by age, and the 2007 class were the youngest by far, w/ the incoming class being the oldest. Even w/ the change in players (Barnes back to the USHL, Bennett replacing Crandall and Thompson walking on in net), they’ll still be the oldest.

Last season…I don’t want to talk about last season.

I’m expecting some great things from next season’s team. The experience on this team is deep, and if some leadership that was lacking IMO last season develops (maybe Street’s return will facilitate this) the Badgers should be looking at a great season. The freshman class coming in doesn’t have 1st round draft pick names like the last few, but it makes up for that in older, arguable WCHA ready young men. Justin Schultz is a two time BCHL top defenseman (and 2nd round pick to boot), and Craig Smith was the best forward in the USHL last season. Derek Lee will be an immediate contributor as well, and I think John Ramage is a wild card because FINALLY there will be a talented stay at home defenseman on the team.

In the next couple days, I’m going to look at the amount of NCAA games played and goals/points returning for the same five year period, and compare the scoring returns to our WCHA foes. Maybe this will shed some light on the deficiencies of the last three Badger campaigns or just leave more question marks