Friday, July 16, 2010

Looking at age, experience and returning scoring

Last summer, I spent some time compiling information on different Badger teams going back to the ’06 Championship team. I looked at age, NCAA games played and retuning scoring. Last summer, it told a pretty good tale, the ’10 National Runners Up looked very similar in these parameters to the ’06 Championship team, and the results were very similar.

How about this season? Here is the breakdown on age as a team over the past six years (a player’s age is based on October 1 of the given year):

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
2010/11: 20.85 years**

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

This year’s team compares well to the 06/07 team in age, but for different reasons. The 06/07 team had a large group of upperclassmen and a lot of experience, while also blending in a huge freshman class. That freshman class was younger, this season’s class is older; the oldest group of freshman in the last six years.

2005/06: 18.8 years
2006/07: 19.53 years
2007/08: 19.08 years
2008/09: 19.14 years
2009/10: 19.64 years
2010/11: 19.71 years

Mark Zengerle will be the 10th oldest player on the team, and Jefferson Dahl will be right behind him. The freshman class still has four kids under 19 (Faust, Simonelli, Mersch and Clark), the most since 2007, but a group of experienced junior league vets too.

Unlike the 06/07 team, this season’s team does not have a large group of experienced upperclassmen skaters, four of them walked for pro contracts in the past months. Only 5 Badgers have played over 70 games, and only one on the blue line.

This leads us to the # of NCAA games of experience returning for next season:

2005/06: 1,298 games
2006/07: 1,154 games
2007/08: 687 games
2008/09: 873 games
2009/10: 1,127 games
2010/11: 755 games*
* Based on the projected lineup

Amazingly the 07/08 team made the NCAA tourney, but I’d argue on pure talent that team was loaded. Not that next season’s team isn’t talented, but the ’07 freshman class has ended up w/ four 1st or 2nd round NHL picks. Comparing to the 06/07 team (which was close in age) the glaring difference in experienced returning players is obvious. The 11 players who graduated or left early from last season, all played in over 100 NCAA games, besides Brendan Smith and Derek Stepan who only would have trailed Johnson and Dolan in games played had they returned. Ryan McDonagh and Cody Goloubef would have led the Badgers in games played.

While this team will be mature in age, the lack of experience in NCAA action is obvious. What is even more obvious is the lack of scoring returning next season.

Returning Goal Scoring (% of pts returning)

2005/06: 124/127 = 97.6% (97.7%)
2006/07: 64/145 = 42.8% (43.9%)
2007/08: 47/93 = 50.5% (52.5%)
2008/09: 90/114 = 78.9% (70.5%)
2009/10: 112/131 = 85.5% (80.6%)
2010/11: 44/171=25.7% (27.2%)

I don’t think there is any reason to comment on this further.

Based on these parameters, this is my prediction for this year’s team. The lack of NCAA experience, scoring and a huge freshman class will lead to a lot of headaches and inconsistency early in the season. The one thing the team does have is two experienced veteran goalies, and while we can debate how they will perform this year, it is impossible to dismiss that experience. By the second half of the season, this team should gel, and make a run for WCHA home ice and an NCAA berth. The non-conference schedule is favorable. 8 games are at home, and the IceBreaker will be some great experience for the team to open the season.

I think this team has a lot of talent, Eaves needs to figure out how to put them together right, and get this team to click, but I think by March they will surprise a lot of people.

Go Badgers!