With the season ending in unexpected disappointment, there naturally is a discussion of where the blame must be placed. Now, a lot of blame has gone to Madigan, the staff, and already twitter abounds with the #fireMadigan hashtag. In short, people are far from pleased and want to see Madigan gone. However, I believe this statement to be extremely premature.
I’ll be the first person to say that this season was a disappointment. However, bear in mind what was lost between the end of last season and this season. We lost our top 4 scorers (MacLeod, Silva, McNeely, Reid), a solid defenseman (Hewkin), our 1st round defenseman (Oleksiak), and the coach and both assistants. Mind you, this was a team that was 6th in Hockey East. So for starters, it’s not like this was a top team that lost some top players. It was a middle-ranked team that lost a lot of it’s best guys. Madigan had to come in in late July, and form a coaching staff as well as recoup the recruiting losses that included 2 draft picks who defected. The defections cost us 2 forwards, and a defenseman (as well as Oleksiak who signed with the OHL during the interim period). Madigan was able to replace the losses with a forward and a defenseman, but we entered the season stretched thin in terms of depth (which showed down the stretch as we had 3 or 4 guys out at a time and could barely dress 12 forwards.
Furthermore, look at our team last year. It wasn’t a whole ton better. The 2010-2011 team finished with a 14-16-8 record (12-14-8 if you were to take away their playoff record), while our 2011-2012 team finished 13-16-5. What was the difference? The difference was that Northeastern’s surge in 2010-2011 was against Hockey East opponents (while they fell apart against 3 separate AHA teams), while NU beat out of conference opponents but lost to Hockey East teams.
As for the play of Rawlings, he wasn’t a whole lot better under Cronin. This year he posted a .916% sv and a 2.71 GAA. In 2010-2011 he posted a .920% save and a 2.68 GAA. Not a major difference. But look deeper and compare the opponents. Rawlings in 2010-2011 was buoyed by the fact that NU’s strength of schedule was 35th strongest in the nation, and his numbers were made strong by his 2 shutouts of Harvard (which managed less than 2 goals per game last year), Providence, UVM, and UMass, all 3 of which were in the bottom 4 in scoring offense in Hockey East. This year, Northeastern faced the 8th hardest schedule in the nation.
This is not an attempt to apologize for the debacle that was this year. Far from it. There were a number of mistakes that were made both by the players and the coaching staff, and I believe if the hiring process was started under normal circumstances (April, as was the case for Bazin and Leaman), a completely different coach would have been hired. It would likely we would be looking at a mid-position in Hockey East and talking about the playoffs. But we were forced to start far later than desirable, which likely hurt the hiring prospects as many potential candidates took other positions or signed to stay in their current position.
Now that this season is over, we can look to what Madigan will do with this offseason. I think he knew there were plenty of mistakes made, and I look forward to seeing him work to rectifying them. I also look forward to him bringing in recruits he has seen and has vetted, and seeing them work into his system. I firmly believe this situation will not be repeated next year. If it does, I will be lighting the torches and brandishing the pitchfork along with everyone else.