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Saturday thoughts: This isn’t what I signed up for

November 28, 2010

That’ll just about do it for Lowell fans this year.

They’ve had enough of the losing, of the not playing hard enough, of the total lack of production from leadership-type players. They’ve had enough of the coach.

Or so it would seem. This latest loss, a 3-2 defeat to an underwhelming (on paper) Minnesota State to cap a weekend in which they were outscored 11-5, seems to be the last straw for many longtime supporters of the program who want things fixed, and now.

But we’re wondering… y’know, why?

If you’re a Lowell fan who believes now is The Time For A Change, and you’re reading this, we’d love for you to shed some light on the subject, as we can’t begin to imagine or know what you thought you were getting yourselves into this year.

There’s a team that started out poorly, got a little better, showed a lot of promise for a short stretch and then lapsed back into some pretty weak stuff in games 10-14 of the season. That team was the 2006-07 River Hawks, who went 3-8-3 in their first 14 games of the season against a much softer schedule than the one Lowell has faced to this point. This is an actual and verifiable fact that you can look up for yourself.

At that point, no one was calling for Blaise MacDonald’s job, or, more accurately, passive-aggressively asking if perhaps someone should begin an inquiry into considering whether Blaise MacDonald’s job should be in jeopardy of being up in the air, so as not to appear as anything less than a True Blue Lowell Supporter From Here Unto Eternity. This particular brand of sickening wishy-washy flip-floppery has reared its head in the past, but never as a result of a team laden with freshmen and sophomores starting the season as though they were freshmen and sophomores. And Lowell fans sat through a 20-game winless streak four years ago more or less without complaint, and certainly not to the coaches.

To these spineless cretins, we must ask, “What about this season has been of particular disappointment that’s come as a surprise to you?”

There are harsh truths out there to be sure. Maury Edwards and Ryan Blair have been particularly unseniorish in their play and their approach, and have been so poor defensively that odd-man rushes have sprung up around them like mushrooms after an April rainshower. Similarly, David Vallorani has been less of a point-scoring machine than he has a turnover machine. These are small disappointments in the overall scheme of things.

It’s particularly bewildering that these cries are coming now, as the team is three points short of its pace through the same number of games as it was four years ago, and in fact, has stats that are not dissimilar. This year’s 32 goals for is the same total as it scored in that number of games in ’06-’07. And while Lowell has given up 11 more goals (a little less than one a game) this year, there’s likely a reason for that.

Blaise MacDonald is likely very sorry to you, personally, that he could not land Lowell’s best goalie in program history for the second four-year cycle in a row. And that Chad Ruhwedel and Dan Furlong are not Jeremy Dehner and Nick Schaus. He’s probably also all apologies over the fact that no freshman has showed as much goalscoring prowess as did Kory Falite. And we’re sure he couldn’t be more upset with himself for allowing Scott Campbell to become injured so he couldn’t play the role of this year’s Jason Tejchma.

And all that being said, we are not Blaise MacDonald apologists. If we felt his job should be in jeopardy, we would say so. And, unlike most Lowell fans, who tiptoe through the tulips whenever they deign to nervously mention the subject, we would be straightforward with that. In fact, let’s put it this way: if the team starts next season like this, then by all means, let’s have a serious conversation about not renewing MacDonald’s contract.

We are aware that the USCHO message boards are a barren wasteland of intellectual thought regarding the sport of hockey, and indeed, where many self-important, humorless troglodytes go to mash out their poorly-formed opinions with the belief that somehow, they are representing the school they support by lobbing conjecture and halfcocked suggestions regarding what is or is not costing the team games into the ether, with which these other titans of mental capability can happily nod in agreement.

The last people who should be allowed to make hockey-related decisions where it concerns the program is the program’s fans, because realism is often a consideration that doesn’t begin to enter into an argument.

But let’s say Lowell does fire MacDonald after this season (they won’t, of course). Thus begins a year in which they have to pay him the remaining one year on his contract for over $100,000 or whatever it is. This in addition to paying for the cost of finding a new coach and giving him a desirable salary. So let’s suppose this all happens. Then what? Will the new coach take the program and turn it into a winner next year? The unfortunate fact is that Lowell simply will not attract big-name coaches that may be kicking around looking for someone to give them a job. Not for the money this program will be able to pay them.

The far, far, far more likely scenario is that MacDonald is allowed to finish his contract, which runs out at the end of next season. And then, if the school isn’t happy with his performance, he will simply not be renewed. Then they hire a relative unknown because, frankly, a Blaise MacDonald type — one who turned took small program to an NCAA appearance thanks to a laughable autobid system and snuck by a national power — is the upper echelon of what this school will likely ever pay someone. Regardless of how it eventually plays out, the team won’t turn into the 1972 Bruins overnight or, indeed, for a number of years.

There’s no good answer to the question currently being posed. But that it’s being asked now is, frankly, absurd.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. RowdyFan permalink
    November 28, 2010 8:24 pm

    The realism most Lowell fans don’t want to admit is for a variety of reasons, the last ten years have been a failure. I’d be 100% surprised that this question hasn’t been asked privately for some time. To make a wild guess to your question, why now? Some Lowell fan finally had the courage to ask the question that myself and a lot UML supporters have thought about over the past several years but wouldn’t do. More likely, it was a question they didn’t want to ask because they already know the answer. Yes, I’ll agree part of it is denial, but that’s one thing about being a fan. Most fans don’t want to throw their team under the bus.

    As you mentioned, most of the Lowell supporters on college hockey forums are just that, fans. Their opinions are no different that what you find in any other sports forum or call-in sport show in the country. You’re a professional journalist that reports on facts. They are two entirely different forums, and hence you will see two divergent viewpoints. No Lowell fan will realistically say that this team had any shot at an NCAA bid, Hockey East championship, or home playoff berth. As you inferred, this is the beginning of the third cycle of a inexperienced class that will be expected to perform in 3-4 years. I think fans are seeing the inevitable writing on the wall, that is will be tough for this team to ever become a now and then NCAA bid contender. It expose one of the deepest fears a fan can have, being relevant. Otherwise, why bother going to the games?

    You are spot on about the comment that Lowell will retain Blaise for the entire length of the contract. I don’t think you give long-time Lowell fans enough credit becaues they are smart enough to realize this and the reason it hasn’t been discussed until now. You’re also correct on another matter, fans don’t make these type of decisions unless the sport is NCAA Division I football. One thing’s for sure, where if it’s UMass-Lowell or the Boston Red Sox, fans will always be expressing and entitled to their position.

    The last point I think we can all agree on. There is no good answer to this question.

  2. Mark86 permalink
    November 29, 2010 4:18 pm

    Only one more year of Blaise…thank you for the information on when his contract expires. I’ve been calling for his dismissal for several years. Though I don’t feel qualified to comment about the coaching X & O’s, he has been a failure in the way he builds the program. The four year cycle method of loading up with freshmen and sucking for 2 years, having some hope in the third year, and having some expectation in the fourth year is a horrible way to maintain a program. I’m tired of hearing..”we’re dressing 8 freshmen and it’s tough in this league”… The loss of Ben Walter hurt in the first four year cycle, but that team clearly turned off the coach. I believe last year’s dissapointing team also turned him off. Blaise has a lot of Rick Pitino in him…the Celtics one, not the college one…and upperclassmen tend to turn him off. An assistant with another Hockey East team told me…”Lowell is the best team in this league, but they have Blaise”….

  3. Lowell Resident permalink
    November 29, 2010 8:19 pm

    Went to the game Friday night – Lowell thru in the towel early in the game – Thier future comes down to one thing – They need a coach – not one who can recruit – they have one – They need a coach who can recruit talented players – Until they bring in a name – they will not attract – Who wants to come to a team they know will be at best mediocre for only one of thier 4 years. – Bye Blaise – Marty bring in someone who can attract high level talent

  4. December 3, 2010 5:22 am

    You guys ok?

  5. jrobes01 permalink
    December 4, 2010 5:34 pm

    Helloooooo???

  6. jjmc85 permalink
    December 5, 2010 6:37 am

    Vow of silence till Lowell wins another game?

  7. heavydrexler permalink
    December 6, 2010 2:31 am

    Deal with it.

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