Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Jeff we will miss ye

The big news today was that Jeff Tambellini has signed with the Los Angeles Kings and will forgo his senior season at the University of Michigan. I think that it is safe to say that this caught all the Michigan faithful off-guard. In the next couple of days, the doom and gloomers should take over the posting boards, but I'm not sold on this being the end of the world. Would Michigan have been better with Tambellini? Absolutely, but I continue to believe that the greatest question that this team needs to answer is whether or not the defense can improve. The Wolverines will still boast a likely top six of TJ Hensick, Andrew Ebbett, Kevin Porter, Chad Kolarik, Andrew Cogliano, and Brandon Kaleniecki. Mike Brown and Jason Bailey are the solid beginnings of a third line and there are a slew of freshman forwards ready to step in. Assuming that a couple of these players are able to step up and have decent first years, Michigan will fine on the offensive end of the ice.

Even if Al Montoya had returned, I would have still been a tad worried about the defensive play of this team. It is my opinion that last season Montoya let in several goals as a result of sloppy play due to overconfidence and boredom. Perhaps a rookie goalie is just what is needed to return a healthy dose of energy to the crease. I'm not saying that losing Montoya was a good thing or that Billy Sauer will be a better goalie than Al Montoya (although he certainly could be someday), just that Sauer has all the tools to have a Montoya-like first campaign.

I believe that the real key to this team is the defenseman. With Eric Werner, Nick Martens and Brandon Rogers graduating, there will be some real holes to fill. Jack Johnson is going to go a long way toward filling them, but can David Rohlfs successfully transition to the blueline? How will Mark Mitera adjust to college hockey? Will Tim Cook finally play up to his awesome potential? Matt Hunwick was very, very good a year ago and I expect him to be even better this year as the buzz on the USCHO boards is that he has been working very hard all summer to improve his game. Jason Dest was also solid a year ago and hopefully he is poised to take up some leadership on this team. In total then on defense, we have 3 "sure-things", 1 moderate question mark (Mitera) and in my opinion, two major question marks (Rohlfs and Cook). Whether or not Adam Dunlap (BU transfer) will contribute also remains to be seen.

In the end, I think that the loss of Tambellini will be similar to the football team's loss of Braylon Edwards and the departure of Montoya will mirror that of Ernest Shazor. In the first case, a true superstar will have to be replaced by a plethora of young but mostly unproven talent. In the second a talented but ultimately streaky and overrated individual probably cannot be replaced but that might not be all bad.

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