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Irwin Next? Meloni Article Suggests Cahoon’s Future Uncertain

Ok, here I am just a couple hours from posting about James Marcou’s imminent departure when news breaks from College Hockey News’ Joe Meloni that Matt Irwin may also be leaving UMass early to sign a contract.  Sadly, this is not the first I’ve heard of this.  First off, I think this is just plain dumb.  I’ve been a big fan of Matt Irwin since he first committed to UMass.  In fact, I believe way back when I predicted he’d have a huge impact as a freshman in Amherst.  Unfortunately he followed it up with what some would say was an inconsistent sophomore year while other would call it flat out disappointing.  Frankly, I think he has the potential to move beyond his sophomore slump and develop into a top Hockey East defenseman and a potential Minuteman captain.  But I think leaving now would just curtail that development and he has the very real possibility of giving up a college career (and degree) to become a minor league lifer.  Perhaps that’s good enough for him, but I personally would hate to see it.

Also talked about in the Meloni article is Cahoon’s thoughts on his future here at UMass.  This too was a subject that I had hoped to write about this week in time, but for now I’ll just relay what was said in the article.  Cahoon essentially says he’s not worried about his future at UMass but that’s basically up to the university.  In his opinion the notion that the program has peaked is premature.

Quite frankly, I wish I was writing about anything at this point but this crap.  These are the times when it sucks to be a college hockey fan.

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Republican: Marcou To Turn Pro; Guzzo Release

I had hoped to be posting my thoughts on the season that was, but at this point I, and I expect most UMass fans, am caught up in the departure rumors surounding the program.  My season recap is in the works, but for the time being I have to write about the subjects at hand.  And with that….

Dick Baker of the Springfield Republican is reporting that James Marcou is planning on turning pro.  Personally, I have heard much of the same from very reliable sources since the team was eliminated Saturday night.  Earlier tonight former Collegian writer Joe Meloni posted on Twitter that Toot Cahoon does not expect Marcou to return.

Earlier today I gave you my thoughts on Casey Wellman turning pro, now I guess it’s Marcou’s turn.  Frankly, there is no doubt in my mind that James Marcou has NHL skills.  His vision and playmaking abilities are unrivaled, at least in terms of the 17 years I’ve watched of UMass hockey.  But, to point out the elephant in the room, Marcou is going to have problems with his size.  James is listed at 5’8″.  That’s nice.  Let’s assume it might be true.  That’s still very short for an NHL forward.  Are his skills NHL level?  Most definitely.  Can he overcome the challenge of his stature to have an lengthy NHL career?  In my uncertified opinion, no.  Well, perhaps, I guess.  Not to say he can’t do it.  Just saying I frankly have no idea.  And that’s a big ole question mark.

James has been quoted as saying multiple times that one of his big hockey heroes is equally diminutive but amazingly talented Martin St. Louis.  St Louis has let nothing stop him from not only having a legitimate NHL career, but establishing himself as an All-Star level type player.  Like Marcou he too was an undrafted player when he entered the collegiate ranks, but if Marcou leaves early St Louis accomplished something James will have not.  St Louis stayed all four year for the Vermont Catamounts and became their best player of all time, leaving the venerable Gutterson Fieldhouse as the record holder in points and assists.  He was also a three time NCAA All-American and Hobey Baker candidate.  Sound familiar?  Marcou is already the all-time assist leader at UMass.  The points total will be tough to match, only because the great Pat Keenan was so dominant for those early 70s teams.  But Marcou has a chance to equal most if not all of those accomplishments.  Three time All-American?  He’s well on the way, assuming he is selected to such an honor again this year.  Could he become the first UMass player to WIN the Hobey Baker?  He would certainly enter next year as one of the favorites. 

The NHL will be there in a year.  Could his statstics potentially go down with the loss of Wellman?  Perhaps.  But did he prop up Wellman’s stats or the other way around?  I would argue the former.  He makes the players around him better, not the other way around.  What could Syner’s numbers be as Marcou’s go to winger?  How would star recruit Mike Pereira do matchedup with up a setup-man like Marcou?  James, The NHL will be there in a year.  College immortality is something most never even have a chance at.  In the next couple days Marcou will be making his decision.  Judging from what is being reported and what I’ve heard his decision is close to being made.  But I hope he reconsiders that decision.  He could go on to a solid NHL career perhaps.  Or he could be the next Greg Mauldin and live a life of AHL busses and an occasional season overseas.  Even the great Thomas Pöck could never fully establish himself in the league and now plays in Switzerland.  But how many hockey players can live their life with the title of being the best player to every play at their collegiate program.  That’s the decision James Marcou has in front of him.  I for one hopes he goes for the near sure bet of one more year of immortality versus the immediate risky venture that is pro hockey.

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In more positive news, the commitment of Steven Guzzo is official.  I like the intangibles described in the Oakville press release.  Note that it appears Guzzo will be coming to Amherst this fall.

(photo by Oakville Blades)

Thoughts On Wellman; Recruit Update

Casey Wellman (photo by Karen Winger)

I don’t blame Casey Wellman for leaving.  Why?  Because the Minnesota Wild offered him a $900K contract and he’ll start his pro career in the NHL, not the minors.  I am amazed that he got the rookie maximum, and frankly good for him for getting such a contract.  For an undrafted guy only playing two years of college (not even at one of the elite programs) that’s a pretty sweet deal.

Now for the part that may surprise.  I’m glad he’s going.  Don’t get me wrong, I like Casey and I’m very thankful for what he did at UMass.  But I would argue the Casey Wellman that I’ve seen on the ice for the last three months has been more of a detriment than a help.  At times he has looked selfish.  Too often he has looked flat out disinterested.  Even when he had good games, like the last two against BC, there were still instances where he didn’t look like he was putting the goals of the team ahead of his own.  Case in point, down 4-2 Wellman leads a 3 on 1 into the BC zone with a chance to get back in the game.  Instead of looking to pass to either of his open teammates he instead tries a spin move around the lone defenseman.  It doesn’t work and the puck and chance to cut into the lead are lost.  That play was just a microcosm of Wellman’s second half of his season.

Speaking of Wellman’s second half of a season, let’s take a look at it.  Through the first 16 games Wellman scored 15 goals and had a total of 25 points.  In the remaining 20 games he had only 8 goals and 20 total points.  Incidently, his production plumetted right around the time he started getting mentioned for the Hobey Baker award and started being the subject of story features.  Now I’m not sure if these things got to his head or if they put added pressure on his shoulders, but either way it did not seem like he was very good at adjusting to such things.  Yet another reason why making the jump to the NHL will be a huge challenge for him.  I’m very interested to see how Wellman adjusts to playing without Marcou.  Of Wellman’s 23 goals, Marcou factored in 19 of them, including all 11 power play scores.

If you ask me I think Casey Wellman played his best hockey when he was an unheralded, undrafted player from sunny California who committed to college late in the game and played like he had something to prove.  That was the Wellman I loved watching and the one that I’ll remember well in the maroon and white and miss in the days to come.  The guy who left his two wings waiting on Saturday for the pass that never came, I will not.

What it comes down to is that a player who is not fully committed to what the team is trying to accomplish is better off pursuing his interests elsewhere.  No matter what though, I wish him luck.  While I am not entirely heartbroken over his departure, I did enjoy watching him play for UMass and will enjoy following his career from here on out.

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For those wondering, assuming Wellman does dress for the Wild later this week, he will become the fifth UMass hockey player to play in the NHL.  He follows Brad Norton, Greg Mauldin, Thomas Pöck, and Jon Quick.

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With the Wellman watch over to quickly I can now put my entire focus on the Marcou watch.  Supposedly Toot Cahoon has asked NHL clubs to back off.  Sadly, I don’t think that will happen and the poaching will continue when Marcou signs later this week.  It’s only a matter of time.

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Congratulations to Peter DeAngelo as his Junior Monarchs are EJHL champions.  The Monarchs beat the South Shore Kings 4-3 on Sunday for the championship played at Holy Cross.  DeAngelo picked up an assists in the game.  Unfortunately the Kings were without the services of Shane Walsh who was out with what I’m guessing was an injury.

Joel Hanley had a goal and three assists as his Newmarket Hurricanes swept Burlington in the CCHL playoff semifinals.

Kevin Boyle’s New Jersey Rockets lost to Walople in the AJHL championship game.  Unfortunately Boyle gave up 5 goals on 25 shots in that final game.  He had played well in the AJHL playoffs up to that point.

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