Monday, September 28, 2015

Guest Post from @BurntBoats: BC Misses Cavanaugh

Editor's note: You can follow/tweet at the author of this wonderful post on Twitter (@BurntBoats).  If you have any comments or disagreements with that he said feel free to tweet at him. If you're from North Dakota/Newton, you will probably bitch at us because your reading comprehension is lacking which is fine too because we agree with 100% of things that shed a negative light on BC Hockey/this post.

Hey again, internet pals, thanks to BSRS for continuing to let me, @BurntBoats, use their site to say things longer than 140 characters with guest posts. So let’s have at it:

If I were to walk up to a random BC hockey fan and tell them Mike “Cav” Cavanaugh is a very good college hockey coach, I would be met with thorough agreement. If I instead said it appears the Eagles program significantly misses “Cav” I would probably be told I was stupid, and then I would feel bad. Alas, I will try to fight on, and explain why I believe both of my above statements are true.

Taking a quick step back, your average college hockey program has a head coach, an associate head coach (which is a glorified title for top assistant coach) who focuses on either the defense or the forwards, an assistant coach who focuses on whichever of the previous positions the associate doesn’t, and a volunteer goalie coach. A quick look around the league and it appears to me that
10 of the 12 Hockey East schools have this format for their staff.

One of the two schools that differ from this is UML, which does not have a volunteer assistant position so the (young/virile) head coach has primary responsibility for the forwards and one assistant takes the defense while the other handles the goaltenders.

The other, as you may have guessed, is BC, but has only been in this situation recently. Until late spring 2013 BC had –remarkably – gone nearly a decade without a change in their staff, Jerry York was the head coach, associate “Cav” handled the forwards, assistant Greg Brown coached the defense, and volunteer assistant Jim Logue was in charge of the goalies.

BC did not intentionally #BlowItAllUp, but in one offseason “Cav” left for UConn and Logue retired. York took the unorthodox but understandable decision to hire goalie Mike Ayers as the 2nd assistant behind Brown, and bring in retired-NHL-forward-with-no-coaching-experience-at-any-level Marty McInnis as the volunteer assistant. This made BC the only program in the league to have a volunteer assistant coach responsible for coaching up the forwards.

“Cav” has a great track record of developing forwards, both anecdotally and statistically. The final nine forwards he coached for four years at BC (Mullane, Whitney x2, Carey, Almeida, Gibbons, Smith, Price, and Lombardi) improved an average of .106 points per game each season. At first glance may not seem like a huge improvement, but it brought these nine from an average of 0.56
PPG each as frosh, to 0.84 PPG each as seniors, which on an average team is worth about 1.9 PPG from the forwards, which now seems significant.

Since “Cav” left and McInnis has taken over the forwards on a volunteer basis he has coached 11 forwards for both of his two years, over that span these forwards have averaged a year over year “improvement” of -0.001 PPG. So instead of seeing this expected boost of 1.9 PPG from forwards developing, like under “Cav” BC saw no boost, and instead a slight decline

The lack of production from the upperclassmen last year sent BC fans into a tizzy about how poor the recruiting was that brought them to campus, and while I agree that Straight and Silk’s forward classes may not have been as talented as previous classes in Chestnut Hill, in my opinion the inability for the staff to improve their play was at least as large of a problem, but was not really mentioned.

Eleven forwards stagnating over two years is not enough of a sample size to say unequivocally that the new BC staff can’t develop forwards. Maybe McInnis was just rusty after over a decade away from the playing the game, or maybe he is learning and growing as a coach since he was never a coach before joining BC, or PDO (luck) could be a factor. So it is not out of the realm of possibility
that the staff could turn things around this year. However, entering a year where BC’s defense is a near lock to take a huge step back from the prior year based on personnel, seeing this track record on offense –which BC will be counting on to be their strength– under the current staff is highly interesting, to me at least.

I think the infusion of freshman talent on offense should be enough for BC to overwhelm much of the bottom half of Hockey East and finish the regular season with the most points in the conference.  However, I don’t foresee as positive results in March tournaments for the Eagles against top teams who have been improving during the year (remember how much BU’s non-Eichels improved throughout the season last year?(Link). Even forwards this skilled will lose much of their edge on opponents if they are unable to improve throughout the season, and when combined with a weakened defense, is certainly not a recipe for success. Thanks for reading, now feel free to call me stupid.


  1. I am long time BC fan. Good article. Cav is missed.

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