In the wake of Michigan Tech’s split with then last-in-the-nation Alabama-Huntsville last weekend, social media has been buzzing with all kinds of theories, ideas, confusion, disappointment, and anger about the Huskies and their post-New Year’s swoon. Tech didn’t look particularly good in their Friday victory, and they just couldn’t score against one of the weakest defensive teams in the country on Saturday—and the Chargers, who if nothing else, are not quitters—took advantage. Them Dogs desperately need WCHA points to gain home ice in the playoffs, and the loss of three points to UAH has been hard to swallow for Husky Nation.

As a result of this bitter outcome, there have been hundreds, possibly thousands, of Tweets, comments on THG’s Discord site, the Chasing MacNaughton podcasts, and even on THG’s internal Slack site about what’s happened to Them Dogs in the month after their Great Lakes Invitational championship.

It’s enough to make an Old Dog’s head spin.

The ideas and even anger tend to fall into two different categories:

  • There’s something wrong with the coaching staff.
  • There’s something wrong with the players.

Coaching staff issues come in many shapes and sizes. The first and most common, is that Joe Shawhan can’t relate to the young adults of 2020. Many of these refer to the players as millennials, but really, almost any definition of when a “generation” starts and ends doesn’t match the current players to the term “millennial.” (And believe me, if you search the Web, you’ll find plenty of different definitions for the starting ending birth years of various generations.) It’s closer to say the Huskies’ players are of the “Generation Z” age, born and raised with the Internet, with mobile devices in both hands, and with social media as a defining aspect of their daily lives.

These comments come in various flavors, too numerous to list. Suffice it to say—at the risk of being hit with an “OK Boomer” barrage, most of these comments are coming from the generations that came before the millennials—Gen X and Boomers. The focus, though, is that the coaches just can’t get through to these guys for one reason or another.

Another set of explanations revolve around the strategies and tactics the coaches are driving the players toward. The Old Dog, being a Tech-nical sort of Husky, tends to favor these. My own notion is that you get what you coach, no matter what you say, and Shawhan and staff are teaching defense first. The Huskies aren’t giving up many goals, so there’s some evidence for this, too.

Certainly, this is the third straight season that has seen Them Dogs struggle in the second half of the season. While they managed to right the ship in 2017-2018 and win the WCHA playoffs with an impressive all-road-show triumph, three in a row is a pattern, and while some players have come and gone, the coaches remain a constant. Once again, for those who favor an instinctive cause-and-effect, this may have some validity.

Overall, much of that doesn’t really matter. It is relevant, though, that Joe Shawhan, whenever he discusses the team’s losses, tends to put the focus on players not playing the way the staff wants. If he’s ever said it was on him, plainly and bluntly (and Shawhan’s nothing if not blunt), I haven’t heard it or read it.

That takes us to the other side—it’s the players who are falling short. And, again, there are many varieties of these comments and ideas. This generation of players just doesn’t understand what it takes to win. (The Old Dog played with that one last week.) These guys can’t handle the pressure of being in the public spotlight. They have a hangover from GLI (Shawhan has certainly pushed that one). And, of course, there’s the “this is a young team” (another Shawhan explanation) and just wait until next season and we’ll see things turn around. Last but certainly not discountable, is that the flu bug has sapped the team more than we realize and, as a result, they just don’t have their mojo right now.

If you step back, you can see that many of these suggestions are just the complementary side of the first category, that the coaching staff can’t relate to the current Huskies. Instead of faulting the coaches, though, the blame falls on the players.

Finally, there’s a sort of third or even fourth category. The most common one is that it’s too early to panic (is it ever too early to panic for rabid fans???) and that things may yet turn around this year. And, naturally, there’s the “it’s a mix of everything”—players, coaches, timing, circumstances, the phases of the moon (not really-I haven’t seen that one yet), or whatever.

When the Old Dog thinks slowly and calmly, far removed from my second Two Hearted Ale Saturday after the loss to UAH, I’m forced to think about something that is attributed, in several different ways, to H. L. Mencken, writer, skeptic, and satirist who was widely thought to be one of the leading American thinkers of the first half of the twentieth century.

Mencken famously remarked that “for every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, obvious, and wrong.” While I’m tempted to say that’s the best answer for what ails the Huskies, it’s not a lot of fun to let it go at that. But I will just add that figuring out the relationship between cause-and-effect in sports is nothing more than semi-educated guessing.

So, since my head is spinning, and there might be any number of explanations, causes, technical or emotional answers, The Old Dog will throw down a challenge to THG readers.

For someone who has more time on their hands and more programming skills than the Old Dog, that someone should create a roulette simulation. Go through Twitter, go through the THG Discord site, listen to the podcasts, and make a list of all of the guesses that have been bandied around. Assign each “coaching staff” issue to a Black number, and each “player” issue to a Gold number. And finally, assign “none of the other ideas” to Zero, and “some combination” to Double Zero. Create a Black & Gold Roulette Wheel. Spin the wheel a few dozen times metaphorically and see what you get. We can call it “Keweenaw Roulette.”

Photo courtesy Greg Montani and Pixabay.

Once you’ve done that, post a message here on THG, and I’ll reward you with a column explaining your results.

That might be the best answer yet.

Unless, of course, Tech goes on a tear and wins the remaining eight games on their schedule. (But we’ll still run a column on your results!)

Previous articleAll-Decade Team – Part 2 (Defense & Goaltending)
Next articleChasing MacNaughton Liner Notes: Episode 12, Armageddon
Mike Anleitner is a 1972 Michigan Tech grad, and he was in the first class of what has become the Scientific & Technical Communications program. He also has an engineering degree from Wayne State and an MBA from Michigan-Ross. He spent forty seven years in various manufacturing and engineering positions, and is currently a semi-retired freelance engineer. He lives during the fall and winter with his wife of 49 years Carol–also a ’72 Tech grad–in Addison, TX, a Dallas suburb with more restaurants per capita than any other municipality in the US. During the summer, Mike and Carol reside in Elmira, MI and avoid the Texas heat.

11 COMMENTS

  1. Actually, on his show, I have heard Joe say the problem is at his door, that if things aren’t right, it is on him. Many, many times.

    Fact is, it IS a young team. I believe they will come together. I think there was a problem last year that is still being overome, and this team has great, great things in its future. This year is not over. Next year, we have almost all of our assets still in place, and more coming in.

    I think the problem, and I know for a while the problem for me, was impatience. This is not yet Joe’s team. Next year it nearly all is. He had a mess to fix, and he has but it is not done overnight.

    Again and again he has said that it is up to him to overcome any problems. I don’t know where you get the idea that he has not. He has. Many times.

    I believe that things aren’t over for this year, and next year will be a breakout year for this team. I hope I am right. Fact is, every coach with that mess that was left needs some time. I think what has happened in some games is a combination of things. The Huntsville Saturday game came from them getting a fluke goal and playing a mile over their heads. As to Friday, the Huskies have now learned how to score, and on Saturday, Huntsville played monster defense and their goalie is not slouch.

    Have a little faith. It is coming. If not. Well, we’ll see, won’t we? Nobody seems to understand Joe. I do. If there is anything wrong with Joe, it seems he is too nice. Other than that, I don’t find fault.

  2. Just to be clear, there was a very definite problem last year, and the schedule was most difficult, and we got our butt whipped in the GLI. One last thing. There are six, not eight games in the regular season left. Just to be clear.

    For all of those who are playing “Keweenaw Roulette” don’t bet your money on the fact that this team will not come together to be a championship caliber team. Maybe they won’t be in the NCAA dance THIS year. But that’s just this year. If you are actually a fan, get out there and support them.

  3. Haha. I’m betting on the Huskies. As should all fans, in my humble opinion. We’ve seen ups and downs. We’ve seen DECADES of horrible outcomes. I think some people got spoiled when Mel came in, but it seems to be forgotten that it was Mel’s FOURTH year before he had a winning record.

    Then he left a recruiting mess behind, and stole recruits from Tech. This is a fact. Not just folks who were commits to “him” if you will, but after he was gone. Ever wonder why we seldom if ever see commits? Guess. They are there.

    Next year is Joe’s fourth year. He should have a winning year this year. That remains to be seen. But next year is the year when it is almost completely HIS team. So, there was a great deal of singing Mel’s praises during his first three losing years. Not so with Joe. But then, Joe speaks the absolute truth as he sees it. So we shall see what happens next year. Next year and over the next two years there will be serious losses of personnel by some teams. Mankato will suffer a lot next year. We will lose some, and a lot in three years. So it comes down to recruiting and keeping other schools from stealing recruits.

    Yes, I am betting. On the Huskies. Glad to accept any takers. But there shouldn’t be any who call themselves Husky fans. They should be of the same mindset as myself.

    We will see. Doesn’t make me right. Just makes me a Husky fan. With 55 years of carrying that title.

  4. Great! I bleed black and gold (and silver, too—I’m an old Dog after all) too. If I didn’t I certainly wouldn’t spend all the time it takes to write a column every week. Nothing would make me happier than to see the Huskies go on a tear.

  5. Talk about Old Dogs try Ochenta y ochos anos! my Husky baptism began as a 1949 S MI freshman skating on sidewalks and the street following ice storms! Watching us endure a 1/15 record vs U MI was nonetheless less warmed by a handful of wins over Stateand a lifelong passion developed. I’ve gotten to know Joe and Darcy Way personally and have gained great respect for Both. Joe’s an easy mark for one so honest and oft times transparent about his coaching philosophy and practice, so be it! I remain confident with Patience his Husky’s will rise from past ages like a legendary Phoenix! Bob Carnahan MCM&T ’53

  6. Well, after that fiasco, which may have all but guaranteed home ice, I guess I’ll bet on 00. But I’ll be there tomorrow night.

  7. Nope, and you know why? Look at the stats page. On WCHA. Sophomores, Freshmen with a smattering of Juniors and a senior. A young team still growing. A few bad decisions perhaps? Yeah. Bad change in goal last night in my opinion, but these things are going to happen with the best, let alone a young team growing and a coach getting beat up about what is going on. Yeah, I’ll beat him up too when I am disappointed, but the fact remains that this is a young, young team. With decent results. What is going to happen as they grow and get really, really good?

    Anyway, I’ll continue to bleed black, gold and a bit of silver, thankyou very much. And watch this team progress.

Comments are closed.