Five years writing for Tech Hockey Guide. One column every week for almost six months every year. Each column has consumed at least five hours of my time. Some that were based on interviews or required extensive research took 20 hours or more. 1,250 words on average per column.
Add it all up and it comes to almost 130 columns, at least 1,000 hours (or 25 full-time work weeks) of effort, yielding 165,000 words or so. All in all, it’s been a great ride and tons of fun. It’s also been a real privilege for the Old Dog to have this podium on THG.
Other Things Are Intruding
At the same time, life goes on. When I started writing for THG in 2017, I was still working full-time. In late summer of 2019, I retired from that job but immediately re-started the training and consulting business I first established in 1985 and pursued full-time from 1990 to 2010.
That business is now an advertiser on the Chasing MacNaughton podcast.
In the last year, my business has really taken off. I’m travelling more (I’ll be in India for the first two weeks in October, for example) and spending much more time working. I’m doing that because I enjoy it and sitting around, or doing puttering-around-the-house-retiree-stuff just doesn’t suit me.
I’m also hip-deep in writing another engineering book about Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA). At the same time, I’m working with the faculty in both the College of Engineering and College of Sciences and Arts to integrate that subject matter into the curriculum at Michigan Tech.
Finally, when I started writing for THG, I had quite a few things I wanted to say about college hockey and about Michigan Tech hockey in particular. Truth be told, I’ve said most of what was piled up in the recesses of my mind and, last year, I found myself repeating things I’d said in different ways several times.
When all of that collides with the rest of my life, including 72 years of living, I just don’t feel comfortable committing to a weekly column anymore. No one knows how many more years we have in this life, but as you get older, you know you have many fewer left, and the priority you place on your daily activities becomes sharper—well, at least as long as you don’t go into a mental decline of one type or another.
But I’m Not Quitting—Not Yet
As a result, at least for the coming season, and after discussing this with our editor Matt Cavender, I’m planning to write 1-2 columns every month instead of one every week. I’ll write when I have something to say, and not just because there’s a weekly deadline I’ve committed to. So, I’m not saying goodbye, but instead I want to concentrate on adding my thoughts about the Huskies when I actually have something to say and not just because they won or lost a game or two.
I hope to keep working with the THG team for years to come, just not at the same level of intensity.
I’ve Got Something To Say This Week
At least right now, I have something to say about this year’s team. This squad may very well struggle, particularly in the first half of the season. While you can read Jonathan Zamaites’ detailed review of the roster here, The Old Dog is going to offer a few thoughts as well. With the Huskies picked anywhere from third to seventh in pre-season polls for the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA), there are far more unknowns than in the past few years and that kind of uncertainty could turn out to be the signature of the 2022-23 team.
To start, the upperclassmen are going to have to step up. Only one—Blake Pietila, who may well be the anchor of the team in goal—was a pivotal player last year. His brother Logan has great skills too but he’s been a streaky up-and-down scorer during his three previous years at Tech. He needs to be at his best every game, not just sometimes. Still, Blake, recently named to the pre-season all-CCHA first team, will have a heavy load to carry and frankly may have to keep Them Dogs in games where they could be outshot by a meaningful margin.
Arvid Caderoth, recently named as one of this years’ captains, will have to step up. In the past, Caderoth played the role of setter for now-departed goal scorers—and that won’t be enough. He needs to put the puck in the net himself. So will the other Huskies with significant game experience—Ryland Mosely, Nick Nardella, Tyrone Bronte, Jake Crespi, Parker Saretsky, and Logan Ganie have all been role players. If they all play the same way during the coming campaign, things could be very difficult. Tristan Ashbrook has the most potential in the Old Dog’s eyes, and his offensive production is likely to be critical. Jack Works, a junior transfer from Denver who had one point in 15 games in two seasons for the NCAA Champion Pioneers, could be a wild-card.
On defense, the same pattern prevails. Co-captain Brett Thorne has been a solid starter for two years and has shown flashes of offensive capability as well. Chris Lipe returns for his senior year, and he’s usually been quite reliable if not flashy. But he’s had short runs of weak games and has never shown much out of his own zone. Trevor Russell was a big surprise as a freshman last season and he needs to avoid the all-too-common sophomore sag we often see in college hockey.
The real key on defense might be Ryan O’Connell. O’Connell, a graduate transfer from Ohio State, has been a four year starter in the Big Ten and was plus 12 on a good Buckeye team last season—but was never expected to be a defensive goal-scorer, either. If O’Connell can have the impact that Michael Karow had last season, and the D-men mentioned above can demonstrate real improvement and avoid injury, Tech’s modus operandi might be great defense with even better goaltending. But coach Joe Shawhan doesn’t see O’Connell in quite that light.
Another grad transfer, forward David Jankowski from St. Lawrence, is a potential contributor. He’s been a team captain, a four-year starter, and has averaged ten points a season over his NCAA career. Can he blossom in a new environment?
There are also a ton of freshmen and red-shirts who could make a difference, too. However, the most promising freshman, Kasper Vähärautio, a product of the famed Jokerit organization in Finland, is already lost for the season with a shoulder injury. Former Minnesota high school phenom Kyle Kukkonen might be someone who can make a splash. Kyle had 53 points in 56 games last year in the USHL which is a great sign. Older brother Trevor posted similar numbers in the NAHL—but struggled during his stint in the USHL in his first season out of high school.
There are other players, too, who might surprise us. Blais Richartz and Marcus Pederson come to mind—but overall, there are just more question marks than answers in this years’ roster.
Finally, Shawhan will be tested this coming season as well. Long-time assistant Chris Brooks has departed, and young Jordy Murray and Tyler Shelast, both with just one year as assistants, will own the task of helping Shawhan shape this lump of soft clay into something much better than it appears on paper.
At the least, it should be entertaining. But it might also be painful to watch at times. In the final analysis, this could turn into one of the great Michigan Tech seasons but we could also see a ton of one goal games that find the Huskies on the short end when the final buzzer blasts out.
Let’s get this show started.