Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Setting The Record Straight: The Numbers

Analyzing the facts, dispelling myths and quelling the fears and anxieties of Wildcat Nation - why calling for a new coach is preposterous.

Part One - The Numbers

The Wildcats are 10 and 14 in the NCAA Tournament under the guidance of Dick Umile. Whoa, a losing record in the NCAA Tournament, that can't be good. But let's really look at these numbers. Coach Umile has steered the team for 18 seasons. 24 NCAA Tournament games. Wait, the team has made the Tournament in 14 of those 18 seasons (how many coaches have attained such a percentage of successful seasons?), with the first missed Tournament being his very first year as head coach and 3 of those 4 missed Tournaments in his first 6 seasons behind the bench since which his team has made the Tournament 11 of 12 seasons. So 24 NCAA Tournament games in just 14 appearances - that's an average of 1.714 games per Tournament. How many times have they made it past the first round in those 14 appearances? 6 times - that's nearly half the time at 3 in 7. Of those six advances they have gone on to the Frozen Four 4 times or 2 out of 3. Of those four Frozen Fours how many times have they advanced to the Championship game? Twice - 1 in 2. And here is where the pattern breaks down and the ultimate reason for the loss of rational thought in many of the faithful. Of those two chances at the National Championship, they don't have one to show for it. The only title that Coach Umile has yet to attain behind a UNH Men's Hockey Team that is possible for them to win.

But they've been one and done for the past 3 years, you say. Well, I guess no team and no coach can have a slump. That's if you look past the fact that this horrible slump comes as the Wildcats have earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament each of the last 7 years under Coach Umile. One of the 16 teams each season as opposed to the 43 left hitting the greens early. The fact that only 2 other teams have done so during this time frame and only Minnesota has a National Championship to show for it (though Michigan is certainly in position to leave UNH the last of these three this season) doesn't say much either, does it?

So let's look at the last three seasons.

Record in chronological order: 20-11-7, 26-10-2, 25-9-3
Goals Scored: 118, 138, 129
Goals Allowed: 92, 87, 87
PP: 19.1%, 20.0%, 18.6%
PK: 87.0%, 86.5%, 85.7%

Aside from a few less wins that translated into ties in the 05-06 season, not much different. So why would anyone expect a different result this year? As Albert Einstein is noted as saying, the expectation of different results while doing the same thing is the definition of insanity. Perhaps it was the insane, topsy-turvy nature of college hockey this year, not the least of which involved Hockey East itself, and was most obviously manifested in a 9th place Maine. Yes, you heard that right, 9th place in Hockey East after back-to-back Frozen Four appearances that saw them bow out in their first game of the Frozen Four and granted the now customary second Runner-Up.

Let's look at four seasons in which the 'Cats progressed to the Frozen Four, though I don't have all the numbers.

1998: 25-12-1 (the most similar year to the above but you'll quickly see the difference in the next three seasons)
Goals Scored: 163 (a significant difference)
Goals Allowed: 98

1999: 31-7-3 (First Wildcat Team to finish Runner-Up in the National Tournament)
Goals Scored: 170
Goals Allowed: 90

2002: 30-7-3
Goals Scored: 184
Goals Allowed: 102
PP: 29.4%
PK: 84.1%

2003: 28-8-6 (Runners-Up again)
Goals Scored: 156
Goals Allowed 96
PP: 23.9%
PK: 86.6%

When correlated with the results of their playoff record, I for one see a significant difference between this set of four years as opposed to the last three. Especially the stats concerning goals for and their powerplay percentage - though as noted before, the data set is incomplete.

So, what gives?

Looking at various college hockey coaches who have enjoyed tremendous success one thing becomes apparent - they all suffer slumps. Jack Parker went eleven years with only two NCAA Tournament appearances after his Terriers won in 1978 and is nearing a similar streak over the last eleven. Jerry York endured a similar period of appearances but nothing more before leaving Bowling Green after he had guided them to a National Championship. These are two great coaches, and Coach Umile hasn't gone anywhere near an 11 year slump, nor come close to missing the Tournament as often.

What explains these slumps? I would say recruiting. Every year coaches gamble on the future of their program. Sure, they are as informed as possible but at the end of the day it is a gamble with almost each and every recruit brought in. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose and with no house profits involved, you generally break even at the Coaches' mean level. Some years the achievement is higher and some lower but you've got to admit that Coach Umile's mean seems to be extraordinarily high and that he's certainly had teams do everything but win that one final game.

A look through the books of college hockey National Champions reveals quite a short list of coaches and some of those whose names are present there have produced widely varying results from year to year, era to era. In other words, what we are witnessing here is well within reason for a great college hockey coach.

Could these Wildcat fans calling for Coach Umile's ouster simply be a bit spoiled by the Wildcats' successes? Combined with over-inflated expectations, this could be a dangerous combination. Can they just not stand the unjust taunts of others?

You can form your own conclusions. What I do know is that the numbers certainly don't support the notion that Coach Umile needs to go.

But there are still more of these illogical fallacies to consider concerning the absurd position that Coach Umile needs to go in order for a Wildcat Hockey team to win a National Championship. These points include:

Working hard over the long run and winning Regular Season Championships is cheap and worthless.

Fans who say, 'I won't buy season tickets to support a team that can't win a National Championship.'

Dick Umile gets paid to win a National Championship.

And more...

To be continued.

Go 'Cats!


Blogger Stavro99 said...

When fans get disappointed they demand blood. When a team has high expectations that are not quite reached, the masses clamor for the unknown out of desperation for that which was unfulfilled. The problem is, the unknown would most likely have had the team sitting at home during most of the last 7 NCAAs. They would rather risk taking a really good team and turning them into crap then learn to deal with the fact that in life there is disappointment.

Apr 4, 2008, 10:06:00 AM  

Very well said.

You know, there is no other reason for this guttural wail that has come from a number of fans and has quickly died down.

Those that take a team's loss as a personal affront to their own self-esteem are highly likely to respond exactly as we have seen.

These emotional and psychological attachments that are well documented concerning fandom are the only explanation for the irrational lashing that some have engaged in.

Thanks for the additional words on this situation.

Here's the link to the psychology article that I've found to be the most helpful.

The reference section of this piece contains many great studies for anyone who would like to understand the current malaise of the affected fans.

Apr 4, 2008, 10:29:00 AM  

There is also this NPR piece.

Apr 4, 2008, 10:43:00 AM  

This New York Times article: SPORTS PSYCHOLOGY; It Isn't Just a Game: Clues to Avid Rooting

Apr 4, 2008, 10:50:00 AM  
Blogger Stavro99 said...

Interesting articles. It's interesting to see self-esteem and personal identity tied to the outcome of these games.

When I was younger, as an NFL season ticket holder who lived and died with the team I had to learn a few techniques for being a fan without going nuts. One day when my beloved team was knocked out of the playoff race in the last game of the season by an awful team, I admit I was dejected and wanted the world to go away. But I had to work that evening, and to my dismay the world moved on even though the season was over. I decided that I had to learn how to experience joy and excitement when the team did well while dealing with losses and disappointment in a stoic, graceful, almost detached manner.

This was a little tricky for me because I am not and have never been a bandwagon jumper. I follow my teams win or lose.

If you become miserable and angry every time a team falls short of the pinnacle, which is something 98% of all teams do every season, life can become full of misery and bitterness.

Apr 4, 2008, 11:34:00 AM  

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