Brian at MGoBlog is starting up a MGo Hall of Fame and has listed his first nominees for hockey from 2007-11. The candidates are Shawn Hunwick, Jack Johnson, T.J. Hensick, Kevin Porter, and Carl Hagelin. If you want to add your two cents, follow the link and post in the comments. My two picks were Hensick and Porter and a question mark on Hunwick. My comments on each one are after the jump. Feel free to agree or disagree.
I guess it all depends what you want to base it on–a player’s whole career or one or two good/great seasons?
I love Shawn and his story is phenomenal. Statistically on GAA and save percentage records he should be included. However, based over the course of a whole career, it’s tough. He went from walk-on who was never suppose to play, to magical run when least expected to save Michigan’s NCAA tourney streak. But the following season Hunwick was actually LOSING the starting job battle to Bryan Hogan and had it not been for Hogan suffering an injury prior to The Big Chill, we might not be talking about Hunwick being included today. Shawn certainly made the most of his opportunity after that. My biggest knock would be the big rebounds he always gave up. But a good defense helps out and they certainly did that for Shawn at times, too. Hunwick stood on his head many a game, too, and never got the credit he deserved. When I think of Michigan’s past great goalies, would I put Hunwick up there with Marty Turco in the first go round of voting? I can’t say that I would, but I can’t say that I wouldn’t, either.
Jack Johnson. Can’t do it. LOVE Jack and everything he’s accomplished. But the two years he spent at Michigan, the Wolverines were like watching a circus freak show more than a hockey game. Fans went just to chant “Kill, Jack, Kill!” rather than cheer the team. He was obviously very talented, however more times than not Jack acted more like a fourth forward than top line DEFENSEMAN on the ice. I lost count on how many times he and Matt Hunwick left Billy Sauer out to dry due to poor decisions like pinching when they shouldn’t or simply just getting beat (totally remember a game at the Joe vs. MSU where the Spartan player won a face off in the MSU zone and skated straight ahead right through Hunwick/Johnson and scored). Sauer may not have been the best goalie, but the year after Jack left I remember predicting in my season preview that it may be addition by subtraction for the U-M defense. Though only remembered for his NCAA semifinal meltdown that season, Sauer did set Michigan’s single season GAA and save percentage records the year after Jack left. That speaks volumes to me.
T.J. Hensick is a definite yes from me. His attitude issues aside, the kid was phenomenal his whole career. I don’t always hold his attitude against him, either. Yes, it was frustrating to watch Sauer in net his first two years when Hensick was there and perhaps T.J. shouldn’t have vented his frustration on national TV during the NCAA playoffs (I remember the reporter asking him about Sauer and T.J., obviously not happy, said something like “I don’t know what’s going on with him.”). But you can also choose to interpret it as the competitor inside him. I remember another short, uber-talented center who was a glory hound and had a feisty attitude named Mike Comrie. Hensick could have left early for the pros but chose to stay. His point total is probably one that won’t be reached again by a Wolverine in the modern era of early departures. And is being a glory hound always a bad thing? The hockey team these past few years have had no standouts who could create the magic Hensick could and be a threat every time he touched the puck. I wish we had another Hensick on the team.
Kevin Porter is another yes from me. I think the problem he faced his first three years is that he was a solid winger who was always overshadowed by the likes of Hensick, Andrew Cogliano, Johnson, etc… Porter had 24-34-58 his junior year (Hensick’s senior year). Any other year on any other team and you’re looking at a Hobey Baker finalist for putting up stats like that. Yet that campaign in his career is totally forgotten because everyone pretty much attributed those stats to playing alongside Hensick. Porter didn’t have the flash of Hensick. Maybe he didn’t have any highlight reel goals. But what he was, was consistently good at both ends of the ice, and his senior year, with Hensick gone, he went from good to great, proving he wasn’t just a product of Hensick. Porter scored 33 goals his senior year, a number the likes of Cammalleri, Hilbert, Tambellini, Comrie, Muckalt, and Morrison never accomplished in one season. And perhaps above all else, Porter and Chad Kolarik brought unity, leadership, and discipline to Michigan hockey once again after the two years of the JMFJ circus freak show that seemed to alienate some of the team as not feeling all inclusive on and off the ice. To me, all seemed right again with Porter captaining the ship, and the Hobey Baker Award capped it off.
Carl Hagelin, I’m sorry to say, I can’t do it the first time around, either. Amazing his junior and senior years. Off the chart speed and work ethic at both ends of the ice, like Jed Ortmeyer only with skill. But offensively, Hagelin always lacked that ability to be a major scoring threat, that something special that Hensick possessed. He never had a 20 goal season and never elevated his offense to elite status like we were all waiting for. What he lacked there he made up everywhere else, but it’s not enough for me to vote yes for him on the initial ballot.