The season is over and we all have questions. Is Tom Anastos under the gun next year? Will developing “organically” help or hurt the team? How will MSU be able to replace Wolfe, Riemer and the Chelios brothers?
First off, I do not think anyone will deny that this season was much better than last season. Winning percentage was higher, defense was better, and overall, it just seemed that MSU was in almost every game they played in.
From the looks of it, this team is close to getting over the hump they have been gradually building towards for the past few years, and now the next logical step is to start winning.
Anastos has said that things are on track with his “five-year plan.” If that is true, MSU should be starting to see some wins in the near future. Next year will be Anastos’ fourth as head coach, and I think he will have the tools and the team to stop the bleeding and become competitive again.
For the first time in the Anastos era, there will not be a huge turnover of players. While the Spartans will suffer key losses in Dean and Jake Chelios, Lee Reimer, and Greg Wolfe (who has scored three goals in the forward’s first four games with the Reading Royals of the ECHL), there is a chance for the team to grow “organically” for the first time.
Also, the incoming freshmen will not be burdened right out of the gate like previous classes.
The team will head home this summer due to renovations at Munn Ice Arena, and I think this will be a good thing for the Spartans. This gives a chance for the individual players to focus solely on their development in a familiar environment, while also allowing some players like Matt Berry as well as John Draeger (who missed most of the season with injuries) to come back stronger than ever. It will allow those who did not have a strong season to better prepare for next year.
Next year, MSU will welcome anywhere from two to six freshmen for the 2014-15 season. Many are high quality players who will likely push for immediate playing time, even though they will not be expected to carry the team.
Right now, two MSU commits have sent in their NLI’s: Edwin Minney and Josh Jacobs. I am very excited to watch these two guys play. Minney is the No. 2 American goalie in the NHL Entry Draft and Josh Jacobs is projected to be a second or even first rounder.
While there are others who have not sent in their NLI’s, do not fret. The regular signing period starts April 16 so there is still time for Anastos to net a few more assets for his team.
On another note, MSU also has commitments from four players of the HoneyBaked program in 2016 and one more in 2017. For those who need a sample of the type of talent that HoneyBaked can produce, look no further than Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks.
Folks, this next year will be a big one. Anastos is emphasizing this offseason because he knows that his program has to take a big step next year in order to satisfy both himself and the fanbase. His players have to dig deep down and commit themselves to making that next big step. Only when they do take that step,the bleeding will stop and wins will become common.
While I do think MSU will take that step, it is important to note that we have no control over this. As my father used to say, “The players play, the coaches coach and the fans just sit there and watch.”
Well, we are watching with great anticipation. And we must continue to believe.
Jason Ruff is a multimedia journalist for Impact Sports.
Photo: Jonathan Yales/Impact Sports