It is clear that we are now in the dark days of the MSU hockey rebuilding process. Offense has been scarce, close games have slipped away and many are becoming frustrated.
“These are the times that try men’s souls,” Thomas Paine once wrote, and that quote is as true today as it was nearly 250 years ago.
In this time of trial, it is important that we come together as a fan base and look towards the future of the program as it is a bright one.
Head coach Tom Anastos has faced lots of criticism in the past few years, some of which has come as fans (including myself) have banged their heads against the wall wondering what the heck the team is doing out there. Some have even gone so far as to call for his removal following the end of the 2013-14 season.
For those who support this notion, it is time to reveal a stark bit of reality: Tom Anastos is not going anywhere. When he was first hired in 2011, athletic director Mark Hollis gave Anastos a five-year, $322,000 contract. By giving Anastos a long term deal, Hollis shows faith that coach Anastos can get the team back to a semi-competitive standing by the 2015-16 season.
Scrapping Anastos’ contract would not only be economically wrong, but would spell program suicide for a hockey team that, believe it or not, is moving in the right direction.
This season has been tough, that is true, but let us get some perspective. This is NOT the season from last year. The team is much more competitive and is showing more poise when entering big games.
Since the blowout against Michigan, the Spartans have only lost ONE game by more than two goals. MSU has been in almost every game they have played during their Big Ten schedule and they are showing they can play with just about any team in this Big Ten conference. It is just a matter of “finding those inches,” as a famous football coach once said.
Also, a special shout out to the A-Team student section, as they have been the heart and soul of the fan presence at Munn Ice Arena this season. Although I am only a freshman, I consider it an honor to be a part of such a special and dedicated group of Spartans.
Next year’s Spartan hockey class promises to be something special, and may indeed be part of the offensive answer this program is looking for.
Hockey recruiting is a very drawn out process. Players usually are recruited in their first years of high school and generally commit several years before they step on campus. Tom Anastos has been known as a good recruiter and we may see that talent bear fruit next season.
Next year’s incoming class, which is the first class Anastos has recruited front to back, includes forwards Dylan Pavelek (US National Development Program), Marcel Godbout (18 goals and 35 assists last season) and Cody Milan (Expected top-10 NHL draft pick). For the defense, commits include: Joshua Jacobs (Currently leads team with 19 points) and Carson Gatt. Finally, as part of the incoming class, MSU will gain a goaltender in Edwin Minny who is slated to be one of the top goalies drafted in the 2014 NHL entry draft.
That list is only for next year, coach Anastos also has a steady pipeline of recruits coming in for the next three years, which you can see here.
It is important to note, however, that only Edwin Minny and Joshua Jacobs have sent in their National Letter of Intents. Dylan Pavelek recently officially committed to MSU, according to his Twitter:
All of the rest of the recruits are verbal commits. This means that there is a chance that they may jump ship for the OHL. However, knowing how Anastos forms a deep relationship with his players and their families, this risk is actually quite small.
This season has been tough, I know, but we cannot lose faith that there will be a better tomorrow. This off week allows the Spartans to regroup and reorganize while, at the same time, it allows Anastos to experiment during the exhibition game against the US National Development Program.
Four more games remain for the Spartans before the Big Ten tournament. A couple of wins at Munn would be a huge boost to morale going into the single elimination playoff format where anything, and I mean ANYTHING, can happen.
Keep your heads up Spartan Hockey fans, and continue to believe!
Jason Ruff is a multimedia journalist for Impact Sports.
Photo: Jonathan Yales/Impact Sports