Thursday, July 26, 2012

Perspectives on Recruiting

According to some, if Guy Gadowsky found a way to win at Princeton, he can find a way to win at PSU.

What are the implications of Penn State's NCAA sanctions on hockey recruiting? Really, at this point, it depends on who you ask. Let's take a quick spin around a representative set of opinions, starting on the pessimistic end of the spectrum.

(By the way, message board "experts" need not apply here. I actually did look at USCHO in an attempt to pull a reasonably intelligent opinion to share. No such luck.)

Negative Impact

CBS Sports ran this piece on Monday, and while the subject was Patrick Chambers and Penn State basketball, the applicability of everything said to hockey should be pretty obvious. Both sports are in the same boat as not directly involved, but guilty by association. The writer talks about sitting next to PSU associate coach Eugene Burroughs at a showcase, seeing the logo on his shirt, and thinking "Sandusky, child rape, coverup." He concludes that if that was his first reaction, surely most potential recruits would see it the same way. The most compelling part of the article, though, was this opinion:
"It will affect [basketball] recruiting in the short-term," said Baylor coach Scott Drew, who already knows what Chambers soon will learn, that it's difficult to recruit to a ruined brand even if the damage done wasn't your fault. Drew, in 2003, took the challenge of rebuilding the Bears program rocked by a murder and coverup under former coach Dave Bliss.

"The people who only know of Penn State what they're reading nationally probably aren't going to be interested in going to Penn State right now," Drew said. "So Penn State might have to rely more on prospects and families who know more about Penn State than what's in the news -- maybe people who had relatives or family members go there, or just people who have spent some time on the campus before all this -- because those people will probably be more inclined to see more than just this situation."
Possible Negative Impact, But Ultimately Okay

College Hockey News managing editor Adam Wodon called into The Pipeline Show Tuesday night to discuss The Scandal's impact on hockey (here's the show's archive page, with downloadable MP3s of each segment - segment one, before Wodon was on, is also worth a listen).

Between the three people involved in the conversation - co-hosts Dean Millard and Guy Flaming were the other two - the consensus seemed to be that recruiting may (or may not, there was some hedging) be hurt on some level in the short run, but in the long run, the program will come out fine. Wodon, at one point, said that "it may take them a little longer, perhaps, to become a power than they might have anticipated," which sort of captures both sides of the coin - power status is still on the table, but delayed. He followed it up with this gem:
"[Gadowsky] recruited to Princeton and they won the ECAC championship and made the NCAA tournament. If he can do that, I'm pretty sure he can still recruit to Penn State."
Ouch, sorry Princeton.

Freshman forward Jonathan Milley and Sheldon Keefe won big at Pembroke.

A Speed Bump

On Wednesday, Pembroke Lumber Kings (CCHL) President/GM/Head Coach Sheldon Keefe tweeted this:
Guy Gadowsky, Matt Lindsay and the staff of Penn State's new D1 hockey program are the perfect people to help rebuild the pride at PSU.
No, he wasn't directly talking about recruiting, but as a guy in charge of a Junior A team (not to mention his specific mention of ace recruiter Lindsay), what do you suppose his context is? Even if the comment wasn't a "recruiting" comment per se, recruiting, whether consciously or not, probably played a big part in developing that opinion. At minimum, it's nice to see some confidence from someone representing a group with a great amount of influence on the process.

Keefe and the Lumber Kings, by the way, were the 2011 RBC Cup winners as the Canadian Junior A national champions. Nittany Lions freshman Jonathan Milley scored both goals in the title game win over the Vernon Vipers.

No Effect

I won't claim to be supremely plugged into the world of uncommitted players to the point where I can deliver any kind of large sample. But the father of one, Edina (MN) High School senior Anthony Walsh, told me recently that "the football mess leaves Anthony no less interested in PSU." I think that statement's important not just for the "no less interested" part, but for the "football" part as well. Clearly, some out there are able to see this as implicating something less than the entire university.

Here's a nice highlight reel of Walsh at his Green Bay Gamblers (USHL) tryout. For more, check out the YouTube channel of 55rudyrudy.

It...Helps? What?

The article that ties everything together and inspired me to do something beyond just dumping this all in Three Stars is this USCHO piece, posted late Wednesday and quoting Guy Gadowsky extensively on the NCAA fallout. Here's his take:

“When [recruits] see how the student body and our athletics program is dealing with this going forward, I think it will mean even more to come here,” he said. “In a strange sense, it’s certainly not going to be immediate, but by the way Penn Staters deal with this, Penn State hockey will become even more attractive.”
Good with me.

Just so I'm not seen as misrepresenting what he said, Gadowsky did also mention some level of concern from both players and parents, but that those issues are usually smoothed over with a campus visit or even a quick reassurance.

I think ultimately the final word, at least for now, is "we'll see." But it is encouraging that, even in close proximity to the worst of days, most still seem to believe in Penn State hockey's potential.


  1. It's convenient that the worst moment of this whole fiasco - the last few weeks - come at a time far away from signing day. There's time to do a lot of damage control.

    It's worth noting that even PSU football - obviously the program closest to the actual crimes - didn't really see much of a recruiting hit - if any at all - from the "reputation hit" caused by the scandal. They lost some committed players during the prolonged period where it was very unclear who the next coach would be - that would have happened under the best of circumstances. And football didn't lose any recruits - and still has only officially lost one - until the severe sanctions were actually announced. So it was the lack of bowl eligibility, etc, that matters to them, not some amorphous association with child rape. That doesn't apply to hockey which, thankfully, doesn't have bowl games.

    One of the top basketball recruits has decommitted but still has PSU high on his list. He might just be waiting to see how it pans out. Or maybe just realized he made a decision way too early, regardless.

  2. Just to build on that a little, there are only five seniors on the team now (2D, 3F). We have 1G, 2D, 2F committed for next year, and if we haven't lost any of those guys yet, it doesn't seem too likely that we will. Saar and Goodwin have friends on the team now, McAdam and Thompson are home state kids - Thompson followed me on Twitter in the last two weeks, and McAdam just visited PSU in that same time frame. Welsh worries me a little, but not because of any actual information that I have, just because his ties to the school don't seem to be quite as strong and I haven't heard anything from him in a while.

    My point is that adding anything new for 2013 isn't an absolute necessity, beyond any recruiting over certain areas the coaches may want to do. We'll need to do something by 2014 with only two commits and that group of transfers (Kirchhevel, Johnson, Jensen, Holstrom) along with a couple others departing - but we have 16 months until the early period for 2014.

  3. Good analysis. Thanks for keeping track of all of that. The new building will help recruiting as will any signs of success the team might show this year.

    I don't think Scott Drew's comments are directly applicable, because he is the basketball coach and it was the basketball team that was ripped apart by double scandal. It's worth noting their that the NCAA didn't crack down on Baylor because one player murdered another. Bliss was committing recruiting violations and his interference with the murder investigation was an attempt to cover that up, not cover up the murder. The murder itself seems to have been a tragic case of severe psychosis. Plus, Penn State football is going to keep at least a large number of it's good players (not all, I doubt, but many, it appears) who can keep some team leadership and attitude going. A basketball team can't really survive the loss of even two or three decent players because there are only five guys on the court at once.

    I don't really follow basketball, but my impression is that Baylor basketball has more than recovered. It's better than it ever was before. Drew deserves huge praise for pulling that off.

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