Dean's List by Jeff Sauer
Sauer – the fifth-winningest coach in college history
– will write a bi-weekly column for Inside College Hockey.
"The Dean" was the head coach for 31 years at Colorado
College and Wisconsin, where he won two national titles. Sauer
retired at the end of the 2001-02 season.
This is a new
college hockey season for me. For the first time in 31 years, I
don't have to worry about dry land training or devising training
camp drills or figuring out who was going to play on special teams.
I get to sit
up in the stands with you and second guess and enjoy watching the
game. I'm not going to mislead you. I will miss coaching, but I
am grateful to the editors of Inside College Hockey who have given
me the opportunity to share my thoughts on the great game of college
In my years
of coaching at Colorado College and the University of Wisconsin,
I have seen this game develop and grow so that this year we will
have a 16-team national tournament for the first time and six different
conferences, including College Hockey America and the MAAC, will
have representatives in the NCAA field.
It is an exciting
time with preseason polls trying to figure out who are the teams
to beat. My general rule of thumb is look to teams with solid goaltending
as contenders. That's why so many people talk about Denver this
year with Wade Dubielewicz back in goal.
And the other
thing to watch is how many teams have veteran, experienced players
on their roster. Each year the teams with the older, savvy players
generally succeed, if they have good goaltending, of course. Freshmen
can add a lot to a roster, but my experience has been the older,
more experienced players have to play well for your team to have
success. College hockey is not a freshman league any more. Freshmen
can make a difference, but in most cases, it's the older players
who get the job done for you.
But one of the
biggest changes in the game – and the reason it is tougher
than ever to forecast who will be good – is the trend that
sees pro teams signing players with college eligibility remaining.
This trend drives college coaches to consider getting out of the
business long before I did.
is on today's college coach to recruit the best players, but in
doing so a coach knows he may only have that player for two or three
years. It is tough to maintain continuity. So in setting up your
recruiting, a coach tries to surround the great recruit with solid,
character players who will develop in your system. You hope these
complementary players grow into their roles and become solid four-year
players for you, players who have an understanding of your system
long after your "star recruit" is playing in the pros
– and players who collectively can take the big name's place.
of players with college eligibility has become as commonplace in
the game as the "sieve chant." I was fortunate to coach
Dany Heatley for two years at Wisconsin. When Atlanta offered Heatley
a $1 million signing bonus and a lucrative contract after his sophomore
year, as a coach you had to advise him to take the money, leave
school and turn pro.
the true spirit of The Dean's column – listen to The
Bud Song on Wisconsin's official site.
But that doesn't
mean it doesn't hurt you to give that advice. Minnesota went through
this trend this past summer when Jeff Taffe signed with Phoenix;
Rensselaer lost all-American forward Marc Cavosie, who signed with
Minnesota after his junior year; Minnesota-Mankato saw forward Tim
Jackman sign with Columbus after his sophomore year; Michigan State
lost All-American goalie and former Hobey Baker Award winner Ryan
Miller, who signed with Buffalo; and Michigan had the toughest summer.
Coach Red Berenson saw his big defenseman, Mike Komisarek, sign
with Montreal and forward Mike Cammalleri sign with Los Angeles.
I know Red was upset and I can understand it because it changed
the whole makeup of his club.
case, I think we all knew it was time for Dany to take the next
step. He was a good student and he still talks about getting his
degree, but he had dominated the college game. The fact he was the
Rookie of the Year last year in the National Hockey League says
he made the right choice. I knew it was the right decision for other
players of mine like Curtis Joseph, Pat Flatley and Chris Chelios.
it is not so clear, and it has to frustrate Red to see that Cammaleri
will start the year in the minor leagues when he could be at Michigan
making progress to his degree. Because, to be honest, for every
Heatley and Cujo, I also have had guys who played in the NHL come
back and tell me they wish they had stayed another year in college
and made progress toward a degree before turning pro.
Part of the fun in doing
this column will be the opportunity to interact with you,
the hockey fan. Please send your questions or comments to
I'll answer as many questions as I can in this spot every
I heard Craig
Dahl, the St. Cloud coach, talk about how he had to convince his
fine forward Ryan Malone into turning down an opportunity to sign
with Pittsburgh this summer and return to school. He credited Ryan's
dad, Greg, a former NHLer who happens to be Pittsburgh's director
of player development, with talking about the value of school.
There are so
many factors in these decisions. Obviously money is one, a player's
family situation is another. How bad does a player value a college
degree? Often the decision has to do with a player's background.
Did he grow up in a culture where making the NHL is more important
like this, it can put a coach in the situation where he is more
a parent than anything else. If a player has a chance to be set
up financially for many years by turning pro, I think a coach has
to say that to a player. But he also owes him the responsibility
to talk about the value of an education – to explain about
life after hockey and how important a college degree is then.
Most of the
time, these types of situations occur in what fans think of as the
off-season. Often times these situations have the biggest impact
on the season which is about to begin.
Next time in
this space we'll talk about some important rule changes that will
impact the college game this season
Enjoy the opening
games of the season.
about players departing early for the pro ranks in INCH's