Audio: Red Berenson at CCHA Media Day
TheWolverine.com visited with Michigan head coach Red Berenson Tuesday at CCHA Media Day in Detroit. Berenson shared his optimism for the new season and is embracing the challenge that arrives with having only two seniors but 12 freshmen. Berenson also speaks about U-M's goalie situation and reports on each of the Wolverines' rookies …
On not being allowed to start coaching the players full time until Oct. 6:
"It could have an affect because we have so many new players. Last year it wasn't an issue. It's going to put a leadership onus on our seniors and captains and returning players to help guide our younger players if they haven't figured out our system … because we're not going to have a lot of time. We're already obviously getting a little bit of contact with our players on the ice so we have to take advantage of that. We have two weeks of two hours a week and plus some video time. Hopefully we can get them ready. The big difference is 12 freshmen versus two that we had playing last year."
On how the depth, albeit inexperienced depth, will strengthen the team:
"I think it will. I think it will make it more competitive for playing time. Like we could have a junior or two not dress. I think we have seven defensemen who can play and maybe eight."
On his concern about the inexperience on defense with five newcomers:
"It all starts defensively. Is our team going to be capable of holding the fort defensively? I don't think we'll be as prolific offensively as we were last year and we can't have less than solid goalkeeping. And our defensemen have to give our goalie a chance and we have four freshmen defensemen."
On whether sophomore Chris Summers is a defenseman-only after playing some forward last year:
On what Michigan needs out of junior defender Mark Mitera this year:
"He should go through a natural progression of taking on a leadership role on our defense, with our younger players. He might not be the oldest, but he's the most experienced on defense. Now this is his time to step forward and play a bigger role on defense. It should show up in minutes and ice time and his role. Obviously, when we're shorthanded on the PK we're not going to have Matt Hunwick or Jason Dest or Jack Johnson. It's Mark Mitera, and I'm confident he'll step up and take pride in that."
On the possibility of multiple goalies playing this year:
"[Freshman Bryan] Hogan has a good shot. As far as I'm concerned it's wide open. I know more about [junior] Billy Sauer and he has the advantage in experience but we may or may not be a one-goalie team. We'll see how Hogan looks and we'll see how [freshman Shawn] Hunwick looks. We don't have a lot of time obviously. It goes right into bang-bang, but I definitely want to see which goalie is going to give us the best chance night after night. And it might be two of them. We might be splitting for awhile or all year."
On what he learned from playing both Noah Ruden and Sauer in net two years ago:
"I think some goalies are ready to play well but are not ready to play back-to-back. If you check our back-to-back record since Billy Sauer has come he probably hasn't been as consistent as he needs to be if he's going to play back-to-back games. If you have one goalie play really well on Friday and another really excited about playing Saturday we don't have to worry about [the first] playing Saturday. All you're worried about is one game. I learned that … that can be a good combination if you have two goalies that can play. It depends how capable you're so-called No. 1 goalie or your most experienced goalie is. Billy might be ready to play every game, but he might not be. And I definitely want to see what Hogan looks like.
"Every combination can be different. I think competition will be good. It will be good in the goalkeeping and hopefully show up in the goals against."
On the likelihood that seniors Kevin Porter and Chad Kolarik start on a line together:
"We definitely will have that in our pocket. Right now, the big change we've made is that we're putting Porter at center and Kolarik on the wing. Porter has never played center but I think he'll be our top centerman, our go-to player. He's so responsible defensively and so capable offensively. He'll make other players around him better. I think it will be a great experience for him and a great challenge as a senior, but he's fine with it."
On who else is a top-two-line center:
"I see Matt Rust as a very capable incoming freshman who could play center. I think Rust's experience with the U.S. Development Program as a pure centerman has been very valuable and then we have players like [freshman Louie] Caporusso, who is a pure centerman. He'll probably start the season there. And then whether or not we us Tim Miller at center. He's a junior and he could be a capable center, and [junior Travis] Turnbull can play center. I think we have plenty of options. It's just a matter of how our lines come together."
On whether Michigan will have to win more low-scoring games this year:
"I don't think we'll be as one-dimensional, though Porter's line will be a key line for us. Hopefully we can get a second line that scores, or has a chance of scoring, and maybe a third line. We'll see how ready our freshmen are. They're the ones that are going to give us an idea of how we rank offensively, but it's still going to come down to our defense. We led the country in scoring last year and it'd be pretty hard to predict a team with 12 freshmen will lead the country in scoring. I think we have to be pretty realistic. We lost a lot of goals in [Andrew] Cogliano and [T.J.] Hensick and [David] Rohlfs that … we might get some of them back. But I don't know that we'll get them all back."
On who he picked to win the CCHA this year:
"Michigan State won the national championship so you have to say starting off they're, in theory, the best team. But on paper they probably are the best team. They return the most players from a winning team."
On whether it feels odd starting the season picked fourth in the CCHA preseason polls:
"Yeah. But that's where we should be. I've always felt people have given us the benefit of the doubt in their rankings, but this year it's pretty obvious. When you lose the players we've lost and our freshmen are unproven there is a big question mark about Michigan, and there should be."
On freshmen besides Rust who should play well early:
"I like the Swedish player, [Carl] Hagelin. I think he'll fit in very well. I think [Aaron] Palushaj will fit in very well. [Max] Pacioretty will probably start off a real prototype power forward that might be more ready than any of them, but he's a winger – he can play left or right wing. I think the kid from B.C. will just get better, Ben Winnett.
"Every one of them will upgrade our skill level. No question. Just a matter of how ready they are to be competitive, to be able to play without the puck and not just generate offense – you have to play the rest of the game. You may not even get out of your zone so those kids have a lot to work on. But I really like they're upside."
On who impresses among the freshmen defensemen:
"On defense, Mitera has to take a leadership role and I think will. Summers looks really good. He had a good summer. He'll probably make the national junior team and [Steve] Kampfer had a setback this summer with some surgery, but he looks better now. Those three have to give our young defensemen some leadership.
"Of the four defensemen coming in, Chad Langlais is the oldest. He graduated from Cranbook then went and played two years of juniors. He's kind of an Eric Werner-type player. I think he'll add a certain element to our defense. Tristin Llewellyn will add a little more physical, a Jason Dest-type defenseman -- hopefully, solid defensively and can compete physically.
"Kevin Quick is a little more of an unknown. He's coming straight out of prep school and we'll see how ready he is. He has intangibles. He looks smart. He's a great skater, pretty good with the puck and we'll see how ready he is.
"The other one is Scooter Vaughn and he had a great finish last year with St. Louis – they won the national championship in the North American league. And he looks good in the early going.
"I don't think any of them will be outstanding but if they're not noticeable then they're playing well and right now I think they're going to be in that bracket where they're not noticeable and they minimize the mistakes."