Given the struggles the Boston College Eagles have had in these first two months, the NCAA Hockey Tournament in March seems like it should be the farthest thing from our minds.
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Maybe there is a good reason it should be far from our minds. Perhaps this Eagles team is not going to make it.
At the risk of being premature, given that this team is 7-7-0, it is time we begin assessing reality. Though, that’s just it: they’re 7-7-0. Boston College has in the past started seasons off slowly (by their standards, anyway), but this is the first time in 18 years that the Eagles have had seven losses through fourteen games. If those were “slow” 9-5 starts, then this is glacial.
If one is a Boston College fan, having experienced a number of highs over the last decade or so, you would have to admit that this team as presently constituted does not have that same makeup as the teams we came to love. Past Eagles teams that made the NCAA Hockey Tournament — and won it — had the premier forwards, the leadership, and the confidence to go all the way.
Those were the teams of Nate Gerbe, Cam Atkinson, Chris Kreider, and Johnny Gaudreau. One can even put Brian Boyle into that crowd, as he was one of the best players on the team in his day. It was hard to miss the offensive talent that crushed all opposition in its path.
Who is that guy for the 2014-15 Boston College Eagles? Does this team even have that guy? The numbers would suggest that no, they do not, and the eyeball test concurs. Alex Tuch, Teddy Doherty, and Adam Gilmour are tied for the team lead with ten points through 14 games. Not one of them is in the top 20 in Hockey East in scoring, though Ryan Fitzgerald’s seven goals is sixth-best (note: Fitzgerald is on a six-game point-less streak).
Boston College has talent, and a captain, but who is this team’s leader? When watching Eagles games in the past, it was easy to see that they are a well-oiled machine and they played with a determination and sense of purpose that inspired confidence. It is not that this team is bad, because they are not, but they are not good enough. If anything, the Eagles are inconsistent like a rudderless ship.
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As college hockey fans know, the PairWise Rankings are about as accurate a bracketology source for the NCAA Hockey Tournament as there will ever be, given that it mimics the selection process. Right now, Boston College is tied for 26th, meaning they would not even come close to getting the last at-large bid in the 16-team field, let alone win the whole thing. The Eagles are going to have to have a strong second half even just to get back in range.
Some may draw comparisons to the 2007-08 national championship team that only had five wins through 14 games (5-4-5). That team had Gerbe, Ben Smith, Joe Whitney, and Brian Gibbons, all guys who contributed in a big way. Those players amongst others helped lead a comeback that turned into a 25-win season and a title. It may happen here, but who are those talents who will step up and lead? Alex Tuch might be the closest thing to a star player on offense as the Eagles have right now, and he’s doing well, but not great.
If someone is going to start leading the Eagles, it needs to happen soon as they have dug a big hole for themselves. You cannot make the NCAA Hockey Tournament in March, but you can lose it, and right now, the Eagles are losing it.