Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Save It

There's no way around it - the Engineers have been terrible in their last three games. Just beyond bad.

RPI turned heads by beating Notre Dame. They looked respectable in losses to Minnesota and Denver (at least, the first night against Denver) despite failing to score goals. The basic understanding was that the team was taking its lumps against some of the best in the nation and that the offense was eventually going to be better off for having worked against tough defenses (although you still wanted to see a breakthrough goal), and that the Engineers' defense, considered a strong point, hadn't been embarrassed against strong attacks.

Then came the Saturday night game against Denver, where RPI looked absolutely abysmal in all facets and probably deserved to get shut out for a third time in a row for the first time in 18 years. That only served as a prelude for what may have been one of the worst weekends in the history of the program.

That's not meant to denigrate Bentley at all. They won 19 games last season and they're one of the better teams in Atlantic Hockey. We pointed out during the offseason that they weren't complete pushovers by any stretch of the imagination. But they're not Minnesota, and they're not Denver, and RPI should not be dropping a pair of games to them by a combined tally of 9-2.

Atlantic Hockey has come a very long way from 2003, when it was considered a point of absolute shame for the Engineers to lose a game to Mercyhurst. But it hasn't progressed past the point where being dominated on the scoreboard, two nights in a row, at home, is something that's something that can be shrugged off. Last weekend was the first time that RPI has ever lost consecutive games in a weekend against AHA opponents.

It's hopefully a bottoming out, especially heading into the ECAC schedule and against Union. There's very little that didn't look terrible in the last three games, including the previously somewhat vaunted defense. All of it looked subpar.

Predictably, many in the RPI fanbase (and even some outside of it) have prepared the long knives for Seth Appert over this weekend. It's a tired refrain that never seems to end from some quarters.

A sizable chunk of the alumni never seemed to forgive him for the three very bad years that started his tenure in Troy despite the fact that anyone who knew the score realized that it was a process of blowing up what was in place in order to rebuild from the bottom up.

The voices got quieter, yet never seemed to go away, after the Pirri/D'Amigo season of 2009-10 and through the beginning of last year, when it appeared possible that the Engineers were over the hump. But a highly disappointing season of high expectations last year is followed by a terrible start to this year, and the lynch mob is fired up again.

If you're one of the people beating the drum, holding the torch, or sharpening the pitchfork, ask yourself this question: what's the point? It's October. Ignoring completely the logistical point that the Institute has Appert on the books through the end of the decade, what's gained by all the whining and moaning and calling for his head? Is the team supposed to magically improve with some spur-of-the-moment interim coach?

In 2010, UNC Wilmington men's basketball coach Benny Moss was fired in the middle of the Seahawks' season. He commented that the "decision to relieve me of my duties... in mid-season does nothing to benefit the program. It serves only as a mechanism to chastise and embarrass me personally."

The Seahawks, 7-14 under Moss, went 2-8 the rest of the season without him.

Is that what the lynch mob is trying to achieve?

This isn't professional sports. Let's let the season develop and see what happens. We all know about the four Game 3 losses at home. We all realize last year was disappointing. It's not hard to see that the last three games have been awful. We can all look down Route 7 and see the local rivals achieving everything anyone could want - not that it's anything that anyone in Troy is responsible for, of course, but it just makes the panic even more heightened for those who are quick to forget the successes and dwell on the difficulties.

Take a deep breath. Relax. The Engineers have at least 32 more games left before the book is closed on this season. Let's see what they can do with them. And in the meantime, quit wasting your breath about the coaching staff. Make your evaluations in April, and if you still feel the need to vent, by all means, go for it.

That said, if RPI continues to play the way they have played for the last three games running now, they will be four-goal underdogs in both games this weekend and they'll be completely run out of the building - and if you don't think everyone in that locker room already knows that, you're probably not smart as you think you are anyway.

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