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VIP Insider Blog (12/13)

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Exclusively for our VIP supporters, TMR editor Mike McMahon brings you these “insider” blog posts, where he’ll discuss the news and give some insight and perspective on the stories we’re covering here at The Mack Report as well other insider info from stories around the country …

— From talking to people close to the Merrimack program, Ethan DeStefani’s decision to leave the program isn’t catching many people by surprise. There was a feeling that a few members of the program might look for other opportunities at the semester break, and DeStefani joins Simon Loof in exploring other options. There is a big difference, though. DeStefani is going back to the USHL and will keep his eligibility open, whereas Loof signed a pro deal in Sweden and can no longer pursue college hockey.

If DeStefani transfers to another Division I program, he’ll have to sit one year under NCAA transfer rules. If he transfers into a Division III program, he won’t have to sit at all. The NCAA rule doesn’t require players to sit if they are “transferring down” a division.

DeStefani was a big-time recruit for the Warriors when he committed. He had a breakout season at Gunnery and then unexpectedly made Waterloo two years ago but suffered a severe knee injury early into that season. That seemed to derail him a bit, as he had to sit out an entire season to rebab before returning last season with the Minnesota Magicians in the NAHL. I was surprised to see him not in the USHL last season. Then, Youngstown drafted him this past May which I thought meant he was likely to do another USHL season before coming to Merrimack in 2019, but instead he opted to come in 2018.

— My feeling is that we’ll see more roster turnover before it’s all said and done. Look elsewhere around the country and players getting cut or “opting to leave a program” happens quite often with a new head coach. We saw it at UMass, RPI and Niagara recently (in big numbers). It’s part of the business of college athletics.

I have a similar opinion when it comes to not bringing in recruits who are underperforming. Like was the case with Matt Franche in the spring, Merrimack told the player that he likely wasn’t going to play much and he hadn’t developed the way they thought he would. Then it’s left up to the player. They can decide to come in anyway, but they’re facing an uphill battle, or they decide to go somewhere else. In Franche’s case, he opted for the OHL. That’s how 95% of programs are operating around the country. If Merrimack refused to operate in the same way, they’d be throwing up unnecessary roadblocks. Merrimack has enough challenges as it is in recruiting against Hockey East giants … why put up your own speedbumps?

Whether people like it or not is irrelevant. That is the current environment. That’s what most teams are doing. If you want to be competitive, you need to operate the same way. Miami just fired both assistant coaches because, as one source put it, “they were too nice.” They hired new assistant coaches this offseason and they’ve quickly developed a reputation for being one of the most cutthroat programs in the nation as far as recruiting is concerned.

At the Ice Breaker, Miami tried to recruit another team’s player as a transfer … while walking to the bus.

If other teams are quick to adjust when they make a mistake recruiting a player, you have to be willing to make the same adjustments if you want to be competitive. Right now, that’s just how it is. I wish it were different too, but that’s not the current reality.

About Mike McMahon

Mike McMahon is in his 13th year covering Merrimack College for The Eagle Tribune and is the founder and managing editor of The Mack Report. Mike also serves on staff as a senior writer at College Hockey News. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcMahonCHN

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