The Michigan hockey team’s season ended in Cincinnati on Saturday with a 5-2 loss to North Dakota in the regional final of the NCAA Tournament.
At his first media availability since that loss, Michigan coach Red Berenson predicted which rising seniors he could see having breakout seasons in 2016. And he discussed how the power play unit would adjust next year after losing its point man — sophomore defenseman Zach Werenski — to the NHL.
The focus on what lies ahead for the Wolverines made some wonder whether Berenson was leaning toward returning for another year with the program.
He quickly dispelled that notion, though.
“(Talking about next year), that’s what I do,” Berenson said. “This week is a week of losing players and trying to fit together our group for next year. We’re talking about spring term and that’s what I have to do. I have to help plan what’s going on.
“Then, at some point, I’ll have meetings with my administration and we’ll talk about whether I’m going to be here or not. But we definitely have a plan (for next year). We’re not going to just walk away and take the keys with us.”
As for the timeframe for his decision, Berenson expects he will reach a consensus with Michigan Athletic Director Warde Manuel well before the end of June.
Berenson plans to meet with Manuel within the next few days to have an in-depth conversation about his future, before taking some time to make a final decision.
“I want to let the smoke clear a little bit from this season,” Berenson said. “I don’t want to make an emotional decision because I’m pissed off at somebody or something. I want to make a decision that’s good for the program.”
Berenson did admit that attrition could sway his decision, though.
He has already lost Werenski and junior defenseman Michael Downing to the Columbus Blue Jackets and Florida Panthers, respectively. And it’s unclear what freshman forward Kyle Connor will decide regarding his professional future with the Winnipeg Jets — who drafted him 17th overall in the NHL draft last summer.
But none among that group could swing the pendulum of Berenson’s decision to return to Michigan. Two players who could sway Berenson, though, are junior forwards Tyler Motte and JT Compher.
Compher captained the Wolverines this year, but could potentially leave Ann Arbor to join the Colorado Avalanche organization. Motte — who was second on the team in goals with 32 — faces a similar decision with the Chicago Blackhawks.
But if the duo decides to return for their senior seasons, it could foreshadow Berenson’s future at Yost Ice Arena.
“I’m not going to lose a lot of sleep over it at this point, but I would feel better about our team moving forward (with JT and Tyler),” Berenson said. “They’re the leaders of this team and they would be the leaders of next year’s team. … Let’s face it, they’re the guys that are going to drive the bus.”
But those are individual decisions Motte and Compher must make for themselves.
As for Berenson, all we can do is wait.