How can you tell that the jump from juniors to college hockey has been a big adjustment for Danny Richmond? Ask the offensive-minded blueliner about scoring.
“Points aren’t really indicative of how I play,” the freshman said. “I think plus-minus would be (a better measure).”
That might sound strange to those who knew him as the highest-scoring defenseman in the US Hockey League last season, but the player who put up 9-45-54 totals for the Chicago Steel has had to work hard at learning the defensive part of the game at Michigan.
“To come in as an offensive defenseman, it’s always a constant battle between how much do I give up, in terms of my offense, to really become a reliable, trustworthy defenseman also,” assistant coach Billy Powers said. “I think Danny’s going through that battle.”
Still, Richmond’s 17 points rank second among Michigan defensemen, and Powers believes those are solid numbers for a freshman. But he is more concerned with Richmond’s lapses in his own zone this season.
“We want Danny to make better decisions in terms of jumping into the rush, holding onto the puck too long sometimes, maybe high-risk offensive plays,” Powers said.
Both Powers and Richmond said that the defenseman had started to get in a groove earlier in the season, but the winter break was a blow to that momentum. Richmond earned nine points, including two goals, before the team’s three-week layoff in December. He registered two points in the Great Lakes Invitational Dec. 28-29, but then fell into a six-game scoreless stretch. He has six points in his last seven games and is plus-eight.
“There’s been some bumps in the road,” Powers said. “I think there has been progress for sure, I just think there has been inconsistency. We’ve seen signs that Danny is going to be a tremendous defenseman at both ends of the ice, and then we’ve seen games where he has reverted back to maybe not playing as well without the puck.”
Powers added that Richmond reminded him a lot of Bubba Berenzweig, a former Wolverine who took risks in the defensive zone and struggled his freshman year in 1995-96, but was a big part of Michigan’s 1998 National Championship team.
Improving his strength has been a major issue for Richmond, and he said that is one of the biggest differences between the college game and juniors.
“It’s a different experience than last year. If you whacked a guy once, he’d give up the puck right away. Here, the guys are stronger. You have to work a lot harder,” Richmond said.
The coaching staff has been pleased that Richmond has shown the willingness to put in that extra work.
“The nice thing about Danny Richmond is he’s in watching videos every Monday,” Powers said. “He is conscious that he has to be better, he has to do things better without the puck and be stronger. He wants to be a better defenseman, and that’s half the battle.”
Bigger than hockey: Michigan coach Red Berenson’s father passed away last Thursday, and the coach returned to Regina, Saskatchewan after last weekend’s series for the funeral.
“He went through the weekend because his two sisters were up in Regina, and they were able to handle the arrangements for everybody,” Powers said.
Berenson had gone back to Regina early last week to visit his father, who had suffered a stroke.
Powers said that Berenson is expected to rejoin the team before this weekend’s series in Omaha.