The University of Wisconsin Badgers men’s hockey team has not lived up to expectations so far in 2021-22.
UW is 4-8 overall with a 2-4-1 Big Ten record after being swept by No. 15 Notre Dame last weekend.
Head Coach Tony Granato returned to Madison prior to the 2016-17 season with a ton of fanfare. Granato replaced Mike Eaves who went 267-225-66 in 14 seasons, including winning the 2006 National Championship, but the Badgers won a total of 12 games in Eaves’ final two seasons.
Granato is a Wisconsin men’s hockey legend as he finished his UW career fourth-leading scorer with 220 points and ranked third with 100 career goals. On top of having a successful NHL career as a player and coach, one would think that would appeal to recruits trying to get to the next level.
Things have not gone according to plan, however.
All of UW’s eight losses this season have been by three goals or more. It’s the first time that UW has seven (or more) games by three or more goals in their first 12 games since the 1921-22 team that finished the season 0-8.
Granato is currently in his sixth season as the head coach at UW and holds a 86-90-13 (.489) overall record and a 55-56-11 (.496) Big Ten record and have made the NCAA Tournament just one time in his tenure.
The Badgers did win the Big Ten regular season title in 2020-21 and made it to the NCAA Tournament as a top-seed in the region before the Badgers lost to Bemidji State, 6-3, in the first round.
Three of Granato’s first five full seasons have concluded with losing records and this year looks to be heading in that direction as well.
I’ll give Granato credit, he has been very good in the recruiting department, but he has squandered the talent with poor results on the ice.
Talent acquisition is not the problem, talent development is the problem.
Wisconsin men’s hockey is a proud program with six National Championships (1973, 1977, 1981, 1983, 1990, 2006), but fans are starting to have enough of the mediocre to poor results over the past decade.
Wisconsin still is a leader in attendance in the country but only because they play in the second largest arena in the country. It’s sad to see the stadium with plenty of empty seats.
Wisconsin doesn’t have an NHL team to compete with. They are the main game in the state. The fans want more out of the men’s hockey program.
The Wisconsin women’s hockey team is routinely competing for National Championships and leads the country in attendance and when the men’s team has things clicking, the Kohl Center is rocking.
Since things haven’t been clicking, the Kohl has lacked juice. Even after a season when fans weren’t allowed in the arena, the Badgers couldn’t even muster a decent showing in the home opener.
I’ll give Granato the benefit of the doubt for the Big Ten title and NCAA Tournament appearance last season. But if these results continue through the remainder of this season and the 2022-23 season, then Chris McIntosh needs to pull the plug and fire Granato.