“Hockey” Bob Johnsonâ€™s name adorns the ice rink at the Kohl Center.
The former Badger coach was famous for winning at all levels of hockey and for one of the most famous sayings in sports, “Itâ€™s a great day for hockey.”
As the Wisconsin Badgers of the 2015-16 season take to the ice that has his name on it, few of its days (or nights) have been great. In fact, most have been downright awful and this past weekendâ€™s ass-kicking at the hands of hated rival, Minnesota, was anything but great.
Losing by a combined 13-2 scoreline should speak volumes, but will it speak loudly enough for athletic director Barry Alvarez to actually do anything?
We ask because the ho-hum approach from head coach Mike Eaves following the 9-2 loss on Saturday night seems to indicate he doesnâ€™t have answers.
Going nuts, throwing things and swearing up a storm in a press conference isnâ€™t a good look, but neither is sitting there and being as calm as ever. Show something…give your team a reason to get mad, play with an edge and never let this happen again. Give your fans a reason to believe in the spark we all know is there for UW hockey.
Eaves has never been one to publicly challenge his team, but if ever there was a time to send a message to the team and to the fans â€” Saturday nightâ€™s press conference was exactly that.
Watching the Badgers go from WCHA and national title contenders to also-rans of the college hockey world over the course of the last four seasons wasnâ€™t enough for Alvarez to relieve Eaves of his duties as head coach last year.
“Itâ€™s unacceptable to be where we are right now with the wherewithal we have and the tradition we have here,” said Alvarez following his announcement that Eaves would be back this past May.
Yet, no matter how “unacceptable” it was, Eaves was back and looking to rebuild a program quickly following a program-worst 4-26-5 record.
That hope of rebuilding has sunk like a stone though, and the rock finally hit bottom this past weekend.
Wisconsin currently has a 4-12-6 overall record, and while it is better than where this team was at this point last season, it is hardly the improvement that gives one a clue that this team is ready to start competing for championships anytime soon.
Championship-level programs donâ€™t get repeatedly blown out in conference play and they certainly donâ€™t look like lost puppies on their home ice against their hated rivals.
After announcing his decision last year, Alvarez made a clear statement that Eaves history played a part in him keeping his job.
â€śI canâ€™t lose confidence in a coach that has had as much success as heâ€™s had,â€ť Alvarez said.
However, after watching (or seeing the scores most likely) the Badgers get blown away in the home version of the Border Battle this past weekend weâ€™ve got just one question for the athletic director…
When is enough, you know…enough?
Everyone has their breaking point, and the University of Wisconsin menâ€™s hockey program has hit that for this writer under the leadership of head coach Mike Eaves.
What could possibly be a bigger message that things arenâ€™t going to get better than following up a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of your arch-rival with an even worse 9-2 loss the very next night?
It certainly wonâ€™t help fans return to the Kohl Center after witnessing a god-awful weekend of hockey, but even sharply declining attendance numbers hasnâ€™t been enough to wake Alvarez up.
Wisconsinâ€™s total season ticket sales went fromÂ 11,760 in 2009-10 to 7,384 for 2014-15 and the big loss in revenue didnâ€™t even seem to register as a clue that fans were apathetic towards this program.
Itâ€™s not like the Badgers hockey program is the most historically significant program he has under his direction or anything?
Yes, Eaves does have a national championship (2006) and been to another national title game (2010). Those are things to be celebrated, no doubt about it.
Weâ€™re a long way from 2006 though, and one national championship and just two Frozen Four appearances in a decade-plus reign at the helm of the Badgersâ€™ program is simply not enough to outweigh what has happened over the last five years.
Neither is the fact that in his 14 seasons at Wisconsin, Eaves has just seven NCAA tournament berths and are well on their way to a fifth losing season.
Here is a look at exactly how far the program has fallen since that 2010 national championship game berth:
2010-11 record: 22-16-4 (no NCAA tournament)
2011-12 record: 18-18-2
2012-13 record: 23-13-7 (1st round NCAA tournament loss)
2013-14 record: 24-11-3 (1st round NCAA tournament loss)
2014-15 record: 4-27-5
Eaves did manage to win the first ever Big Ten tournament title in 2013-14, besting Ohio State in the final, but that was with a senior-laden team.
Itâ€™s part of the pattern that has led the Badgers to where they are â€” either at the high of highs with a veteran team or completely beholden to the whims of young players figuring out the game at the collegiate level.
What took place this past weekend at the Kohl Center should be wholly unacceptable, no matter the level of intimate knowledge of the game of hockey.
Even for a guy like Alvarez, who admitted to a lack of knowledge following last season.
â€śWe have issues. I donâ€™t know what they are. I need you to tell me how weâ€™re going to fix this,â€ť Alvarez replied to what heâ€™d ask first of Eaves.â€śYou have to have answers. Iâ€™ve got to have answers. Youâ€™ve got to sit down and tear that program apart and figure out where you can improve and what you have to do.â€ť
Is a weekend sweep and a complete ass-kicking by your arch rivals enough of an answer that things simply arenâ€™t working out for you now Alvarez?
Even the hardcore are finding it hard to support what is happening these days. Perhaps its time to make a bold statement and let Eaves go.
Do it now or do it at the end of the season, either wayÂ #EavesOut