Thanks to Jeremy Swayman, Red Gendron has a plaque and a job.

Years from now when the story is told about the 2019-2020 UMaine men’s hockey team, it will begin and end with the play of Jeremy Swayman. He deserves to be the Hockey East Player of the Year. Swayman was a brick wall for much of the season. He racked up 1099 saves, by far the most in the nation. I’d give him an even 1100 total because he also saved Red Gendron’s job.

The fact that Maine should have hosted a Quarterfinal series and had a legit shot at playing in Boston and maybe even the NCAA tournament is not because the masterful seven year rebuilding plan by Gendron is finally paying dividends. No way. It was all Sway.

Swayman finished #2 in the nation with a .939 save percentage.

He was #14 with a 2.07 goals against average, a number inflated artificially a bit by a bad start early in the year.

And I mentioned his 1099 saves. No other D-1 goaltender has more than 1000.

A Coach of the Year needs to have their team playing it’s best hockey down the stretch. With home ice on the line, the Black Bears were 3-2-1 in their final key six games.

They averaged just 2 goals per game in those contests. And that number is ballooned up like Barry Bonds head as Maine scored 6 goals in one game versus the hapless Catamounts.

Take out that game and UMaine managed a measley 0.83 goals per game down the crucial stretch.

Offensively they finished #40 out of 60 teams last season. Red can’t recruit scorers nor coach offense.

He gets a Coach of the Year plaque because of Swayman. And don’t even think about a contract extension until you see if this team sniffs 15 wins with a new goaltender.

-Jeff Solari

HERE’S ANOTHER OPINION

There’s no denying the University of Maine men’s hockey team just had its best season in years.

The Black Bears reaped some postseason awards, with goaltender Jeremy Swayman earning Hockey East Player of the Year honors and Red Gendron being chosen Coach of the Year.

Swayman subsequently signed with the Boston Bruins while Gendron will be behind the bench again next year.

The Black Bears’ bench boss deserved his postseason laurel. His team overachieved and would’ve been dangerous had the Coronavirus epidemic not wiped out the Hockey East and NCAA Tournaments.

Some fans are even talking “contract extension.” Let’s pump the breaks on that for the time being.

Gendron’s contract expires at the end of next season. Should the Black Bears take a step back next season, athletic administrator Ken Ralph may regret giving Gendron a new deal.

UMaine will have a vastly different look next season. With Swayman heading to the NHL, freshman Matthew Theissen and incoming recruit Victor Ostman will be battling for the top goaltending job. Tim Doherty could return as a graduate student, but offensive stalwarts such as Mitch Fossier, Ryan Smith and Pat Shea are graduating. Junior Eduards Tralmarks is undrafted but is garnering attention from NHL teams, and it’s not impossible that he could sign a pro contract.

Gendron proved a lot of skeptics wrong this season, but can he string together consecutive great seasons? The margin for error in Hockey East will be just as razor-thin next season as it was this season.

But let’s wait until this time in 2021 to be talking about new contracts.

Jeff Solari

About Jeff Solari

Jeff Solari is the president and founder of the Sports Chowdah, Maine’s only free, weekly sports e mail newsletter. Recently, the Mount Desert Island native was the co-host of "The Drive" on 92.9 FM in Bangor.