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Slow start endangers perception of Wisconsin hockey

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College sports are unique because they're the only form of athletics where perception matters. The second every professional sports league begins, every season previous to it basically doesn't matter, for all practical purposes. All the reputation and prestige in the world doesn't change the fact the Los Angeles Lakers have one of the worst records in the NBA. The Los Angeles Clippers' historic futility doesn't hold them back one bit from winning the NBA championship this year. Pro sports teams are essentially only beholden to three things: their roster, their management structure and their record. That's it. Nothing else matters.

This isn't true in college sports. Perception can buy you a lot of things. Perception gets you recruits to compete against other top-tier teams. Perception brings donations from proud alumni, which go toward equipment and facilities that improve the program. Perception gives you fan support, which makes you more formidable to your opponents.

Currently the Wisconsin hockey team stands at 1-10-1. 1-10-1 is a figure that changes the perception of a program. 1-10-1 is a figure that affects recruiting. 1-10-1 is a figure that convinces talented players that Madison is not the best place to develop their skills for the next level. 1-10-1 is a figure that creates empty seats in the Kohl Center for home games. 1-10-1 is a figure that tells alumni their attention and resources are better spent on a football team that is consistently nationally ranked or a basketball program that just made the Final Four.

Wisconsin has to be better than a 1-10-1 program.

Wisconsin has to be better than a 1-10-1 program. I wrote an article a few weeks ago calling for patience from the Crease Creatures. It's fair to say that patience has worn thin, and rightfully so. Wisconsin simply has to be better than having one win through 12 games. They just have to be. The product that Mike Eaves has presented us, as currently constructed, is simply unacceptable. There is no other word for it. It is unacceptable.

Comparisons to Boston University's struggles last year aren't valid, either. BU was transitioning between regimes and adjusting its style of play as a team. That's a time when you're supposed to struggle. Wisconsin should never struggle to this extent, no matter how many underclassmen are on the roster.

Am I calling for Uncle Eaves to be fired? No. Not even close.

The level of success he has had earns him the benefit of the doubt. Winning an NCAA championship and two conference playoff championships will do that for you (remember that elite programs such as North Dakota haven't won a national title in that time span, either).

But a good-not-great winning percentage of .577 means he isn't untouchable, either. Eaves will get the rest of this god-forsaken season. He almost certainly, and should, get next year, too. But the rest of this season and next better show marked improvement from where the Badgers currently stand. I'm not willing to let Badger hockey be relegated to a mid-level program, and let the Captain go down with the ship just because he is likable and friendly to the media.

So I'll make this clear: I am not calling for anyone's job. I am calling for some changes and improvement, and raising a few questions. And it'd be in this coaching regime's best interests if I, and the rest of the Wisconsin hockey fan base, like the answers.

Follow me on Twitter for my thoughts on fashion, celebrity gossip, and dating advice sports and stuff at @CharlieWisco.