When Western Michigan won the CCHA Championship in 2012, they did so on a foundation built by an incredible team the year before. The 2010-11 Broncos were not expected to do much, having finished last place and fired Jim Culhane after cellar finish. However, the team pulled together a season to remember, finishing fourth in one of the best conferences in college hockey and making a trip to the CCHA Finals in Detroit (where they would finish runner-up).
Looking back, that squad had some impressive names. Just how impressive? Here are where they're at now, just four years later.
Jeff Blashill - Head Coach
Then: Resigned to take assistant coaching position for the Detroit Red Wings
Now: Head coach of said Red Wings
Blashill has had probably the greatest ride of them all. A junior coach before joining the Broncos, Blashill is now in control of one of the most historic franchises in the sport after the legendary Mike Babcock left this off-season for Toronto. In between, he won a few Coach of the Year awards for WMU, then gained control of the Wings' AHL affiliate (think AAA in baseball) after one season behind the bench in Detroit.
Oh yeah, he also won a Calder Cup in his first year in Grand Rapids too. The dude just wins.
Rob Facca - Assistant Coach
Then: Stayed on as assistant coach for Andy Murray. Led recruiting
Now: Scouting director for Chicago Blackhawks
Facca has been a Kalamazoo favorite ever since fans met his son Louie - a young boy diagnosed with muscular dystrophy. Facca has been a great coach as well, bringing in some great names when he was in Kalamazoo. His eye for talent was wisely picked up after the 2013-14 season, and now he has a Stanley Cup Championship to add to his resume.
Pat Ferschweiler - Assistant Coach
Then: Stayed on as assistant for Murray. Led the defense
Now: Assistant coach for Detroit Red Wings
Ferschy was a solid guy to lead the Broncos' stingy defense. Under his guidance, Western Michigan was a defensive powerhouse. Like Facca, he left after last year. However, he joined up with Blashill in Grand Rapids and gained an assistant coach position in the NHL because of it. Not bad.
Max Campbell - Forward
Then: Graduated a hero after his game-winning goal in CCHA Quarter-Final Game 3
Now: In Germany in a "non-elite" league
Not everyone goes on to fame, and Soupy is no exception. A solid player in his final year, he never was a powerhouse and moved on overseas after a short stint in the ECHL (hockey's AA/A league). Still, he'll always have his last game at Lawson, as will every Bronco fan.
Ian Slater - Captain
Then: Headed into his senior season with his third coach in as many years
Now: Possibly in ECHL, but did not play last year
Slater was an absolute monster at Western Michigan. A physical forward who was the pure spirit of the team, Slater captained the Broncos as a junior in his first year to the CCHA Finals. He followed that up with a CCHA Championship his senior season. A dream career for someone who entered during the worst of the Jim Culhane years, Slater moved on to the ECHL, and even saw some time in the AHL at one point.
UPDATE: Per Adam Bodnar, WMU's SID for hockey, Slater is now retired, hence not playing last year.
Danny DeKeyser - Defenseman
Then: The babyfaced defender led one of the top defensive duos with Luke Witkowski....as a freshman
Now: Not so babyfaced, and one of the best defensemen for a defensively minded Red Wings team
You've probably heard of this guy. He's doing alright for himself. Hasn't quite exploded in the NHL, but is rarely making mistakes. He was signed after his Junior season in the "Great Defensive Exodus" of 2013.
Luke Witkowski - Defenseman
Then: The grit of the defensive core, headed into his junior year a leader
Now: Was just barely left off the Tampa Bay roster that made the Stanley Cup Finals.
Witkowski has had a decent career. He doesn't score goals, but plays the enforcer role well. He's been doing well in Syracuse (Tampa's AHL affiliate), and has even seen some time in the NHL.
Matt Tennyson - Defenseman
Then: The hard-shooting point-man in the Broncos' power-play
Now: Seeing split time between the AHL and NHL
Tennyson was the surprising first departure of the incredible defense in 2011-12, leaving after the season (he was a junior) to sign with San Jose.
Shane Berschbach - Forward
Then: Part of the young gun line of Dane Walters - Chase Balisy - and himself.
Now: Fighting in the Red Wings' AHL system
Berschy had an up-and-down career at WMU. He helped lead the best offensive line the Broncos had in an otherwise anemic offense, but was wildly inconsistent for Andy Murray in his sophomore and junior seasons. However, he had a break-out senior season, and is still battling for playing time in Grand Rapids
Chase Balisy - Forward
Then: Bright offensive future for the Broncos after a solid freshman year
Now: In the AHL
Balisy stayed all four years at Western Michigan, presumably because of his size. However, he's parlayed that into some AHL experience with the hope to jump to the NHL shortly.
UPDATE: Per Bodnar, Balisy is in competition to make the Florida Panthers, with odds putting him on the roster.
Jerry Kuhn - Goaltender
Then: Capped off an incredibly tumultuous career with the CCHA run
Now: Beating people up in Austria, I think
Kuhn had solid stats for Western Michigan, but never any defense or offense to get him the wins. When Blashill came in, the defense shored up and the coach gave him some pointers, and BAM! Kuhn was a hit. After a short ECHL stint, it appears Kuhn is playing in Austria, where he somehow totaled 81 penalty minutes in his first year there.