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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Near Future

Back in May, I thought I'd manage to take the summer off from posting and said I'd be back August 1st. I really really did think I'd stay away. But obviously, I didn't. The result was some posting about new recruits (good stuff); posting about the proposed new arena (ranting stuff); and the occasional filler (junk stuff). It was what it was and is what it is. If nothing else, hopefully some part of it all was at least a distraction. But since it is almost August 1st and therefore the pre-preseason it's time for some regular Seawolf hockey content. Between now and the beginning of school you can expect to read two primary things.

A breakdown of each class similar to what I provided last year: Seniors, Juniors, Sophomores and the Rookies. I'll talk about the strengths of each player and breakdown what contributions each class will need to make in order for the team to have success. I should be able to post these about every 10 days or so beginning sometime next week. By the time those are complete there ought to be some actual news and information coming from the program.

Then I'll provide an early look at the league and what I think will be some of the keys to the 07-08 season. I may try to make it more extensive than last years early season look. It's likely to be a mixed bag though. Last year I got some things right (SCSU, Minnesota, Mankato, UMD); some things wrong (MTU, CC, Wisconsin); and some things I'd classify as neither right or wrong (UND, DU). It's a hard league to predict. Every year at least one team does surprisingly well (MTU) and at least one team fails badly to meet expectations (Wisconsin). How can anyone accurately project who those will be in 07-08? Pretty much only one way ... by making a guess ... and since my guesser works just like anyone else's, I'll be happy to exercise it here.

Other than those two areas the menu here will be the same as it's been. News (when there is some) and analysis/opinion regarding it along with whatever other crap strikes my fancy. Of course regular readers know my fancy gets struck by all sorts of crap.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

UAA Arena in the Daily News

The benefit of writing a less bombastic (and less polarizing) piece about UAA's need for a new arena is that the ADN will actually print it. Of course, it helps that the author of the article is the the Vice-Chancellor in charge of arena planning. Here's the text of what Bill Spindle wrote in a Compass article which was printed in Sunday's Daily News.
UAA is the largest campus in the University of Alaska system -- serving more students than the rest of the system combined -- and we continue to grow. More than 15,000 students seek undergraduate and graduate education at UAA's Anchorage campus. We are Alaska's biggest source of career and technical education and work force training; its major provider of baccalaureate education in the arts, sciences, and professions; and its largest source of graduates at the master's level. We also have a vibrant, on-campus community of almost a thousand students, which we hope to double in size over the next 10 years.
To meet the needs of this growing university, we must have adequate infrastructure. The state has provided funding for crucial projects including the Consortium Library and the Integrated Science Building. There are critical needs that have not been met, however, including a large deferred maintenance bill and a new health care education facility to accommodate the explosive need and growth in health care fields. We also need more classroom space for programs like engineering, which has tripled its size in three years.

We cannot overlook another important priority as we continue to grow: providing strong wellness, exercise, recreation and intercollegiate athletics programs that serve our students, faculty, staff and the Anchorage community. Our current facilities are too small for a community of our size. The sports complex was built 30 years ago for a community college with a student body of just a few thousand. Now this facility is expected to serve the needs of more than 15,000 students and a community of nearly 300,000.
We have the highest enrollment of any Great Northern Athletic Conference team and the least available seating. Our hockey team plays in a rented facility competing with other programs. We have limited teaching space and no classrooms for our growing Health, Physical Education and Recreation academic programs. Our athletes' weight training facility is a small converted racquetball court. Students have access to a fitness room on a limited schedule, competing with physical education classes. Our entire gymnastics program is housed off campus. Our students have never seen a home track meet.

Our fans and student athletes are loyal and patient, but they deserve better. Time and time again, improved sports and recreational facilities have taken a back seat to more pressing infrastructure needs.

Building a sports arena would provide the space for our student athletes to practice, compete and succeed. It would provide our students adequate recreation space. It would contribute to a thriving on-campus student life. It would draw community members on campus through athletic events, recreational opportunities, concerts, lectures and more.

There will be a public process to develop a final concept for the sports arena. Community input is essential. What will result is another campus facility that inspires pride in our students, alumni and community. We will consult with key internal and external community groups. As we should for any capital project of this scope, we will pursue private funds to support the sports arena. A great city and a great state need a great university, and we are committed to doing our part to meet that promise.
Note that Bill is smart enough to stay away from the issues which I was unable to leave out of my Compass submission. Regular people don't really want to hear some loudmouth nobody (me) tell them that their state is flush with resources when the politicos have spent so much time telling them over and over how broke the state is. In any case, it's better than excellent that Mr. Spindle's piece was printed since it contains all the salient rationale that makes this an important project for the school and community.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

My Last Blog Post

After the St. Augustine Tsunami destroyed 20 percent of Anchorage and killed nearly 10,000 people, it was impossible to imagine that anything truly heartwarming could ever happen again. A 200 foot tidal wave and 25,000 dead all over Southcentral Alaska will do that to you. It will depress you. It doesn’t matter that almost immediately afterwards so many people across the world reach out and try to help. Living in a community so brutally devastated by nature is an experience thankfully shared by the relative few. Only the people of Banda Aceh after the Christmas Tsunami in 2005, New Orleans after Hurricane Susan in 2018 and Anchorage since Augustine Tsunami 6 years ago can truly know the scope to which nature so easily impales humanity.

Yes, there were many more people killed during the Pakistani War in 2019. Short lived as it was, the toll was almost beyond mind-boggling. Somehow though Man’s wrath on himself is easier to wrap our brains around. We have an innate understanding that we’re violent and that our own lust for control and power over others leads to horrors like that. Four and a half million people dead in just a few weeks? Somehow not surprising. At least we can all be thankful that the Iranian’s stepped in and put an end to that idiocy. When I was young it was trite to say “One Nuclear Bomb Can Ruin Your Whole Day” but none of us ever really considered how much 18 nuclear bombs could ruin. Yet having lived through a seemingly random natural catastrophe is somehow more difficult to grasp. It isn’t the why. It isn’t the how. We know why and how. St. Augustine blew it’s top and a massive landslide created the biggest tsunami mankind has ever witnessed. A wave nearly 500ft high wiped Homer off the map in the blink of an eye, it rushed up Cook Inlet inundating Kenai and Soldotna and 6 minutes after it started it rolled across Fire Island before crashing into Anchorage. All that becomes part of your psyche. Pakistan is really far. You know what I’m sayin? It took 6 minutes. Augustine was visible from Anchorage on a clear day. Not anymore. It just isn’t there anymore.

But six years on from that otherwise beautifully sunny day and while most things aren’t quite back to normal; we have been treated to something that is warming the hearts of college hockey fans everywhere. I was traveling through Dallas wearing my Seawolf hat before this season and must’ve had 20 people come up to talk with me. Most of them weren’t offering their condolences about the tsunami. They were asking about the team! I was amazed. To have this program take on these sorts of epic proportions wouldn’t have been in my wildest dreams when I started writing about UAA Hockey. Who could imagine? A program that folded for 2 years after the tsunami and now is well known by people who hardly know anything about hockey?

I suppose there has to be a lot of credit given to Jim James Oscar nominated documentary which followed the team through it’s difficult first season (’28-’29) after the tsunami. I sat through 18 losses at the Brush and watched crowds that were near sellouts at the beginning of the season trickle down to 3,500 by the time it ended. Thank god Denver stayed in the WCHA before folding their program in ’30 or UAA wouldn’t have gotten the measley two wins they managed to get that year. Thank god Coach Larson persevered with his team instilling that great attitude on every player (even though we got pounded so horribly virtually every time we hit the ice). When I was lucky enough to be invited to the prescreening of the documentary late that summer I expected to nothing more than to just relive the ugliness of that season. Instead, if I wasn’t laughing, I was crying and when HBO and then ESPN picked up the movie and shared it’s poignant story with the sports fans across the U.S. people everywhere instantly became UAA fans. Being one of the fans so closely connected to what ESPN now calls the “Greatest Sports Comeback” story ever is a special thing to me. Coach Larson is doing well in his second season at the helm with Montreal and hopefully they can make a run in the playoffs and he’ll get his name on Lord Stanley’s Cup this year.

The next year achieving a record of 17-17-4 and almost making the NCAA’s was absolutely wonderful. Go back and read my blog entries for that season and you’ll see I was pretty much ecstatic the whole year. How could I not be after going 2-34-2 the year before? It honestly was enough for me. Then I almost went out of my fucking mind when we beat UND in ’31 for our first National Championship in 21 years. What a game that was eh? 5 unanswered goals in the 3rd? Winning the NC the next year was certainly icing on the cake (beating Air Force is always sweet) but it was almost expected with the incredible talent of the ’32 team. But when 8 of those incredible players went pro early followed by Larson leaving to coach Montreal and UAA only won 11 games in ’33, I was taken back 25 years (back when the snow stayed on the ground all winter) to the struggling teams of the early 2000’s. It seemed like it was that same sort of struggle.

Back then (when I actually had to type these things … with my fingers! … on a keyboard!) my enthusiasm and optimism always made me think the squad was better than they were. I can easily remember how disappointed I made myself with all that optimism. But through the mid-teens I learned to appreciate the game just for the sake of the game (thank Christ they quit with that stupid shootout crap in ’19 … I thought Rick Comely would never retire from the rules committee …that was ten years of stupidity eh?)

I’ve always had a certain satisfaction with the effort regardless of the results. It’s always been a matter of supporting amateur student-athletes and their effort to entertain us fans. It was enough but it wasn’t enough. Ya know? So at the beginning of ’34, I was full of anticipation. A full arena (even if it is getting a bit long in the tooth … who isn’t?) with 10,000 screaming fans and all the crazy students is a wonderful thing. But once again the pain of missing the NCAA tournament with our 21-16-1 record was tough to take (argh … if we’d just tied one more game we’d have got in instead of having to watch SCSU lose another NCAA playoff game). It was even tougher especially since Squarebanks made it to the final. It was hard to watch since I didn’t really want to cheer for them or Air Force. A anyone who’s ever read me knows, I’m hardcore anti-UAF so while I wasn’t exactly happy to see them lose I certainly wasn’t bothered by it. That’s as good as it gets for me with regard to them.

It’s been 5 days since I’ve written. It wasn’t like you needed me to tell you we’d beaten Minnesota for our 3rd title in 4 years. I haven’t written because I’ve been considering retirement from this blog. It’s been on my mind for a couple of months. I’ve been thinking 30 years of blogging is enough. So this is it. My last entry here. I hope you’ve all enjoyed it. I have. I’ll see you all next season at the brand new Steve Cobb Memorial Arena and I’ll be hoping (along with 18,000 of you guys) that Coach Glencross can bring what will be another very young team to it’s best potential. My old ass will be right there at center-ice (my new season tickets came in the mail today!).

April 9th, 2036

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A Good Scheduling Agreement

Beginning next season UAA and UAF (and their fans) will continue see each other four times a year but only during two of those proximal circumstances will they be playing hockey (against each other anyway). UAA announced today that each would be perennial participants in the other's yearly tournament.

I'd mentioned the likelihood of decreasing the number of games between the Seawolves and Nanooks in this post last December. With only 6 non-conference games (after the league mandated 28) both schools were limiting comparsions that could have turned out to be the difference between getting into the NCAA's or watching them on TV. Some fans of the rivalry might be disappointed by this move. I'm a fan of the rivarly though, and I think it just makes the two games we do play even more important. Or as Steve Cobb said better in this ADN story,
"Any time you shorten things up, you heighten the intensity,'' "With a two-game series, you can't just go out and waste a period. Everything is for keeps, from the first drop of the puck to the final horn.''
Let's face it ... go to an early game at the Nye Tournament the only people you'll see there are a few hardcore locals and the traveling fans. Come watch Robert Morris vs. Wayne State this season ... the joint will be empty. Do you think with UAF playing "Joe Blow U" the Sully will be empty? Nope. It'll be substantially filled. UAF has a pretty large contingent of traveling fans along with a substantial number of supporters who live in Anchorage (yes ... it's true ... they are among us every day!!) Same thing when UAA goes up there to play. More butts in the seats. Add in the fact that the games UAA and UAF get against teams from outside their conferences will improve "comparisons" in the NCAA's tournament computations and you've got a quality win-win situation.

It'll be in both schools interest to get the best possible teams into each of these tournaments. That might be a bit of an issue; I sense that part of the politics of keeping the "Alaska exemption" (i.e... teams that play here don't have to count the games against their 34 game limit) is to spread around the invitations so as many schools as possible can enjoy the benefit of scheduling two additional home games.

Answering The Governor and The ADN

Last Friday after reading this Compass article from Governor Palin and this back patting editorial from the Daily News editors, I wrote and submitted the following piece.
The Daily News editors may be prideful that fiscal conservatism means the State university system only got 4 percent of what they asked for, I find it shameful. While it is somewhat heartening they recognized UAA’s basic need for a new arena, it is disappointing that they used a metaphor poorly to make their point that the state isn’t responsible for getting it going. “Like a family with a one car garage and 4 cars?” A family that needs more space for their cars is a mostly specious comparison though. It may be accurate in the sense that there isn’t enough space in the garage for all the vehicles, but it doesn’t recognize that without the garage space, 3 of those cars will find another garage in which to park. For many of Anchorages best and brightest young people, parking at home isn’t an option they consider. Why? Because there are better garages in virtually any one of 49 other states. Shouldn’t we be trying to keep that 4 car family together?

The bottom line here is whether UAA can build itself into a garage where those other 3 cars want to park. There are two primary factors young adults use when selecting a school: education and environment. Since its inception and integration with Anchorage Community College the University has tried to steadily increase and expand it’s educational opportunities. Sadly though, the environment has remained the much the same. The experience of being a student at UAA is largely unique (in a bad way) among State-sponsored educational institutions in this great country.

Most (if not all) other state schools in this country (including UAF) provide a worthy environment in terms of those experiences important to collage aged students. In order for UAA to take the necessary steps to create a campus where students want to be, they must dramatically improve the culture and student experience (environment) as well as those important educational options. Involvement with the schools sports programs is one important aspect of that cultural experience. Take a look at almost any other state university and you’ll see student populations engaged and energized by their schools sports programs. Not at UAA though.

What happens when the best and brightest go elsewhere for the all-important collegiate experience? They stay there and instead of coming home to build the future Alaska, they put their talents to work somewhere else. Population growth in Alaska is largely a factor of outsiders moving here versus the next generation staying and participating in that future. In my mind, that means we Alaskans will simply become a conglomeration of emigrants who’ll eventually have no unique Alaskan identity. It is a shortsighted and inaccurate view to think we can’t afford to improve UAA. It’s shortsighted because a failure to invest in the future guarantees a future that only includes things from the present. It’s inaccurate because there is 39 billion Permanent Fund dollars (growing at a rate of 1.5 billion dollars a year) waiting to be invested in Alaska’s future.

Many other state and national governments have in place and/or are adopting Permanent Fund-like programs from their oil revenues. That’s a testament to Alaska’s leadership in managing the future. One thing though that most of those “Funds” have (and we don’t) is some recognition that investing in publicly funded post-secondary education is an important factor for guaranteeing positive future growth. They’re committing those funds to that important investment. But hey, we own a Mall in Virginia, right?

UAA’s planned arena is one part of an important larger effort to improve student culture and will become a valuable asset to the community at large. To advocate that such a role is the responsibility of the private sector is beyond my comprehension. Like every other state’s citizens it is our responsibility to fund our state universities. Alaskans need to speak out and demand our Permanent Fund begin investing locally in our future. The Permanent Fund is fully capable and our legislators need to direct them appropriately.
The paper has two primary ways in which it takes and publishes views from the community. The first is the "Letter to the Editor" (225 word limit) and the second is the "Compass" section (675 word limit). Today, after calling and leaving a voice message, I received the following notice via email from Matt Zencey the Editorial Page Editor for the ADN.
Mr. Dunlop,
I got your phone message. Frankly, this would need too much editing
and rewriting to be suitable for a full length op-ed in the Daily News.
You're welcome to condense it to a 225 word letter, focusing on your
main points: You think we're wrong; state funding for an arena is
appropriate because A. it will help UAA retain talented Alaska students by
improving the campus environment and B. we can afford it because we have
the Permanent Fund.
Your letter can be submitted to

Matthew Zencey
Editorial Page Editor
Anchorage Daily News
So that's that. I could have just posted that instead of submitting it to the ADN but most of it you've probably heard me say here before. I thought I made my points within their guidelines. It is 669 words; their limit is 675. Outside of that, their guidelines allow them a pretty wide variety of reasons to decide against printing. I didn't respond to Mr. Zencey's email.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Dear Incoming Recruits

You're about to make a pretty big change in your life. You've chosen to advance your hockey career and get an education at the same time. And you're going to a fairly unique place that's a helluva long way from the rest of the world. There are some things it'll be useful for you to know that might help make it a success.

The Sullivan Arena won't be full. There are lots of reasons for it. The only thing you really need to know though, is that if you help the team win more games it will fill up during the season. And the folks that are there are as passionate as any group of fans you've ever played for. As fans we don't expect you to light up the league your first season. If you do, its a bonus. But we'll appreciate your play whatever the case.

There are 15 forwards on the team meaning 3 guys aren't dressing for each game. There's 9 defensemen. Oops ... 4 players ain't dressing. That doesn't necessarily mean that only freshmen will be sitting. But it's best to be prepared for that possibility, no doubt sitting in the stands will be a new experience for some of you. Coach Shyiak's first two years taught me that he is a coach who gives everyone more than a couple of chances to play throughout the season. This means sitting in the stands is something that has been (more or less) distributed evenly over those two seasons. As with any coach if you show it during practice you'll earn chances to play. And if you produce during those chances you'll stay out of the stands.

Deep in the winter it gets dark here early. Not 5pm dark. Not even 4pm dark. It's like 3:42pm dark at it's worst. It's different but it's not as big a negative as you might expect. The period of those dark days only last about six weeks. The daylight is longer here from March through October in the lower 48. And in the middle of summer it is exactly opposite from the depths of a dark winter. It's a bit of a tradeoff that most people who live here learn to appreciate. Golfing in June and July at 10 or 11 at night with discount twilight greens fees? If you like camping, hiking, hunting, fishing or otherwise recreating in an outdoorsy way then you're coming to probably the best place on the planet to do those things. My advice is for you to take advantage of every opportunity you get to do those things during your Seawolf career. You won't regret it. Fish that other WCHA players are catching near their schools are called bait up here.

Pretty much every other weekend you're going to have a long plane trip. 5 or 6 hours on a plane and probably some bus time as well. No doubt you've been on lots of road trips. You'll go on a couple that have 4 hour time differences. A couple have 3 hour time differences and the others are 2 hours. None of which will be a disadvantage. You'll see some rinks with impressive student support and fanbases that mostly fill their arenas. There's a bit of a "wow factor" visiting a couple of those joints so just try your best to get that out of your system before gametime. Here's a brief rundown:
At the Kohl Center in Madison the large student section dances and sings and chants. Mariucci Arena is so corpie tight-assed and revered spiritually by the fanbase that taking a crap in the public restrooms is frowned upon. The Ralph is glitz, tech and rabid ... that's what happens when a giant ego from a small prairie town builds a marble edifice as his legacy. I hear the fans are "biters". Be glad the glass is between you and them. In Colorado both the rinks present the same challenge. They're more than a mile high and you live at sea level. Best case for your body to completely acclimatize to a big altitude change is 3-4 days. So ... You're gonna be huffing and puffing. Some trips will be more interesting than others. Denver and Minneapolis are big cities with lots of sights and sounds, Denver and CC have mountain vistas, Grand Forks has the whole spectacularly flat thing going for it and Madison has hippies ... then there's the other end of the roadtrip excitement spectrum ... St. Cloud. Hey ... Deal with the little bit of bad in mostly otherwise interesting destinations. It's a relatively small burden.
We hate Fairbanks ergo you hate Fairbanks. OK? Seriously, we never want to lose to them again. You don't either. On board with that? The "Governors Cup" is a big deal to UAF fans and denying them it, is why you're here. Following the the general trend now? Seawolf > Nanook. It's just that simple. Ingrain it on your psyche. Burn it in your memory. Never forget. They hate freedom. We love freedom. Fairbanks bad. UAA good. The ticket is free to get on the "Hate-FBX" bus, so jump on it and stay on it. Comprende? Ok then ... the less said about Fairbanks the better.

We UAA fans look forward to seeing you on the ice. We look forward to the moments when you'll have a chance to be a hero for a night. We look forward to seeing you paste someone to the wall. We'll cheer our asses off when you kill off a penalty in the opponents zone with your forecheck. We'll bow in our unworthiness when you make some magic with the puck. But more than anything else we'll respect your 100% effort in an attempt to entertain us. Thanks in advance for that and for both our sakes ... do all your homework!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

WCHA Rinks from Google Earth

Here are pictures I grabbed from Google Earth of each of the WCHA rinks. To see the larger version just click on the picture. This was mostly an exercise in boredom as I can't really think of any good use for these other than satisfying a bit of curiousity. I grabbed them all from a height of about 2000ft. Note that Google Earth's levels of resolution (detail) for St. Cloud, Houghton and Duluth is lesser than the rest (it's not an indictment per se... obviously all the other cities are just more important) but I put them first here to ensure any feelings of inferiority which Google's disrespect causes is somewhat mitigated. The Houghton picture is pretty much superfluous (Google Earth barely knows it exists) but anyway, it's from 20,000ft.

The National Hockey Center
Houghton, Michigan (No idea where the MacInnes is...)
The DECCColorado Springs World ArenaMariucci Arena
The Midwest Wireless Arena (oops .. Alltell Center ... they love name changing in Mankato)
Magness Arena
The Kohl Center
The Ralph
The Sully

It's interesting to note that 3 of the 4 rinks in Minnesota are not aligned on a North/South basis along with the World Arena (no wonder they couldn't figure out Black Bears is a million times better name than Tigers) while all the rest (except who knows about the MacInnes in Houghton) are so constucted. Also you can clearly read the "Fighting Sioux" name in the Ralph picture; I guess someone actually believed that Uncle Ralphie would be able to look down from heaven to make sure they never change the name. Yeah ... ok. Parking at the Magness and the Alltell Center rinks must be a pain in the ass.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Seawolves Add Forward: Sean Wiles

Chris Heisenberg is reporting that USHL Tri-Cities Storm forward Sean Wiles has committed to UAA for the 07-08 season. Sean is 6'3" and 200lbs and turned 20 on June 15th. In 55 games this past season Sean recorded 19 points (12g-7a). He was among the 15 finalists for Wisconsin's 2005 Mr. Hockey award as the states best hockey player.

The NHL's CSS also had him on their 06 "players to watch" list as a "B" player. He received Tri-Cities Most Improved Player award at the end of the 05-06 season. His addition brings the total number of fowards on the 07-08 UAA roster to 15. This creates a healthy competitive atmosphere for playing time which should make every player on the squad work hard.

The Beloit Daily News had this great article about Sean's commitment with lots of comments and quotes. He sounds excited about coming here and pretty self confident. His high school coach Brice Gustafson said:
“Sean has that great size, lots of talent and he just doesn't take no for an answer..."

“I was worried because it was getting kind of late to get an offer, (Alaska-Anchorage) had contacted me about three months ago. I guess his skill, work ethic and experience finally sold them on Sean.”
Chris at WCH attended Tri-Cities Camp back on June 5th and his only comment about Wiles was:
"Black's team had three overage players on it in Sean Wiles and two Omaha recruits: Alex Hudson and Jordan Willert. All three weren't necessarily the slickest players, but they had a big advantage in terms of maturity and strength and were probably the best players for Black."

Friday, July 06, 2007

WCHA Recruiting Class Ranking

The exercise about to be undertaken here is fraught with all sorts of opportunities for criticism. Most WCHA fans are probably pretty optimistic about their incoming recruits. I'm going to attempt to "rank" each teams incoming class. To do so I'll look at the recruits numbers last season in whatever league they played in. Some junior leagues are better than others and that will be a factor I'll consider. I'll use my judgement based on what I've read or been told. It'll be far from a scientific endeavor though. The biggest factor for me will be the likelihood (and number of) specific rookies making an impact.

#1 Wisconsin
Phenom Kyle Turris is just about enough of a presence on Bucky's incoming class to give them this spot outright. It's a small possibility that Turris won't be impactful very soon after donning the W ... note I said "small". Expect him to flourish. But the talent headed to Madison this coming season doesn't stop with the NHL's #3 overall pick. While Turris is probably the first WCHA freshman to expect impactful play the second may very well be Minnesota-native Ryan McDonagh. Add in perhaps the most talented goaltender to be recruited to "Goalie U" in Scott Gudmandson and it isn't really necessary to mention USHL All-Rookie Team forward Josh Turnbull who put up 54 points (25g-29a) in 60 games in a distinctly unoffensive league.

#2 Minnesota
Just about every elite Minnesota hockey player wants to play for the Gophers. Unfortunately for Don Lucia he doesn't have the roster spots for all of them. Fortunately though, he has enough spots this year to bag at least 5 of those elites for 2007. Pat White, Mike Hoeffel, and Cade Fairchild lead the list. Goaltender Alex Kangas was probably the most heavily recruited netminder for 2007. There may not be a "superstar" among these guys but don't bet against one or more of these future Gophers making an impact in their first season.

#3 Michigan Tech
On first glance, with 116 points (51g-56a) in 55 games Casey Pierro-Zabotel looks to be THE impact freshman in Houghton this coming season. His 6'2" 205 frame will suit him well but he likely won't be the Huskies only quality rookie in 07-08. Bennett Royer's 76 points (32g-44a) with the Calgary Canucks in the AJHL and a 1st team south all star make him someone to watch this season. Add in Eric Kattelus who had 112 points (53g-59a) in 100 USHL games over the past two seasons and you've got three solid rookies who could all easily get that "impact" label. I'd classify this as one of the best classes at MTU in some time.

#4 University of Denver
Four players earn DU this spot. Tyler Bozak put up 128 points last year in the BCHL. Jesse Martin scored 19 goals and added 37 assists in his first year in the USHL after moving there from Spruce Grove in the AJHL. Martin is well liked by the scouts. Kyle Ostrow put up 202 points in 148 games over the last three BCHL seasons with Nanaimo. Almost 1.4 points per game over three seasons. His production all three seasons was very even. He did however only play 45 games in both of the last two seasons. Interpret as you will. Finally, I think goaltender Marc Cheverie will probably challenge Mannino for playing time as the season progresses.

#5 North Dakota
There are 3 serious contenders as impactful players coming to Grand Forks this season and two guys that will probably be "noisy". Anchorage native center Evan Trupp, defenseman Derrick LaPointe and winger Brad Malone all had impressive numbers in their last junior season. Trupp put up 50 points (20g-30a) in just 35 BCHL games with Penticton. LaPointe was a USHL first team all-star with 49 points (13g-36a) in 59 games. At 6'3" and listed as only 180 his strength is probably a bit suspect. Brad Malone had 33 points in 57 USHL games and I've read a few nice things about him. The two less likely to be impactful players who I indicated might be "noisy" are Brett Hextall and Shea Hamilton. Expect both of these guys (if they get into the lineup regularly) to pile up the penalties. Hextall racked up 156 minutes in Penticton last season (8th overall) but also managed to put up 45 points in those 59 games.

#6 University of Alaska Anchorage
Brad McCabe, Jeff Carlson and Kane Lafranchise have probably the best scouting reports but I find it difficult not to mention 4 BCHL forwards. McCabe's NAHL numbers were decent during a season split into two parts by injury and I'm calling him an impact player based on Keith Morris telling me he has a "big time shot". Carlson was a 1st team NAHL All Star and on the Robertson Cup All Tournament 1st team. Lafranchise has been an AJHL all star both of the last two seasons. It's perhaps most difficult to become an impactful blueliner in the WCHA as a rookie. Rookie forwards have an easier time in general getting noticed. Now the 4 other pretty good former BCHL'ers coming as well are; Chirs Rengert's 84 points (26g-58a) put his at #12 overall in that league last year. Craig Parkinson's 79 points (42g-37a) put him at #14 overall. Tommy Grant's 75 points (36g-39a) put his at #18 and Winston Daychief's 74 points (31g-43a) put him at #20. Individually, none of those numbers makes puts any of these guys in the "impact" category but collectively they're certainly not unimpressive numbers. Think one or two of them won't be impactful by season's end? If so, you should think again.

#7 St. Cloud State
Two almost certainly impactful freshman will probably impress in Stearns County this season. Aaron Marvin and Garret Roe should both secure spots on the Huskies first two lines. Defenseman Brett Barta should see plenty of playing time but I'm guessing won't have any impactful numbers from the blueline. Minnesota native Tony Mosey put up 81 points (30g-51a) in 59 BCHL games with Salmon Arm with incoming BCHL teammate Brian Volpei who put up 63 points (25g-38a) but both may take a little time to adjust to the WCHA game and I'd calculate any impact they may have would be in the second half of the season. Gopher transfer Brent Borgen is a wildcard in my book so I won't paste the "impact" label on him either.

#8 Colorado College
I see three players (2 rookies and 1 transfer) at CC as can't miss insofar as earning the "impact" label. First is goaltender Richard Bachman who will likely immediately challenge veteran backup (and Anchorage native) Drew O'Connell for playing time. Drew never managed to regain Scott Owen's confidence after a couple of rough early outings in the "Black Bears" (get used to it ... I ain't calling them Tigers anymore) sweater. And whether that is fair or not it is a big opening for Bachman to come in and play right away. Eric Walsky's skills will earn him a spot on one of the top two lines at CC and his experience should pay benefits right away. Incoming rookie Tyler Johnson is very well regarded and from everything I've read may be one of the most talented new players to hit the ice in the WCHA this coming season. At least that's what a lot of Minnesotans are saying.

#9 Minnesota Duluth
The recruiters at UMD have recently begun plucking choice prospects more often from the AJHL and this season Justin Fontaine looks to be a good get to add to that. High scoring Kyle Schmidt from Fairbanks in the NAHL looks to be a quality addition as well. After these two it looks to be up to Cody Danberg to round out the list of potential impact players but his 19 points in only 17 BCHL games is a pretty small sampling to judge. Brother of former UAA goalie Kevin Reiter (Kenny) will be wearing a Bulldog sweater but don't expect him to challenge for regular playing time with Alex Stalock.

#10 Minnesota St. Mankato
Mike Louwerse, Andy Sackrison and Austin Lee are the names of note coming to Mankato. Sackrison was the 124 player taken in the 06 NHL draft. He had 27 points (12g-15a) with Tri-City in the USHL last season. Louwerse comes directly from High School to the Mavs and Chris from WCH is somewhat enamored with him. Chris is high on goaltender Austin Lee as well. He boldly placed MSU above CC and DU in his recruit class rankings last December. I guess we'll disagree. Big surprise.

So that is that. Placing 5 thru 8 was difficult and my biggest fear is that I placed CC too low amongst that middle group. I found UMD and Mankato to be uninspiring and hence their 9th and 10th placement. Of course, arguments could be made for putting UofM ahead of UW but to me Turris, McDonagh, Gudmandson > White, Fairchild, Hoeffel, Kangas. I guess I'm hyping Turris as being something more than just "one" player. Of all my placements I'm most confident in DU #4. I wanted to put UAA ahead of UND (after all Chris Rengert and Craig Parkinson both had point-per-game averages in the BCHL identical to Trupp) but placing them 2 spots behind Minnesota was probably enough to generate some hatred from the GF crowd! God only knows what sort of shitstorm would happen if I said UAA had a better incoming class than the Sioux.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Shootouts On Their Way In

The NCAA rules committee has done what it does. It's a committee to deal with the rules. If they didn't recommend changes every year they wouldn't be doing their jobs. It's useful for the game to progress and only through some smart management can you get that done. Unfortunately, the competition committee (or subcommittee or um .... gaggle of asshats ...) believes there is a big problem in the game: they think that if two amateur athletic teams finish a titanic battle (lets say ... as part of an intense rivalry) tied, that "competition" isn't served.

When I was a youngster I'd occasionally have a chance to help the old man while he tuned-up the '63 Dodge Polara. He'd show me how to tweak the carb's air intake and adjust the mix or maybe I'd get to run the timing light! I know I couldn't have been more than 10 and my brother 13 when he took us out on a north Texas road (that goes on forever) and I saw the needle hit 120mph. Sweetness. But I didn't understand for years why he'd be playing with these settings weekly as if he was improving things. He was out front under the hood of the car tweaking away so he didn't have to be inside the house getting tweaked by the other 5 inhabitants. You see ... there are good reasons to tweak things and there are bad reasons.

The rules committee noticed some tendencies over the last couple of years and have issued a couple of points of emphasis for the upcoming season. Most of these points of emphasis have been valuable in tweaking the game and well received by the broader community. So ... right on for calling more diving and even two referees and the reasons for them. But piss on the shootout and the bad reasons for it.

The virtue of a tie game is not exceeded by the virtue of any other result. Ties are worthy. A tie is one of three possible outcomes in virtually any sporting competition. It is only the advent of technology that allows us to see .003 seconds between first and second place on a ski-hill or 100 meter dash. Before the most accurate technology we called those results a tie. I can't begin to understand how some "best of 10" one-on-one shootout is more important than the reality of what happened on the ice in the preceding 65 minutes.

You see ... while I'm a raging anti-establishment irreverence-loving cynic about the real world, I'm dead on serious conservative about one of the last sports I follow with any sort of passion. Yup, I'm a purist or whatever you want to call it.

Yeah I know everyone loves shootouts. I know they're "real exciting". I know the fans love them and probably every player is itching to get his chance taking one. But the problem here is that you're invalidating a perfectly rational natural potential outcome. They're telling us that when our team battled it's heart out in front of the hometown crowd for sixty minutes and held some behemothly more talented rival to a scoreless tie that there is no pride in that? Don't expect to come here in two or three years and expect me to treat shootouts as anything other than a stupid sideshow. They're an affront; a staged horseshit event that only a fractionally respresents the reality of the game.

There are any number of equally important facets of a full game that would equally represent the game as well as a shootout does. There's more hitting in a game than one-on-ones; why not a hitting contest to decide the game? A forward and a defenseman race to a puck sitting in the corner and viola! Wouldn't that be exciting? Whoever comes out with the puck the most times out of ten wins the game! Why not do use that more important facet as "the decider"?

Because it's stupid ... but I guarantee though it is a dramatically more important facet of gameplay than one-on-one skills. A naturally occurring one-on-one breakaway is truly exciting. No doubt about it. But how often does it happen? 5 times a game would be a lot of natural breakaways in my book. But going into the corner hard and challenging for a puck happens what ... um 50 times a game? Shootouts are the preferred method for only one reason that I can determine. To satisfy "the mob". It isn't because they represent the game or for any other good reason. So ultimately the rules committee is making these changes because they'd rather be tweaking than be tweaked. And the best way to avoid being tweaked by "the mob" is to get under hood and fool around. Sigh.

This change in our game is going to have serious strategic implications. Don't think for a second that some highly talented team that happens to be getting outplayed won't jump into neutral zone trap with eight and a half minutes to go in the 3rd in hopes of preserving a tie and taking their chances in the shootout. It'll happen, in fact that will likely become a league norm. Don't think for a second that some hot goalie won't get seriously run with 3 seconds left in overtime. It'll happen. Other leagues that use shootouts do so with 80 game schedules. There is a normative effect with a larger sampling that tends to even out the effect of shootouts on standings. That effect will be absent with a 32 game college season. It's wrong for a lot of reasons (besides just the stupid circus sideshow). Too bad it's our reality starting in 08-09.