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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sunday Potpourri: More Commie Crap


Do me a favor. It's sort of a big one. It will require 123 minutes and 12 seconds of your time. Click the play button on the video above. Watch it. Please. Regardless of what you think of Michael Moore and his (or my) politics. Just watch it. You can stop and start it as it is convenient for you. You don't have to navigate to another site. The whole thing can be watched right here. It's powerful and compelling. Canadians (and/or Europeans) don't need to watch it. Unless of course you want to feel superior to us Americans.

It's funny to me that many people of one particular political persuasion actually believe that people of an opposite political stripe are out to "destroy this country". That absolutely ridiculous hyperbole should be obvious to any thinking person, yet it becomes more prevalent each and every day. Obama wants to tear the U.S. down!!! That's funny shit.

Identifying a problem, raising it for discussion and trying to find a way to mitigate/fix it doesn't mean pinko commies like me want to destroy this country. From one perspective, it means that people like me who want to make things better are more patriotic than you. Certainly, some of you think that there is absolutely nothing wrong with anything. From my perspective, if you think everything is peachy then your head is in the sand.

There really is a myriad of social and cultural issues which, if we addressed, would make this place better for all of us. Health care for everyone should be on the same level as public education. I would go so far as to say it should be a basic human right. I'm not about to sit here and list all the faux-justifications that the anti-health care reform crowd is using to maintain the insurance industry status quo. I find it all very troubling. It makes me wonder about you all. What the fuck are you thinking by gobbling up all that tripe? Don't you see how much money they have at stake?

My guess is that we all believe the LIE that anyone can make it big in the U.S. That propaganda has been shoved down our throats since we were young. Ask anyone who has made it big and they'll tell you that without LUCK all their hard work might have ended fruitlessly. But because we all believe our ship will come in one day, we fear any change that some talking head tells us would be antithetical to that dream. But it's just a dream folks. Nobody reading this is going to become the next Bill Gates. Sorry to tell you. Statistically it just isn't going to happen.

Some of you have done very well no doubt. Some of you will do very well in the future. But that dream that you'll be mega rich is just a dream ... a fantasy.

My ex-girlfriend used to believe that she would one day be what she called "normal". The problem was that she what she thought was "normal" was actually exceptional. Maybe 2 percent of people in the world are actually in the state of being that she described as "normal". I'd launch here into a diatribe about the manipulation of our psyche's by media etc ... and blame this guy named Edward Bernays (a guy that you've never heard of but who shaped our modern culture more than any of single person EvAH!). But I'll save that for another time. Google his name if your curious.

The point is that our expectations are out of step with the reality of what is actually probable ... because we think in terms of possibility not probability. And those two things are dramatically different. The Flying Spaghetti Monster is possible. Science can't disprove/discount the possibility that his noodly appendages designed our world. The probability though that FSM did so is minute.

For now. Just watch Sicko. Please. I dare you to watch it and pay attention. It's an important time to pay attention if your a citizen of the U.S. I implore you to watch it.

And don't bother with asking me to stick to hockey. Refer to the This Is Not Your Father's Oldsmobile post from August 21st for my answer to that particular issue.

Today's Seawolf hockey content:
The incoming freshman attended the UAA women's volleyball opening games and provided cheerleading entertainment. There are pictures ... This would have never happened in the Soviet Union. I miss Leonid Brezhnev.


Friday, August 28, 2009

How I See The 09-10 WCHA

With my new no-line progressive tri-focal glasses of course! There appear to be only two sure things with regard to standings in the upcoming WCHA season. Neither of those is dead-certain but I wouldn't risk a bet that they won't. DU will finish first and MTU will finish last. Expect to see them in those positions in every conventional set of predictions by anyone who follows WCHA hockey. Parity across the league will continue to be present this season.

It pains me a bit to give DU that much credit. I don't think their goaltending is particularly excellent. Cheverie ain't bad, don't get me wrong; but he isn't in the same category as many past WCHA goaltending studs. If DU's offense were a poker hand, it'd be a royal flush. They're reasonably experienced on D and Weircioch is back to put up some more big numbers on the power play fromt the point. They have a few so-called stud freshman coming in and more than one of them is likely to be impactful. Their returning offense is much more than just Rugs and Rhaks. Anything less than 1st place in the WCHA should be considered a disappointment.

It also pains me a bit to automatically assume that MTU will be last. It isn't that I think they have some hidden talent in their lineup that nobody else knows about. They don't. I guess I just empathize with their ongoing basement dwelling. Their goaltending is suspect. There is little or no offensive dynamic. The defense will be decent though and Jamie Russell will ensure they play 60 minutes every game. They'll win a couple of games that they shouldn't. But only a couple.

Predictions for the rest of the league are somewhat more difficult. So in no particular order here's my initial off-the-cuff thoughts about each.

Colorado College seems to be the team with the biggest perceived drop. Everyone had them as the consensus #1 last year and they didn't live up to that. This season they could go as low as 9th. Analyzing CC is the pinnacle of boredom to me. I can't see anything other than a classic "rebuilding" year for them. Watch out for them in the next couple of years though.

UMD's NCAA run last year was impressive and all. But were they really that good? The spanking that UAA put on them in the last two regular season games tells me they weren't. They put together a nice run partly because of the spanking the Seawolves provided. They return a solid offensive core and improve their defense with the departure of hacker Josh Meyers. It doesn't hurt that Dylan Olsen is his replacement. Goaltending will be a BIG question mark. Going from Stalock to a sandwich ingredient (Hjelle) isn't exactly a formula for success. Jam > Jelly.

I don't think SCSU is as good as the usual bluster coming from central Minnesota pegs them. After Roe, Lasch and Mavin (sorta) there are no real proven scorers. They had four freshman with reasonably good rookie seasons; Festler 7g, LeBlanc 8g, Christian 6g and Novak 5g. None of those numbers scream, "I'm a stud." They're bring in a couple of highly touted freshman. But all the touting is from central Minnesota (donchaknow). Their #1 goalie (Weslosky) couldn't keep up with the schoolwork at SCSU and transferred to safety school Bemidji. They also think they have the next Richard Bachman coming. But are prognosticators really supposed to assume such a thing? Bachman basically came out of nowhere to perform as he did. Maybe Mike Lee will. Bigger maybe that he won't in my book. Lastly, I definitely don't respect their defense.

Da Gophs look to me to be about the same as last year or perhaps a bit better. Jordan Schroeder is their difference maker; as he goes so will they. As always, one the telling aspects for them will be whether Don Lucia can manage all their enlarged heads and get them to play as a team. As seems to be usually the case they had inconsistent goaltending and probably will again. But don't count on that to be responsible for many losses. They'll mostly score enough goals to offset any Kangascide implosions.

Bucky should be better but they still have offensive challenges; logic says though that their returners will be at least as good as last year. And that will probably be enough. If their all-world defensive corps can also continue to bring the O they'll be more than ok. If they take more penalties than their opponents they could have some difficulties. Power play points are going to be a big part of their offense. Experience will likely serve them very well. Eaves knows how to play defense. Getting pucks past any Bucky goalie is a tough task. Not because any of them in the last few years have been massively talented but because the whole team is always responsible in their own end.

Mankato is supremely challenged in goal in terms of experience. None of their three rostered goalies has played any D1 minutes but they return more scoring to their top two lines than SCSU. But like SCSU, their defensive prowess is very questionable. Kurt Davis' offensive abilities (power play points) doesn't keep other teams from scoring. They finished 8th last year. I don't see them improving that placement this season.

The University of Nothing Decent won the league race last year. Not this year. The University of Notable Drunks have already booted one kid for his off-ice alcohol forays. I don't underestimate the community backing for this team though. Virtually the whole town wills them to succeed; it's a huge part of their community identity. Besides, collective will may actually have a basis in Quantum Physics. Therefore, I'll assume they'll be "in the mix". They return enough offense to win games. A couple of defensemen can bring the O. Goaltending is fine but certainly not Lamoureux-ish; Eidsness won't likely fall apart but putting up a big number on him in a specific game isn't out of the question. Their freshman class probably has as much talent as their returning crew. But freshman talent doesn't necessarily translate to production in this league.

I'll go ahead and pick the order of finish. But my parenthetical notes regarding range is more relevant than the placings on which I've settled.
1. Denver (highest 1st; lowest 1st)
2. Wisconsin (highest 2nd; lowest 4th)
3. UND (highest 3rd; lowest 5th)
4. Minnesota (highest 3rd; lowest 6th)
5. UAA (highest 4th; lowest 7th)
6. UMD (highest 4th; lowest 7th)
7. SCSU (highest 5th; lowest 8th)
8. Mankato (highest 7th; lowest 9th)
9. Colorado College (highest 8th; lowest 9th)
10. Michigan Tech (highest 10th; lowest 10th)
Before you non-UAA readers get all into your "Ha Ha, DTP says UAA will finish 5th" ... don't. I'll be deleting any such comments that don't include some minimum measure of rationale. If you're only capable of a smarmy drive-by weak insult just don't bother trying to express yourself here.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Hockey News Insults UAA

Regardless of the result of such polling, I normally wouldn't be interested enough to post this item. The Hockey News; yes ... THE Hockey News conducted a fan-based poll to determine the favorite jerseys all across the hockey landscape. Naturally, UAA won amongst WCHA teams whose fans didn't spam the poll. UofM first ... UND second and UAA third. All well and good since Minnesota and North Dakota have loads of internet fans interested in such things.

However, here is the exact text blurb describing UAA's jersey:
"Nanooks rep Alaska on shoulder, realistic bear"
What the fuck Hockey News? You guys didn't notice that the UAF blurb says:
"Like the realistic bear and state shout-out on sleeves"
A couple of years ago the non-hockey publication USA Today seemed to confuse UAA and UAF in one of their early Top 20 polls. It was cute that they crapped down their leg. Their poll gets no respect in the college hockey world anyway. But THE Hockey News disrespecting UAA? Not cute; insulting.

I'll leave this in your hands to do as you will. To contact THE Hockey News' editorial staff you can send an email to editorial@thehockeynews.com or the web editor at efraser@thehockeynews.com.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

UAA Release Details Freshman Class

In a move reflecting the presence of syzygy in our little corner of the college hockey universe, the University of Alaska Anchorage has released a statement from Head Coach Dave Shyiak which details the addition of each of the players I welcomed here yesterday. Here are some quotes from the release:

Lee Baldwin (6'4" 203lbs):
Victoria Grizzlies general manager Jackson Penney said,
"Lee worked very hard this summer to become a complete player. He's a great skater for his size and has both good shooting and passing abilities. Lee is very good in the locker room and leads by example."
Mitch Bruijsten (6'4" 195lbs):
Sioux City Musketeers coach Todd Knott said,
"I am very happy for Mitch and his family right now. Two years ago he took a chance and moved a long way from home in hopes of this opportunity. He will be playing for a well respected program at UAA while working towards a college degree. It's just another great example of what junior hockey can do for a young man."
Chris Crowell (6'2" 205lbs):
Jason Williamson, head coach of the Vernon Vipers said,
"Chris is a great teammate and will do what it takes to win. Crowell is a strong skater with good size and plays a punishing role. He can also chip in offensively."
Alex Gellert (6'1" 170lbs):
Cowichan head coach Scott Robinson said,
"Gellert is a very dynamic player who moves the puck well. He has great feet and a lot of potential."
Daniel Naslund (6'4" 205lbs):
Vasteras coach Jorgen Holmberg said,
"Daniel has very good size and play-making ability. He's a smart player that understands both ends of the ice. He goes to the net hard and is difficult to knock off the puck. Daniel is a talented player with a good attitude that was able to produce offense for us."
Mickey Spencer (6'0" 189lbs):
Cowichan Capitals coach Robinson said,
"Spencer is a pure finisher with a great shot and release, who will score when he has the opportunity. He is a great kid to have on your team.
Drew Darwitz (5'8" 165lbs):
Josh Hauge Ice Dogs coach said,
"Our organization is very happy for Drew to be getting an opportunity at a great program like the University of Alaska Anchorage. Drew has been a big part of our success the past two seasons. His hard work paid off this season as Drew led all defensemen in scoring this past season and was voted the NAHL Defenseman of the Year."
Tyler Currier (6'1" 198lbs):
Dave Boitz, the head coach of the Avalanche
"We are excited for Tyler as this is a dream come true for him. He has always wanted to play for UAA and this is a great opportunity for him. Tyler will bring a good skill set with very good skating ability and size. He will do what it takes to win."
Transfer Brad Gorham will be eligible to play in January. Scott Warner will be sitting out his transfer year and hit the ice next fall. Finally, Dave Shyiak said,
"I think this class addresses a lot of our needs and will give us depth at every position. We've brought in a good blend of size, skill and speed. The transition to college hockey is a big step and we will need our new players to contribute to our success this year. Our staff and players are excited to get things started and feel we are ready to move ahead in the WCHA."

Monday, August 24, 2009

Dear Rookies: Welcome To The North



Dear Incoming Rookies,
Well gentlemen: you've arrived. In Alaska? You're really in Alaska? It took a few weeks for that to really sink in when I moved up here at 17. I thought I'd touch on a few categories so you aren't totally unprepared for some things.

The Weather:
Next month instead of basking in some sort of "Indian Summer" weather back home, you'll be full on in the depths of Fall here. By Halloween, when the leaves are falling off the trees in the regular world, it'll start being frigging cold here. Somewhere in November you'll notice the distinctly diminished daylight hours. Be damn glad you get to go home for the whole month of December; you'll miss the darkest days. January and February days here tend to have lots of clear blue skies and slowly the day's finally begin to lengthen. I start dreaming about Spring here sometime late in March; when it is already in full swing "outside".

The Geography:
You might as well be out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean like Hawaii. Seriously. Driving out of here is pretty much 3 days to anywhere. Unless you're Jared Tuton. Anyway, it's isolated here. When you decide to get outside of Anchorage and have a look around the real Alaska, you can have two choices. There are no roads out of town that go East or West and ONLY one each that goes North or South. I'm sure you already figured you'll be flying to every road game eh?

The Nightlife:
Nightlife? Do you think that you're going to UND? If you're not of drinking age; then go to the movies. And no matter your age; do you're damn homework. There's plenty of time for nightlife and chasing Mary Jane Rottencrotch back home on that long December break. Ask Trevor Hunt (nicely mind you) show you the finer points of Aquarium Fishing.

Food To Go:
Sicily's Pizza is the worst pizza in town. Don't order it. The sauce is bland. The cheese is bland. It's just a blandfest. There are two pretty decent burger choices nearby the campus. I can personally recommend both Burger Cache and Max's Beefy Burgers. Most of the usual drive through fast food joints are near the campus on Tudor Road. So you are close to the only Long John Silver's/KFC combo in town! Woohoo!

The Campus:
Stay the hell away from any moose. They're big and dumb looking but they can move a lot quicker than even August Aiken. Here's an example that occurred right outside your practice rink. You probably won't see a bear. But if you do ... stay the hell away from it too. You'll see plenty of moose. The initial uniqueness of seeing these wild animals walking around your campus will wear off soon enough. And oh yeah ... look both ways before you cross the street. Drivers in Anchorage are mostly idiots.

The Sullivan:
Rock the competition and the joint will fill up. Don't expect it to be full otherwise; but there's about 3500 core fans that live and die with you. Prior teams just haven't had the league success to attract the following. Your fellow students don't come to the games even though the enrollment at UAA is like 20,000. Derek Donald is on the case though. Derek was the quite probably the most tenacious Seawolf forward ever at UAA. He'll help get some butts in the seats. If any one of you goes on some crazy freshman scoring streak that'd help too. Light the lamp eh?

The Competition:
All the WCHA teams are "teh suck". They mostly all think they're "the shit". Except for Michigan Tech who knows they are "teh suck". I won't mention that a couple of years ago ... MTU was it's usual suckedness and they put a 9-0 beatdown on UAA. No doubt you'll think it's cool to go play at some of the WCHA rinks. Forget about how cool it is to play there. And start focusing on how cool it will be to win there. In particular, there is one rink where UAA doesn't have a victory. The National Concrete Center in St. Cloud. Help rectify that this year eh? UAA has a sublimely nice non-conference record over the last few years which includes dominance of UAF. Here's the thing ... you cannot lose to UAF. Don't even consider it. Thousands ... nay .. millions of kittens die when UAA loses to UAF. Don't be a fucking kitten killer.

The Referees:
All the refs in this league live somewhere other than Anchorage. Assignments are meted out weekly by the WCHA through some sort of secret brownie point system. The guys that do the good jobs get the choice assignments more often. Flying to Anchorage for a weekend isn't considered a choice assignment. So believe me when I tell you that every zebra on Sully ice just isn't happy to be there. You'll often see Kevin Clark trying to cheer them up. Kevin is a very affable fellow doncha know? He knows if he can make them smile that maybe they won't be so grumpy.

The Off-Season:
Spend some part of your off-season career here doing all the cool shit that you can only do in Alaska. If you like the great outdoors, you are now 30 minutes from the as vast a wilderness as exists on this planet. Take advantage of it. You can see and experience things here than most people in the world could only ever imagine seeing. It's not like you're stuck in some craptastic little berg like Mankato. You can see and experience more variety in nature over the course of a weekend here than you could during a lifetime in Grand Forks.

This Blog:
Your joining a pretty strong core of returning veterans who are proven performers. Work hard in practice and I'm sure you'll earn opportunities to play. Make the most of those opportunities and you'll become a regular. You represent the pinnacle of amatuer hockey. Me and every Seawolf fan that reads this blog wants to see you put a frenzied scoring hurtin' on every team you play. We want you to beat Minnesota 12-1. We want you to pummel Wisconsin with back to back 7-0 shutouts. When you sweep DU in front of a half-empty Magness Arena we'll be diggin it. Put the unfortunate SCSU winless road record into history, and Suze will probably get on the Southern Comfort again; I know I will! When something other than those sorts of things happen, we will still be here; perhaps we'll be somewhat pensive. But we'll also be steadfastly supportive of you.

Have a fun and successful first season here. Here's to hoping that you each have 4 years of the same with the Seawolves.
Most Sincerely,
D

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sunday Potpourri: The Off-Season Meat

There is no off-season for the double cheeseburger. It's delectable juicy goodness is always in season here at the UAA Hockey Fan Blog headquarters. The above is a fine example. Notice there is no rabbit food fouling it's most appetizing visage. Lettuce? Really people ... come on. What in his noodly appendages name does that watery tasteless leafy vegtable add to a burger's flavor? Nothing. Zip. Do you really have to insert a freaking salad to alleviate the high fat guilt? If you must ... then have it on the side and forego the stupid seasoned fries.

A little mayo and perhaps some ketchup could be cleverly applied to enhance the consummation experience but such additions are not really necessary either. As shown suffices execptionally well for me. The imagery is strong for me; my burger lust is on the rise. Fortunately, I was born into a period of human history when other people kill the bovine, butcher and ship it's tasty meat to our neighborhood grocery store; which for me is a short 3 minutes of driving. You know ... I could be enjoying my favorite meal in short order. Ok then .. I think I will. It's your good fortune to be reading this now or you'd have to wait til I get back.

That filled the hole. Now onto the meat from the Seawolves off-season. The first bit of news to come out was the announcement for this year's captains. Jared Tuton got the nod in a "team vote" which included some sort of input from the coaching staff. Jared has been a coaches dream of a player during his career here. If there was a role that needed filled he stepped up to the task and always performed well. He is a bit of monster on the forecheck when at forward and responsible to a "T" on defense. With Kevin Clark, Josh Lunden and Nils Backstrom in the assistant role the Seawolves have a strong leadership cabal.

The next bit of April news to come out via the comment string grapevine was that Brian Bales would not be returning. The unconfirmed report has that Brian wasn't satisfied with whatever scholarship offer was made. He and the program parted ways. Brian had a bit of a tumultuous college hockey career. He showed good playmaking skills at times for the team but in my view was also inconsistent at other times. It's never a proud moment when a program and player don't see eye to eye, but it is the reality of building a competitive team in the WCHA. There was a fairly extensive comment exchange in this April 12th post.

Next we learned that Derek Donald was hired by the program to find ways to improve the attendance at the Sully. As evidenced by the comment string from my post about his hiring, everyone is excited to see what Derek can do in his new role. This blog of course stands ready and willing to assist in Derek's efforts. I will email him later today and let him know that if I can help in any way to let me know.

The next bit of news to come our way was via the Valley Frontiersman announcing that 17 year old Alaska Avalanche forward Matthew Friese committed to play at UAA for 2010-2011. His coach Dave Boitz called him "one of those kids who's kind of the cream of the crop coming out of Alaska". Nice. We'll get some sort of sense what he'll bring to UAA during this coming junior season. The Frontiersman article mentions that Matthew has the option of playing at Tri City in the USHL or staying with the Avalanche. In either case, this will be a fairly telling year for him development-wise. Nice pickup, props to the staff for getting him.

Another new recruit interrupted the distraction of promoting the inclusion of UAF into the WCHA (which of course was a proposition doomed to fail from the start). The NAHL's Defensive Player of the Year Drew Darwitz committed to UAA for this season. His Fairbanks Ice Dog's coach called him the best player in the NAHL. He's a not so big (5' 9" 170lb) puck moving defenseman. I don't want to be a negative nelly ... but Jeff Carlson (who by the way isn't returning) was the leading scoring defenseman in the NAHL before he came to UAA. He hardly ever cracked the lineup ... ya know? I'll take a closer look at all that later in the preseason.

Along the way we learned that Gustav Bengtson will be spending another year developing in juniors before coming to UAA in 10/11. Matt Bailey is returning to the USHL and will be playing for a quality Sioux Falls organization versus the mess that was Tri City last year. That ruined my crazy guess that Matt would join the team this year. Alex Gellert was originally scheduled to come in 10/11 but was advanced to this season. Mickey Spencer and Alex were linemates in Cowichan last year. Hopefully, some chemistry already exists between them.

Isn't a perfectly chilled Coca-Cola a beautiful thing? I'm such an addict.

The first rumor of forward Daniel Naslund from Sweden landed in the comments section of this post on June 12th. Later in June we discussed in the same comments string the addition of Scott Allen for the 10/11 season. He sounds like another excellent skating big (6'3") power winger and will spend his 19th birthday in the AJHL developing.

On July 11th we got our first bit of bad news when we learned that Spencer Bennett had signed with Portland in the WHL and would not be coming to UAA. The Flames prefer to exert the most possible control over their draft picks after Kris Chucko proved to be mostly a bust at UofM.

About a week later we learned that Alaska Avalanche forward Tyler Currier would enroll at UAA and redshirt his freshman year. A years worth of practice and work outs should benefit him nicely. Only July 19th I announced in the coments string that Tyler Moir wasn't returning. About the same time I received an email that Mitch Bruijsten was coming. Bruijsten is "the forward to watch" amongst the incoming class according to my research. I think the last addition we learned about was defensman Scott Warner who has transferred from Army and will be eligible to play in 10/11 as a sophomore.

This season the squad will have 5 European born players. That seems like a pretty big number of across the ponders for a D-1 team. I might dig around later and see if any D-1 team has more. It doesn't necessarily mean anything. But the experience and ability to work the NCAA records transfer processes and get these guys into school is a useful advantage for (and a credit to) the program.

The latest addition was within the last couple of days when it was announced the goalie Rob Gunderson from the Brooks Bandits in the AJHL would be joining UAA in 10/11. Last season Rob set a club record for GAA and he lead the league in wins. His save percentage was .912. Bryce will be a senior and Dusan Sidor will be a sophomore. There shouldn't be any pressure on Rob to perform any miracles as a freshman.

There are really going to be 3 timeouts per period that each team can use? That's what the WCHA announced. I don't see a release on the WCHA homepage but the Gazette in Colorado Springs has posted the text.

There is one other bit of news that I've been given a heads up regarding. The Shyiak immigration kerfuffle is due to raise it's ugly head again this season. I understand there is a process through which his position could become exempt from the "prove there isn't an American that can do the job" rule. Hopefully, that works out so his position doesn't have to be listed again. If not, then I've no doubt the UAA fanbase will show any applicant exactly how they feel about the situation. I bet Troy Ward remembers what that felt like.

That's it for today. Check back in a day or two for a letter to the rookies from me.

Friday, August 21, 2009

This Is Not Your Father's Oldsmobile

I loved that Oldsmobile commercial. If you don't remember it ... it was one of a million marketing campaigns over the years that attempted to rebrand a product or service. In it's particular case, Olds introduced some new models that they wanted younger people to buy. Well, today I'm rebranding something as well. I'll get to that in a minute ...

In the late-eighties, I took a vacation with my wife in the lower 48. We started when I made her drive from Cincinnati (where I was supposed to land and meet her) to Indianapolis where I'd gotten off the plane after it couldn't land because of a massive thunderstorm we'd flown around for nearly an hour. When we diverted for fuel I asked a flight attendant if it would be possible for me to disembark in Indy. They had no problem with it, so I did. Naturally, the plane turned around after refueling and made it into Cincy with no problem while I sat on the curb in Indy waiting for Mary to arrive. When she did get there (like a 4 hour drive) lets just say she was non-plussed at having to drive all that way just because I wasn't digging the bumpy airplane ride. We put my chicken-shittedness behind us relatively quickly.

In any case, the point is that when she showed up I was pleasantly surprised to see that the rental car company had upgraded her compact car to a mid-size. Specifically, it was a red 1988 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. I liked the cool door handles and the passive seatbelts. We drove over to Newark, Ohio and spent a few days then set off on our road trip. Newark (next to Columbus) to Biloxi, Mississippi; then through New Orleans and up to Dallas (both to see old friends) before going back to Newark and finishing our visit with her family. We put about 3500 miles on that rental car. It was the most pleasant 3500 miles I ever spent behind the wheel of a car. That Cutlass had shitloads of power from it's 3.1L V6 (a friend with a new BMW in Dallas begged for days to drive the Cutlass) and was a crazy smooth ride; the gas mileage was good too! I'd buy one of those in a NY minute for my next car if I could find one.

I've had more than a fair amount of time over the last few years to think about the content on this blog. From time to time (more often than more than just a few readers appreciate) I've mixed in my views about various things from culture to politics. I know the views I've posted are probably not shared by the majority of you fine readers. I find that a shame for a number of reasons but accept the reality of the situation. I've never thought I would necessarily change anybody's mind about anything in particular. But I have never felt like I wanted to continue this hockey blog without the freedom to spew my BS whenever I decided to. This has almost always been an organic exercise for me. See ... my passions run deeper than just Seawolves hockey and it's my nature to express those passions. I do so in real life, so why not here?

I can hear the groans already. Groan away. I understand; I don't blame you. You don't want to come here to read about Seawolves Hockey and have to wade through Donald's Communist Manifesto. I hear you. I respect your reasoning. Now here's comes the big but ...

Expect more of it this season. Yeah. I know you don't like it. I want to say ... "so what"? I want to say ... "then don't visit and read here". I want to say ... "I don't give a shit what you think about what I think". But I'm not going to say all that. Instead, I'll just say that if you read here this season then expect more cultural and political commentary whenever I decide I want to include it. I won't apologize for my views. You can change the channel. This blog is going to be what I decide it's going to be. And if you don't dig it then I don't know what to tell you. If I lose readership because of my non-hockey views, then so be it.

The standards I've maintained over the history of this blog with regard to hockey coverage (previews, profiles, analysis, cheerleading etc ...) will NOT CHANGE one iota. If you come or came here to get an idea about how the Seawolves might do, are doing or whatever then you'll sill find that exact same content. Please understand that I'm not insensitive to a desire for a narrow focus here. I know you come here to read about the Seawolves. But if I am to continue this effort I need to express myself without restraint. And if you don't think I've restrained myself in the past then you're wrong.

So, just like you had to read a boring story about a car I rented more than 20 years ago to get to the whole "I am what I am and I'm going to spew it here" stuff; you are probably going to have to wade through a bit more commentary about culture and/or politics and/or whatever occurs to me in order to get to your Seawolf "info fix".

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Milla's Front ... I'm Back

I'm back. Quit looking at that picture. There is still more than a fair bit of time before any hockey (that any of us will see) actually begins. It's been a relatively quiet off-season in terms of any news coming out about the Seawolves. If I'm not mistaken, the "press-release" last week and yesterday's roster update have pretty much been it. Of course, outside of Alaska there has been the little conference reshuffle.

Starting in 2010-2011 the WCHA will have two new members .. meh. An old D3 team from a berg even less significant than Mankato and some Cornhusker wannabes called by the Spanish language word for "one". Hooray ... new Internet fans that will grow to despise me!

Let me clarify something here. I don't want UAA to go to the CCHA. What I want is for UAA to no longer be required to pay for 12 freaking airline tickets to all these schools that have been provided a mechanism to recover those costs already. It's double-dipping ... I have a little 2 part plan to make a more powerful statement with regard to this blackmail that our school is paying. Stay tuned.

The official roster was finally updated yesterday. Obviously, the late additions for this season kept it from appearing earlier. It takes some work to get all the Euro-schooling transfer rig-a-mah-roll through.

Here's the breakdown:
28 players (25 skaters -- 3 goalies; 7 defensemen; 15 forwards; 2 forward/defensemen; 1 redshirt forward and 1 transfer eligible next year). The squad has 15 returning skaters -- 4 on D and 10 forwards with one returner listed as F/D. Of those 15, 12 are either juniors or seniors.

One recruit was lost to major junior after he was drafted by the Calgary Flames (Bennett) but he was ultimately replaced with a comparably resume'd prospect (Bruijsten). Even with a reasonably strong group of returning players the Seawolves will look quite different this season. 8 players will make their debuts at some point. This season it looks like the Seawolves will be the largest squad in all of Division 1 hockey. THE ... by a fair margin as well. More on that though when CHN updates it's "Almanac" section with corrected rosters. As it stands today, UAA has a more than 15 pound per player advantage over the smallest WCHA school which is Minnesota-Duluth ... 191.75lbs versus 176.36lbs. Only Cornell is taller on average than UAA ... by .05 inches. Some of all that is due to the fact that we have two pretty tall goalies; so they tend in a small way to skew the figures. Nevertheless, Coach Shyiak likes NHL size and must believe it will pay off. Solid thinking, I think. We haven't suffered from any speed problems the past couple of seasons, so there is every reason to believe that the team won't have any issues along those lines.

What am I excited about? Of course, I'm as curious as I can be to see all the rookies skate and get some sense of what if anything they might be able to contribute. It's all a bit of wait and see right? There are some pretty interesting possible combinations. I think I'd like to see August Aiken, Curtis Leinweber and Kevin Clark skating together. They're all three left-handed ... so I'd put Leinweber on the off-wing. Those three guys could really fly up and down the ice. It could be a winner ... Coach Shyiak is a bit conservative at times so I'm guessing he won't try such a thing. But I'd add that such combinations have sometimes prospered in college hockey in the past.

I like the team's defensive lineup this season. Backstrom and Hunt are both seniors and obviously very capable. There are no flies landing on Lafranchise or Vidmar in their 3rd year. Lee Baldwin will have some pressure to perform well right away. I'm unsure at this point as to whether Curtis Leinweber will return to the blueline regularly or play forward a bunch. And what about Gorham? Is he better suited to play up front or in the back? Will Drew Darwitz make those questions easier by showing he can step onto the blueline and do the job? His former junior coach called him one of the best players in the NAHL last season. In any case, I think the D should be considered an overall positive for the team. It will be very important for this group to contribute more offensively than in the past.

Offensively, there are legitimate questions about the level of scoring the Seawolves can acheive. Lunden, Clark and Grant are the primary offensive threats. But each of them suffered from some inconsistency in putting the puck in the back of the net last season. They'll all be counted on to at least match their production from last season. For team success, they'll have to each increase their scoring. Secondary scoring is the BIG question. Where will it come from? There are lots of possibilities. Can Parky find the net more often? What about Portwood or Wiles? Will Selby play a lot? If he does, will he find the twine? How about Tuton or Haddad? Or will it be Aiken? More than a couple of guys will have to step up their past production dramatically to get the secondary scoring the team will need.

Perhaps we'll see a rookie make an offensive impact? Coming from the same league and having similar numbers, Mickey Spencer and Alex Gellert both could be compared reasonably to Josh Lunden. Bruijsten has the good resume ... maybe he'll contribute? Naslund is a complete unknown to me but is said to be a strong skater with a good nose for the net. I think Chris Crowell isn't likely to pot a mess-o-goals ... but I think he'll be a very valuable presence physically.

I'll start my season previews with the usual class by class breakdown beginning with the seniors and working my way down to the rookies. Expect about one a week of such posts between now and then. Expect some sort of post with me guessing about how the entire league will shake out ... for whatever that's worth. I will also try to be at practice a couple of days during the first week and I'll report what I see then. I have new glasses this season and shouldn't be complaining about all the details that I was unable to see.

And ok ok ... Here's Milla's back.