Nov. 11, 2006
You've Got Questions

Of the thousands of e-mails we get every week, roughly 95 percent are spam. Seriously. If I walk away from the computer for an hour, return, and check my inbox, there will be no fewer than 50 messages extolling the virtues of hoodia, counterfeit designer handbags, hot stock tips, and Viagra. Of the remaining five percent, about half are from people telling us we’re idiots, though that number has dropped drastically since last month’s INCH Podcast in which we shared our frustrations regarding overly hostile e-mailers.

That means 2.5 percent of the e-mails each week are genuine hockey-related questions and/or comments. Some are easy – will a specific game be televised? – and some take a little longer to answer. And though we try to answer legitimate e-mails personally, there are times we can’t get to every one because we’re so busy. Like during the season, for example.

There have been recurring themes in our recent e-mails, however – separate but related questions in which readers ask, “What’s wrong with Team X?” and “Is Team Y for real?” As a service to you, the e-mailer, and the rest of the INCH staff, I’ll use this forum to respond our most popular queries.

Q. What’s wrong with Boston College?

A Beantown e-mailer sent us quite the missive regarding the Eagles’ ills, touching on the woeful power play and inconsistent “Yandle-like” (his phrase, not mine) defensemen. Well, all except one guy, our e-mailer wrote, is consistent. Unfortunately, he’s consistently bad. Contributing factors, sure, but he zeroed in on the one factor I believe is killing BC – lack of leadership.

The Eagles are a young team, with just three seniors – Brian Boyle, Joe Rooney, and backup goalie Joe Pearce – on the roster. But last year, they were even younger, with three seniors and 17 freshmen and sophomores. The difference is that Chris Collins, Stephen Gionta, and Peter Harrold are gone. Not only were they excellent players, but they were also great leaders who provided a steadying influence for an inexperienced team. They never panicked and showed up in crucial situations.

In the times I’ve seen Boyle play either in person or on TV, he’s never struck me as the kind of guy capable of putting a team on his shoulders and carrying it. He seems better suited to going out and doing his own thing, and he’s not able to do that as the Eagles’ captain. Wearing the “C” is an honor, but some players can’t handle for the responsibility it carries. Seeing him disappear for long stretches of important games in the past – or not show up at all – makes me think Boyle is in that group.

Q. What’s wrong with Wisconsin?

Let’s see … the Badgers lost Joe Pavelski, Robbie Earl, Adam Burish, Tom Gilbert, and Ryan MacMurchy from last year’s team. Those were Bucky’s top five scorers. Ross Carlson, the team’s sixth-leading scorer last year, has missed all but three games due to injury. So has Wisconsin’s seventh-leading scorer from a year ago, Jack Skille. Brian Elliott is good, but he’d have to be Jedi-good to keep the Badgers afloat all by himself.

As an aside, how did Wisconsin start the season as the nation’s top-ranked team? Isn’t the point of preseason polls to rank the teams according to how you think they’ll stand at the end of the year? Based on the two voter-driven polls (the INCH Power Rankings are compiled by our staff), the preseason rankings reflected where teams finished last season.

Q. Is Notre Dame for real?

I could cop out and say, ask me again in a month after the Fighting Irish have played Michigan State, Nebraska-Omaha, Alaska, and Michigan, and things have come pretty easy for Notre Dame considering they’ve pretty much been able to guarantee a tie by scoring one goal a night. But I think they’re legit, and I think they’ve got the pieces in place to contend for an NCAA Tournament berth and a CCHA championship.

David Brown has been phenomenal in goal and even if he doesn’t maintain his current level of play, he’ll give the Irish a chance to win every night. Also, coach Jeff Jackson has put together a balanced offensive attack – through eight games, 10 different players have at least one goal and 18 skaters have contributed at least one point – and the power play and penalty kill are among the nation’s best.

Q. Is Minnesota for real?

Here’s where I use that mulligan. This is what I know about the Gophers – they’re awfully fun to watch, they’re offensively gifted, and they’ve probably got more talent than any other team in the nation. That said, I also know they’re young and I’m not sold on their goaltending. There’s no question that Minnesota is an NCAA Tournament team. But until I see how Kellen Briggs and/or Jeff Frazee, the defensive corps, and the rookie forwards react in tight situations, I’m not ready to declare the Gophers an elite-level club.

Q. Is Clarkson for real?

To steal a phrase from ECAC Hockey League beat writer Joe Gladziszewski, they’re more for real than they’ve been in a long time. They’re sort of the Bizzaro-world ECACHL team, one that’d rather win by outscoring you instead of shutting you down. Sure, David Leggio has proven capable in goal. Of course, when your mates average nearly five goals a game, you don’t exactly have to be Georges Vezina.

They’re another club with fabulous depth up front – forward Nick Dodge, who was on the short list of players we seriously considered for preseason All-America honors, is tied for sixth among the Golden Knights in scoring with seven points in eight games. With so many forwards capable of beating opponents one-on-one, Clarkson should be fun to watch when they play on the big ice at St. Cloud State later this month and take part in the Badger Hockey Showdown during the holidays.


My plea for reasons North Dakotans are bitter generated some fairly good responses. One reply, however, stood head and shoulders above the rest. Here’s what Scott (a.k.a. “Scattman”) from Bismarck had to say about the matter (shortened for your convenience):

Mike Check Fan Poll
Version 1.0
The first Mike Check fan poll as selected by 15 fans from around the world (ballots submitted prior to Tuesday's games.)
1. Maine
2. Minnesota
3. Boston College
4. North Dakota
5. Michigan State
6. Miami
7. Wisconsin
8. Boston University
9. Notre Dame
10. Michigan
11. Cornell
12. Clarkson
13. New Hampshire
14. Denver
15. Alaska

“My best guess why most North Dakotans are bitter is because this area is a flat pancake, but instead of being all warm and fluffy it is frigid and hard. The belief here is that the cold … keeps the riff raff out of the state. It also keeps out progress.

“There is a severe inferiority complex that has been ingrained in most North Dakotans. The only time North Dakota receives national exposure is when the Weather Channel briefly touches on the minus-40 temperatures or when you talk college hockey. Even when UND is discussed nationally, North Dakotans feel ... the outside world looks at them as Minnesota’s annoying, little brother.

“Another problem is that North Dakota, as a whole, is afraid of change. Instead of embracing the possibilities this area can offer, they run from them because it’s CHANGE! Economic growth and industry are passing this area by, forcing the youth to flee … for good-paying jobs. This migration leaves behind the older citizens, who become even more isolationist in their mentality. If this trend continues I foresee North Dakota as becoming a territory of South Dakota or a Canadian province.

“If you have any other ideas as to why you think North Dakotans are bitter, I would love to hear them. Meanwhile, I will be sitting at my computer praying for a rescue party to find me!”

I feel your pain, NoDakers. Growing up in northern Minnesota, the only time we received national exposure was when a) it was 40-below, b) we got three feet of snow, or c) hundreds of thousands of acres of forest were on fire. Even then, our fires never got the attention of fires in California. A 60-acre fire in the San Fernando Valley leads the nightly news because it’s within a quarter-mile of somebody’s house, but a 250,000-acre fire burns in the Superior National Forest and it’s on page 12B of your newspaper because the only homes threatened belong to beavers, woodchucks, and muskrats.

From here on out, then, there is a Mike Check moratorium on North Dakota negativity (unless you guys rip me, in which case it’s go time.) And if the Fighting Sioux win the national title, I would argue for a championship parade across the entire state starting in Wahpeton, doubling back in Williston, and ending in the Ralph Engelstad Arena parking lot. Oh, and everyone in the state would follow in their cars, just like the Hickory residents did in “Hoosiers.”


I've made a habit of criticizing you, so I think it's only fair to point out when
you give us here at BU more credit than I do. I figured we would be down to about 8 or 9 after our loss to Lowell and you dropped us only two spots. Thanks for the faith. – Matt Bain; Boston

That little lecture from a couple weeks ago helped, eh? Seriously, I think BU is a top-eight team nationally, especially given how well John Curry has played thus far. I'd feel a little bit better about the Terriers if they'd score with more consistency. And if they didn't have more ties as Aston Villa.

Can a scout come look at me?– Matt; Woodbury, N.J.

Sure ... Cub or Boy?

These notes hang on to Mike Check like K-Fed hung on to Britney.

• Rare are the Friday and Saturday nights I’m not in front of the TV watching college hockey, and I usually manage to wander over to Fox Sports Net North to watch the Gophers for a period or so. Now, I know my hearing isn’t that great, but am I the only one who thinks Doug Woog sounds like he’s got about 75 peanut M&M’s in his mouth when he’s talking? He makes Mushmouth from “Fat Albert” sound like Marv Albert.

• The NHL released the list of top-selling jerseys through the league’s online store in October. No. 1 on the list? Former Shattuck-St. Mary’s standout Sidney Crosby, but he’s followed by East Lansing native/ex-Michigan State standout/2001 Hobey Baker Award winner/wearer-of-the-Buffaslug Ryan Miller. Miller was also named the league’s First Star (a.k.a. player of the month) for October. Fellow Sabe and ex-Hobey Baker winner Chris Drury was fifth on the most-popular sweater list.

• Who was it that said, “Don’t shoot until you see the whites of their eyes?” If you answered Revolutionary War Col. William Prescott, you’re right – at least that’s who generally gets credit for the line. But had you answered Northern Michigan coach Walt Kyle, it wouldn’t have come as a surprise.

Through 10 games, the Wildcats have been outshot by their opponents, 323-178. That’s an average difference of 14.5 shots per game. The most shots NMU has attempted this season – 23, in the first game of the year against Wisconsin in Green Bay and one of three occasions this season when they’ve attempted 20-plus shots. On the other hand, ‘Cats foes have taken no fewer than 22 shots, attempted 29 or more shots seven times, fired 36-plus shots in five games, and launched 39 or more shots four times.

• In the next Mike Check: In light of Herb Brooks’ induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame this weekend (not to mention Calgary Flames owner and head of the NHL Board of Governors Harley Hotchkiss, a Michigan State alum) I’ve been thinking, should there be a College Hockey Hall of Fame? Stupid question – of course there should. Where should it be located? And if you had the power to choose the first 10 inductees into such a hall, who would you select?

The Meaning-list
Everyone likes lists. Sometimes, the Meaning-List will be relevant to college hockey. Other times it’ll be, well, meaningless.
Five Programs on My Tivo (In No Particular Order)
1. Late Late Show, August 27, 2004: The final show of the Craig Kilborn era. Most of the INCH staff are big fans of Craiggers, partly due to his work on ESPN and partly due to his sense of humor. On those nights I'm working late at INCH World Headquarters, I often wish I could flick on the tube and catch a game of Yambo. 
2. "Lisa on Ice” episode from The Simpsons sixth season: The episode in which Lisa and Bart play on rival hockey teams. The highlight is Homer seeing German exchange student Uter in his underwear, yelling, "Look, that boy's got bosoms!" and chasing him around the locker room trying to snap him with a towel.
3. Friday Night Lights: I've not read the book nor seen the television show, so I figure that eventually watching the movie will be a good compromise.
4. About six episodes of The Backyardigans: Kind of a "in case of emergency, break glass" thing for the kid. Besides, those little animals can dance and sing.
5. Three episodes of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip: It's a pretty entertaining show and since it's critically acclaimed, it makes me feel like less of an idiot.