October 18, 2007
Not This Again
If you've been a regular reader of this site for a decent length of time, you know that I'm fairly critical of repeated efforts to call more penalties. The crackdown on obstruction that went into effect prior to the start of the 2004-05 season was supposed to give talented offensive players the room to be creative without foes draped all over them like a bad Oscars dress. Instead, it led to a flurry of whistles, an endless parade of supposed miscreants to the penalty box, and uneven, disjointed games with no flow. More power plays yields more scoring opportunities, but it also leads to endless sequences in which the attacking team chips the puck deep into its end and the defending team retreats to fire the puck the length of the ice.
The following year, an emphasis was placed on assessing major penalties for checking from behind. In theory, the goal was to ensure the safety of the players. Checking from behind is among the most dangerous plays in hockey, and the risk of serious injury is great. And sure, the effort worked to a certain extent, but it among the unintended side effects was players turning parallel to the dasher boards when sensing the presence of an opponent in order to draw the five-minute major, exposing themselves to the exact dangers the rule was supposed to eliminate.
|The NCAA believes the thing you like best about hockey is guys in striped shirts repeatedly raising their arms.
This year's proposal to make the game better involves experimenting with the NHL officiating system, which utilizes two referees and two linesmen. The plusses of this system seem dubious at best. Theoretically, adding another referee will lead to more penalties being called, which means more whistles and stoppages in play, and the further elimination of the natural flow of five-on-five hockey. Besides, wouldn't you think there's a better way to opening up the game than by putting an additional body — and that of a lumbering official, no less — onto a playing surface of finite area?
(As an aside, last weekend's games officiated by two referees and two linesmen on the index card-sized ice sheet at the DECC in Duluth must've been like skating on the Rockefeller Plaza rink on an afternoon the weekend prior to Christmas.)
Through the first weekend of the season, the two-referee arrangement was utilized in 13 games, and the traditional system was used in 21 games. As is my modus operandi, a breakdown of statistics provides the best method of evaluating the differences.
|PIM per game
|PPs per game
|PPG per game
At first glance, it doesn't appear that the addition of another referee makes a significant impact in the quality of play. In fact, the quality of play could actually decrease if the extra official needed for the two-referee system lacks experience or isn't very good. There were two referees on the ice for last Friday's Rensselaer-Minnesota game at the Ice Breaker Tournament, but it didn't prevent the Engineers' Andrew Lord from getting whistled for a sketchy — and by sketchy, I mean horrible — checking-from-behind major with less than five minutes remaining in regulation and the score tied at 3.
This initiative should be scrapped upon completion
of this experimental phase. It's needlessly superfluous
and, most importantly, doesn't make the game any better.
When are you clowns gonna learn? Every year you say Minnesota is going to be terrible because they lost three starters. There's no way freshmen could possibly be good, even though [Minnesota] freshmen are always the cream of the crop. Fourth in the WCHA? Eighth in the nation? I can't wait until halfway through the season when the Gophers are ranked no. 2 and they fall to no. 3 because they tied Wisconsin once and the team below them got swept by Canisius. Say something good about them for a change … they are the premier college hockey program in the country.
|Nice thing no. 4: No one spins his head like Goldy Gopher.
Minnesota has a very nice rink. Frank
Mazzocco is my favorite television play-by-play guy in the
game. And the fight song is catchy. Are those enough good
In his season preview, WCHA beat writer
Jess Myers predicted the Gophers would finish fourth in
the league. I probably would've pegged them at
third behind North Dakota and Denver, and I think we gave
the Ground Squirrels the benefit of the doubt by ranking
them eighth in the Great 58+1.
I'm still not sold on the freshman defensemen,
nor am I convinced that Jeff Frazee is a no. 1 goalie. But
they'll be fine, so sit back and relax.
I would like to have seen a new poll this week. Just because some teams didn't play doesn't mean the polls can't change.
Vadnais Heights, Minn.
Yeah, I guess. But it seemed a touch ludicrous
to rank each of the country's 59 teams — a process
that takes longer than you would think — only to completely
shuffle the top 20 less than a week later. We'll definitely
have new Power Rankings this Sunday night, but I wouldn't
be opposed to waiting until the first Sunday in November
to post our first regular-season ratings.
I'M JUST SAYING ...
* that the five-minute major Andrew
Lord received late in the third period of Rensselaer's
loss to Minnesota wasn't the worst call I've seen. Except
that it was. Based on the way the momentum had shifted,
chances of the Gophers eventually getting the go-ahead goal
before the end of regulation seemed likely. For the game-winner
to come during an extended power play that was the by-product
of an inexplicable call put a damper on what was a pretty
* that in its first two games without
goaltender Jon Quick, who signed with the Los Angeles
Kings during the off-season after a breakout sophomore campaign,
UMass got fine performances from its netminders on last
weekend's difficult road trip to the North Country. Freshman
Paul Dainton stopped 31 of 33 shots he faced in a 2-1 overtime
loss to a very good Clarkson squad, and sophomore Dan Meyers
turned aside all but one of the 23 shots he saw in a 3-1
win at St. Lawrence the following night.
* that this weekend's Miami-Ohio State
series carries an extra dollop of intrigue. Not
only are the heated rivals kicking off the CCHA schedule
against one another, but both are coming off impressive
debuts last weekend. Miami stifled Vermont on back-to-back
nights in Oxford, while the Buckeyes topped Mercyhurst and
Wisconsin to win the Lefty McFadden title. The RedHawks
have established themselves as one of the nation's fastest-starting
teams — factoring in the two wins against UVM, Miami's
record in games prior to New Year's Eve since the start
of the 2005-06 season is 30-9-3. The RedHawks' Nathan Davis
is out with a bum shoulder, by the way.
* that based on the way he's played
for the Colorado Avalanche so far this season, a
lot of college hockey fans who saw Paul Stastny play a couple
seasons under George Gwozdecky at Denver are telling their
friends, "I knew he was gonna be
special when I caught his act down at (insert name of local
* that I can't believe someone asked
me to speak to college students without prefacing
the presentation by saying, "Don't make the mistakes
this guy did."
Upon an invitation from a friend who's an
adjunct professor at Grand Valley State University in Allendale,
Mich., I talked to three business classes last week about
starting your own business. The parents of these children
will be thrilled to learn that the three major points I
made were 1) don't be afraid to quit your job if you don't
like it, 2) Mike Judge nailed the life of the average American
white-collar employee in "Office Space," and 3)
nobody throws a Frozen Four party like Inside College Hockey.
I learned that Grand Valley has a female-to-male student
ratio of 7-to-1 (or so I was told) and that the Lakers really
should add a Division I hockey program.
New Music That's Gotten Me Through the Preseason
Foo Fighters — Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace: No one screams like Dave Grohl.
Jimmy Eat World — Chase this Light: "Big Casino," the first single, rules. I heard these guys live on KROQ.com last week and they were outstanding. A really underrated band.
|3. Motion City Soundtrack — Even If It Kills Me: They're good ol' Minneapolis boys, but I worry about them turning into another Good Charlotte. This album kind of straddles the line between indie and pop punk. I don't really like to go near that line.
|4. Radiohead — In Rainbows: This is the free download you've been hearing about. Well, you're supposed to pay whatever you feel like giving. Kind of an honor system thing, I guess. If this is how we'll get our music in the future, I'm all for it.
|5. Wilco — Sky Blue Sky: What were you expecting, Rihanna?