10 For '06: The Questions
A lot can change
between now and the drop of the puck in October, but that doesn't
stop our 10 For '06 feature. We've
already taken an early look at the
top 10 teams headed into next season and 10
candidates for the Hobey. Today we wrap things up with a look
at 10 burning questions on our minds as we head to next year.
If the lockout continues, will any underclassmen jump to the AHL?
lockout drew the likes of Zach Parise, Thomas Vanek and Brandon
Bochenski to the AHL this season, so it might seem like we’d
witness similar defections this summer. A big difference, however:
those players all signed with NHL teams, something no current collegian
can do until a new collective bargaining agreement is approved.
Until that time, any player that signs will have to do so at the
minor-league level, missing out on an NHL signing bonus. While players
like Patrick Eaves or Matt Carle are almost certainly AHL-ready,
they’d make more money by waiting to sign with the big club,
meaning that flight risks – for now – are minimal. That
could all change if Messrs. Bettman and Goodenow start playing nice.
How about the Olympics?
making the rounds: say the NHL and NHLPA cut a deal in October –
in time to save the season, but too late to create a three-week
break in February to allow the best players to play in Torino. That
could mean a U.S. Olympic team made up of minor leaguers, Americans
playing in Europe, and amateurs. You wouldn’t see an almost-all-college
squad like in 1980, but a few of the spots would be taken by college
players. Likely candidates include Eaves, Colorado College’s
Mark Stuart or Maine’s Jimmy Howard – assuming their
NHL clubs don’t sign them first.
3. Who are six guys ready to make the leap to stardom?
Unlike a year
ago, college hockey should have a lot of “name” players
returning in the fall. Of the 12 players on INCH’s first two
All-America teams, only two were seniors.
But all those
returning stars will have to make room for some new big names. Here
are six who weren’t on their all-league teams last season
who we think you’ll hear a lot from next year:
G: Chris Holt,
D: Cleve Kinley, UMass Lowell
D: Brian Salcido, Colorado College
F: Drew Miller, Michigan State
F: Darin Olver, Northern Michigan
F: Mike Ouellette, Dartmouth
4. How about a few teams ready to make the leap?
Looking at teams
that missed the NCAA Tournament a year ago, we see two obvious choices
to elevate their games this year: Nebraska-Omaha and Vermont. Both
made huge strides last season, from at or near the bottom of their
conferences to fourth place in each case. Both relied heavily on
young players last season and welcome a lot of talent back to campus.
Of the two, Vermont (led by 2005 INCH freshman All-America selection
Joe Fallon, pictured left) loses more with the departure of Scott
Mifsud. The Catamounts should get a big lift from the healthy return
of Brady Leisenring, who took a medical redshirt after posting nine
points in the first six games of last season. There should be a
surge of energy in Burlington as well with the move to Hockey East.
meanwhile, had only one senior suit up regularly (Dan Hacker). First-team
All-CCHA forward Scott Parse is back, as well as conference Rookie
of the Year Bill Thomas. They could be poised to add some team hardware
to those honors in 2005-06.
the near-upsets in the NCAAs by Bemidji State and Mercyhurst, is
the era of the Big Four/Little Two over?
The narrow escapes
of top-seeded Boston College and eventual champion Denver were two
of the biggest stories of the NCAA Tournament, and make no mistake,
both could have gone the other way. Neither the Lakers nor the Beavers
played perfect games. But both teams are talented enough not to
need perfect efforts, a big reason they won their leagues in the
first place. What those games showed is that the top teams in Atlantic
Hockey and the CHA can compete with anyone, but the leagues will
need to produce more depth.
6. Is Phil Kessel for real?
sentiment that the expectations for Phil Kessel – already
mentioned in our 10 for '06 list of
Hobey candidates – are overblown, an understandable thought
about someone yet to pull on a college sweater.
here: anybody questioning the hype around this kid hasn't had a
chance to see him play. Flip on FOX Sports North in October and
we think you'll be impressed – he may even leave Doug Woog
The fact is
that while Kessel hasn't played in college yet, he's played against
colleges with the U.S. Under-18 Team, and he's lit them up for nearly
two points per game. When he suited up with the best American-born
freshmen and sophomores at the 2005 World Junior Championship, he
was clearly the best player on the team. Time will tell whether
he's truly for real, but at this point, he's earned the benefit
of the doubt.
7. What are the chances of another all-WCHA Frozen Four
our 10 for ’06 list of top teams,
pretty good. Colorado College, Denver, Minnesota and Wisconsin are
among our top five for next season, and North Dakota checks in at
no. 8. This stuff is cyclical, of course, and the WCHA is on the
upswing right now. It wasn’t long ago that Hockey East was
the dominant conference, and the CCHA held court prior to that.
Based on the talent returning as well as the prospects coming in,
the Dub should stay entrenched as the nation’s best league
for another year.
Back to the
question at hand, we’re sure there are a handful of conspiracy
theorists out there who are convinced the purveyors of college hockey’s
alleged “Eastern bias” will somehow influence the NCAA
Tournament selection committee to seed next year’s field to
prevent a repeat of this year’s Frozen Four. But the NCAA
would never resort to such skullduggery.
8. Are any new officiating initiatives on the horizon?
but according to Miami coach and NCAA Ice Hockey Rules Committee
chairman Enrico Blasi, a few topics were bandied about by Division
I and Division III men’s and women’s coaches at meetings
in Florida earlier this month.
The most interesting
proposals centered on special teams play – namely, requiring
players whistled for minor penalties to serve the full two minutes
in the box, and not allowing the shorthanded team to ice the puck
during the penalty kill.
Of course, these
measures and others – including limiting the size of goalie
equipment, which Blasi says will likely be enacted once the National
Hockey League imposes a similar code – were just discussed
and nothing further. The coaches fill out surveys regarding potential
changes next month. The rules committee collects the findings and
studies the results at its meeting in Indianapolis in June. Blasi
says while the committee has the autonomy to operate outside the
recommendations of the coaches, it relies heavily on coaches’
Blasi also added
that further tweaking of the obstruction crackdown is necessary.
“It’s a work in progress,” he said. “We’ve
identified some areas where we need to continually educate everyone.”
9. What’s up with the CCHA’s reworked playoff
which mirrors what the ECACHL has been doing for a few years, makes
sense for a handful of reasons. First, it gives eight teams the
opportunity to host home playoff series instead of six under the
old system. Second, it rightfully rewards the top four finishers
in the league’s regular season standings with a first-round
bye. Combine the first two factors and one can see how the last
few weeks of the regular season could become wildly entertaining.
keep the fight for seventh and eighth [place] real interesting,”
Nebraska-Omaha coach Mike Kemp (pictured left) said. “One
thing about our league is that year in and year out, it’s
been very, very close in the middle to low pack. It’ll make
games in the later part of the year more significant.”
It also spells
the end for the short-lived CCHA Super Six, which started in 2002
and brought the winners of the six first-round playoff series to
Detroit for a three-day, single-elimination tournament (the top
two remaining seeds got byes into the semifinal round). The event’s
quarterfinal matches were sparsely attended, which likely played
a major role in the format’s demise.
some sentiment for the Super Six, especially among CCHA teams that
don’t consider a visit to Detroit in mid-March a birthright.
a big believer of getting as many players as possible to experience
the thrill of Joe Louis Arena,” said Kemp, whose Mavericks
last season advanced beyond the first round of the league tournament
for the first time since 2001. “For us, it didn’t matter
if there was nobody there. We were playing for the conference title
in Joe Louis Arena.”
10. Which coaches could be in trouble should their teams falter
While the spotlight
isn’t as blinding as the one that shines on their basketball
and football brethren, hockey coaches whose teams underachieve are
starting to face increased scrutiny from alums, fans and the media.
Among the coaches who need a good showing in 2005-06:
Rick Comley, Michigan State: Comley’s winning percentage with
the Spartans (.574) easily exceeds his career winning percentage
(.558), but he’s in danger of becoming East Lansing’s
version of Gerry Faust. MSU has missed the NCAA Tournament in two
of the last three seasons, has failed to advance beyond the CCHA
playoff semifinals since Ron Mason’s last season behind the
bench and the team has generally been devoid of consistency under
• Craig Dahl, St. Cloud State: Since posting a 60-20-3 record
from 2000-2003, the Huskies have gone 49-55-12 over the past three
seasons. The decline hasn’t been pretty, either – once
one of the nation’s most potent offensive teams, SCSU ranked
36th in the nation in goals per game last season. Oh, and he got
the dreaded vote of confidence from athletic director Morris Kurtz
• Dan Fridgen, Rensselaer: Speaking of votes of confidence,
Fridgen got one in March from AD Ken Ralph shortly after the Engineers
were bounced from the first round of the ECACHL playoffs for the
second straight year. Fridgen, who’s in the last year of his
contract, hasn’t led Rensselaer to the NCAA Tournament since
1995 – his first season behind the bench in Troy.
• Paul Pooley, Providence: The Friars mustered just 16 points
in Hockey East play this season, the team’s worst showing
since the league formed in 1984. That’ll happen when you don’t
win a conference game between Oct. 30 and Feb. 18. Providence has
been below .500 in Hockey East in three of the last four years and
four of the last six. Like Fridgen, he’s also in the last
year of his contract.
this to a friend
Us | Advertiser
Info | Site Map | Privacy
© 2005 Inside College Hockey, Inc., All Rights Reserved