Thursday, January 26, 2012

I have answers!?!?

Thanks for the questions. Not much on the current Mavericks but a lot about the future. I had to get out the crystal ball for a lot of these questions. Without further ado ...

From Michael Napier: What do you think about the report in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner about the "new" WCHA's 28-game schedule factoring in travel to Alaska, and the possibilities of a 10th school being added (Alabama-Huntsville and three currently non-existing programs in Moorhead, Iowa State and Green Bay)?

Michael, there are definitely some things that have to be figured out in regard to how teams will handle having two Alaska teams on the schedule, whether that’s ensuring no more than one trip there per semester or trying to fit in both schools on one trip over the holiday break (obviously, everyone can’t do that every year). I figure that when you see college basketball and football teams constantly criss-crossing the country, college hockey teams will be able to handle this one way or another. As for a 10th team, MSU athletic director Kevin Buisman said that’s probably ideal. In my opinion, an established program like Alabama Huntsville makes the most sense — if can get its future figured out and stable. MSU-Moorhead keeps extending its deadline to secure the money to start D-I hockey. Iowa State, which has had a successful club program for years, has long been rumored to jump to D-I. As for UW-Green Bay, that was the first I heard of that school’s potential interest. Geographically, it makes a lot of sense, but there’s no hockey there right now. Read more from the Fairbanks news report here

From MSU Grad 97: If the state bonding bill passes, what exactly will we be able to expect for the Civic Center improvements? They kind of outlined it, but I am not sure what they mean. How will it change to the look of the main part, and what will happen with the practice rink?

MSU Grad: The drawings they had at the bonding meeting were preliminary ones. From a hockey standpoint, there will be men’s and women’s locker rooms and coaches offices, another team area, weight room and training areas. I would hope they will put in some nice amenities for the teams MSU AD Kevin Buisman said there is a wish list, based on previous proposals. Coach Troy Jutting said he wants to see if this passes before getting to the bells and whistles. I hope to find out more this weekend, but I understand the Sanford Center in Bemidji did it right in the team/player areas That might be a model. As for other improvements, the civic center need to replace the ice system, dasher boards and bench areas and put in new spectator seating (purple, please). Not sure about a video scoreboard system, but they need that. The drawings also included updates to the current Blue Line Club meeting area — but not a new room above the ice as the city floated several years ago.

From MSU Grad 97: Another question - are you getting the feeling there is any 'buyer's remorse' from the NCHC teams and their media outlets? I think you have brought up many valid points about how this didn't seem to be a needed thing for any of those teams. In fact, I don't see if it is supposed to cost more to be in this other league how SCSU will be able to support the football team that almost ended last year, taking them potentially out of the NSIC in the other sports. That would be a sad loss of a rivalry for MSU.

MSU Grad: I think it’s way too early for anyone to have buyer’s remorse. I think the folks in St. Cloud are still celebrating the fact that they found a way into the NCHC. I think the athletic budget situation with regard to hockey, the upgrades to the National Hockey Center and the football program will be something to watch in St. Cloud in the coming years though.

From Sam: 1) Do you think Hayes will return to MSU for his senior year? I know it has been said that NHL clubs have taken notice of him as a free agent, but it seems like he's been having a bit of a quiet year, save for this past weekend. 2) Are you surprised with Tyler Pitlick's lack of success (at least scoring-wise) for the AHL's OKC Barons this season? I thought for sure it was only a matter of time before he cracked the Oilers line-up after he signed his pro deal. Now I have no clue how it's all going to work out for him.

Sam: At this time, I do believe Hayes will be back. Obviously, you never know what could happen. He is an intriguing prospect and my guess is that he’s on a lot of scouts’ radars. But it’s not like he’s been dominant. He’s been very good at times and certainly was on Saturday when he finished plays. Friday was another story; he was benched for part of a period. Let’s see how his season finishes up. I think the sky’s still the limit for him, at least at the college level. It’s still pretty amazing to see where he’s come from. In some ways, I think he’s still learning a lot of things about the game.

As to your second question, I haven’t paid a ton of attention to what Pitlick’s done. He currently has four goals, five assists, 22 PIM and is minus-7 in 34 games. He had a great season in the WHL last year before getting hurt and missing the end of the season and the playoffs. Perhaps the injury was a setback that’s still lingering. Not to get into the whole college vs. major junior debate, but he had a good rookie season in the WCHA as an 18-year-old in a league full of bigger, stronger, older players. Then he went to Medicine Hat and racked up points against kids his age and younger. Now he’s in a AHL and struggling. Who knows? Maybe a second year at MSU would have improved his game in the areas where he’s now struggling. You can read a scouting report from an Oilers blogger here. Pitlick's pretty young, and so are the Oilers. He'll eventually get his shot. Maybe not this year, but I think he'll be OK in the long run.

From Hockey Girl: 1) There's been a lot of rumors about who started up the NCHC, with most centered around UND and Denver. Is there any truth to this rumor and if not, who did decide to startup the conference and pick which schools to invite? Also, what have they meant by 'Like-minded Institutions'? 2) Do you think the Mavs have a realistic shot at finishing above their current 11th place this year? The next 3 weekends seem to be their best shot at getting out of the bottom.

Hockey Girl: I think North Dakota and Denver were the ringleaders on this, but that doesn’t matter anymore. Six teams from the WCHA and two from the CCHA agreed to do this. They’re all on the same page right now. As for picking which schools to invite, that’s where the term “like-minded” has come from. You’re looking at schools that have big hockey budgets, play in big cities/markets, utilize some of the best arenas in the sport and/or are considered perennial powers. Of course, that was the case for those schools in 2011. Go back 10-15 years, and there’d be no way Miami, Western Michigan or St. Cloud State would be considered for something like this. I’m still convinced that St. Cloud only got in because Notre Dame didn’t work out for the NCHC.

As for your second question, I do think MSU has the potential to be a team that finishes higher than 11th, but you’re right, this is the stretch where it has to make some hay. At Bemidji, home against Tech, at Anchorage (all WCHA leftovers, along with MSU). Then they have a tough home series against Duluth, a week off and then a trip to North Dakota.

From Dave: Couple quick questions regarding the Conference realignment. 1. Did you catch the interview of Denver’s Coach from Moose on CHT? If not, i recommend listening. He put him on the hot seat about "like minded institutes" and as usual, no answers where given. 2. Is anything happening in regards to the new WCHA?? it seems like the silence is deafening as to what direction they are going. I would hope that we leave Bruce McLeod in Denver and relocate the offices with a new commissioner in either MN or MI. 3. Lastly, what’s you opinion on an over/under in years before Miami and Western Michigan realize they made a mistake adding all this travel with little or no gain in attendance at home to offset it? I'm saying 6 years.

Dave: I did not hear that interview. If you have a link, I’d love to check it out before commenting.

On your second question, things are starting to come out, like the 28-game schedule. However, I agree that they need to start making some more decisions, like their playoff format and championship location. It’s also hard to promote that stuff when the current season is going on and the departing teams are still playing in it. I’d suspect more will be released in the offseason or it will leak incrementally through the media that cover the leftover teams. I think I broke the 28-game schedule story, for example. I’m less worried about where the offices are located. While the commissioner works out of Denver currently, the supervisor of officials is in the Twin Cities, and the PR director is in Madison. It’s not like they have 100 employees working in a centrally located complex that would have to be moved to Mankato, Fairbanks or Big Rapids.

Finally, I know there are people rooting for NCHC failure or at least seeing teams struggle in it, whether it’s on the ice or financially. I don’t see it right now. The NCHC doesn’t even start for over a year, so, it’s way to early to start speculating about buyer’s remorse. Again, teams/schools are still very excited about the new conference. You’re right, Miami doesn’t draw a ton of fans (around 2,800 per game last weekend with Western Michigan in town!), but you can bet that the NCHC will be doing everything to get big revenue for its members. Whether it can do that or not remains to be seen, but that’s why they picked the commissioner they did. That, not hockey, is his expertise.

I’m also going to answer a question or two from the ‘Minnesota Cup’ thread …

From Sam: Well hey, how's that for a bit of good news regarding the realignment? It's still depressing to see MSU left behind in a significantly inferior conference, but man am I happy to know there is an all-MN tourney in the works. Unfortunately, I'm guessing the team on the outside looking in during the first tourney will be either Mankato or Bemidji. Here's hoping it's Bemidji, although I think most MSU fans are even bigger supporters of the Beavers after all of the re-shuffling that's been going on. You've got to stand by the teams in your conference, no matter how irrelevant it may now seem.

Sam: I say it’s good news for a couple reasons. 1. People have been clamoring for a Minnesota version of the Beanpot for a long time, and it took having these teams not playing each other 2-4 times a year already to make it happen. 2. It’s good news for all the teams, but MSU and BSU especially because this event should help them recoup some of the money lost due to the demise of the WCHA Final Five.

As for having one team out, no one wants to be that team the first year. MSU AD Kevin Buisman said that’s still being figured out. Perhaps, the “imbalanced home-and-home schedule” the teams are trying to work out with Minnesota (in addition to the Minnesota Cup) could include the Gophers going on the road to play the team that won’t be in the tournament. I have no insight on this, only my own speculation, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Bemidji is left out first since organizers will want to try to get the most bang for the buck in the first year. Nothing against the Beavers, but they’d probably want UMD and St. Cloud in for sure and then MSU since Mankato is just 85 miles down the road.

From Troy: How will the Goofers end up playing everyone from Minnesota every year? If this is a bracketed tournament, they will only end up playing two of the three teams involved. Otherwise, it everyone plays each other once, then it would have to take place over a three day period. I don't like this idea at all. All it does is allow the Goofers to stay in the Twin Cities and make everyone else travel to their barn or to the X, which is basically a home game for the Goofers. The Goofers will never again leave the 494-694 loop to play another Minnesota team. I hope the financial incentives for UMD, SCSU, MSU-M and BSU are decent since the Goofers and the Big Ten are the ones that created this mess to begin with.

Troy: You’re right, they would only play two of the three teams. As I mentioned above and in my Free Press story today, the teams are still trying to work out some nonconference games with Minnesota in addition to the tournament. Likely, Gopher series in Mankato will be few and far between, but it’s not like they’re here every year right now. Let’s face the facts, though: Minnesota doesn’t have to do this tournament. It could schedule a bunch of nonconference home games and never travel anywhere outside its Big 10 commitments if it wanted. It could play a bunch of eastern teams and North Dakota (or more Sacred Hearts) and ignore the MSUs and BSUs altogether. Buisman heaped a lot of praise on the Gophers for wanting to keep its in-state rivalries intact and support those programs after the WCHA breaks up. That’s about the only peace offering any of the WCHA’s departing teams has made during this whole ordeal.

1 comment:

Dave said...

Here is the link for the interview. Its about halfway in, all in all, it has alot of good conversation regarding college hockey. THanks for the answers on the questions, I am eager to see how this pans out, and hopefull that each year the leftover conference puts more teams into the tourney than the "not so super - led by the always inferior UND"