Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Feeling Neglected? Stanley Cup, Recruits, and Conference Chatter

First off, before we dive into this, thanks for sticking around, my loyal readers. It seems like its been forever since the last update, since the schedule for next season was released, and its been some crazy times around my place. Fortunately, I didn't forget about you.

I hope everybody caught the monumental collapse of an otherwise excellent season for the Vancouver Canucks. What a Finals series. After the first two games in Vancouver, I thought my predictions for the series was coming to fruition. Early on, there was some incredible hockey being played. Then the extensive drama fueled by an incident starring Alex Burrows lingered over their heads that had no purpose but to fuel the fire that was lit under Boston's rears. And they would go on to win 4 of the next 5 to win it all. Honestly frustrating for two reasons:

1) I respect the hell out of Vancouver as a team. They're not my team of choice, but I really enjoy their style of play and their (typically) unrelenting pressure in both zones.
2) Arguably the emotions were fueled largely by a non-hockey related incident. It wasn't until that biting incident that Boston really kicked it into gear. You'd think that Lord Stanley himself would be reason enough to give 110%, but apparently not.

In other news, Coach Ferguson and his staff have added two more quality players to the list of newcomers for this coming season. Matt Gates, a center, co-captain, and top scorer for the Bismark Bobcats (NAHL). As well as Nolan Youngmun, a strong grinder style forward from the Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL).

Gates, a 21 year old center will bring some leadership experience with him after serving as a co-captain this past season in Bismark. He's got an impressive scoring record to boot, averaging over a point per game, over 56 points and a +13 on the stat sheet. He lead the team with 58 points and 27 goals, in power play goals (9), and shorthanded goals (1). When asked about his decision to come to Alaska, Gates told the Bobcat front office:
“A lot of things went into my decision, but first and foremost is that with Alaska I’ll have a chance to play for solid playing time as a freshman,” said Gates, “but not only that, you look at the CCHA, the teams and the history of that conference—I’ll be playing against some of the best programs in the country.”
A Chicago-area native, Gates will be playing nearly 2,800 miles from his home town.
“I look at it as a challenge, and I’m actually really looking forward to it,” added Gates, who was twice named NAHL Central Division Player of the Week in 2010-11. “To me, it’s the next phase of my life, the next part of my development as a player.”
Check out the full press release from the Bobcat's site.

Nolan Youngman, an Anchorage native will come in looking to provide some physical support for a team comprised of some (mostly) smaller guys. He spent his junior career playing with the Sioux Falls Stampede of the USHL, and is likely making the move to play hockey a little closer to home. With Ryan Hohl graduating, I would expect Youngman to kind of step into Ryan's traditionally physical role. Nolan has a bigger frame which should in turn give us another big hitter in the line up.

Now with the elephant in the room, with all of these articles springing up talking about realigning conferences, and the topic of pulling the bigger non-Big Ten schools out of the WCHA and CCHA and forming their own conference.

For those that don't know anything about what I'm about to talk about, read this USCHO article, and this article for the Grand Forks Herald penned by Brad Schlossman. The latter has some good quotes from WCHA headman Bruce McLeod, which I may borrow as we go along...

Are ya caught up? Good...

OK, so UND and Denver are going to conspire and swindle away the other notable teams in both conferences, and leave out both Alaska teams because hey, its not about money, right? Great, because players won't have to deal with travel in the pros... I would say that more than most, Alaska teams prepare the travelers the most for some of those types of challenges.

Anyway, so UND, Denver, Notre Dame, Nebraska-Omaha, Colorado College, Miami, Minnesota-Duluth, and ("maybe") Western Michigan, if Blash doesn't go one-and-done will all split off and form their own conference. Great, so that leaves...

Minnesota State
Bowling Green
Ferris State
Lake Superior State
Northern Michigan
Bemidji State
Michigan Tech
St. Cloud State

And for the sake of my southern friends, Alabama-Huntsville should probably be included in this conversation as well...

Oh, did I leave out Anchorage? My bad... McLeod told USCHO that the WCHA has once again opened the gates to allow new teams to apply for membership, so that certainly leaves an open avenue to go, should the need arise.

If I were involved in this proposal, I would certainly look to include St. Cloud State and Alaska to their 8 to make 10, which would give exemptions those that travel up here every year, something that the Big Ten conference can't have. This will allow them to help fill up the Big Ten's non-conference schedule, while giving them more opportunities to play against more opponents, potentially earning more pairwise points. If you want to talk money, hosting institutions get to reap the rewards of hosting non-conference games.  Let's say North Dakota sells out Engelstad for some hypothetical non-conference game. So let's figure this out, 11,634 seats at around $16.50/each (averaged of about $15 general, $20 reserved), that's nearly $200,000 for one game.

If teams like that can play their cards right with our team in that conference, they can see their revenue increase by approximately a million dollars a year. Seems to me like a financially sound decision. Money talks, right?

So, using similar logic, you could form the rest into a separate 9 team conference:

Minnesota State
Bowling Green
Ferris State
Lake Superior State
Northern Michigan
Michigan Tech
Bemidji State

I still think I'm forgetting someone... Anyway, before someone yells out that it's an odd number of teams, having 9 teams is actually a somewhat simple scheduling algorithm. With the CCHA last year, 11 was a bit difficult to determine the rotation from last year, but with 9, you've got 3 clusters of 3. Assuming you have to have 18 conference games, one team would play each team from the other two clusters twice for a total of 12 games, and play the other two in your own cluster 3 times for a total of 18. This model could give half of the conference exemptions every year to try to bring someone to town to help make up revenue.

Anyway, who knows what could happen. I think the Nanooks are a bit tougher to play than Anchorage right now, which I think could pull us up in those talks of that "higher conference" should they go to 10. When all of the dust settles, all I can say I'm hoping for right now is a conference to be affiliated with, and in an ideal world, the travel stipends given up for visiting teams.

UAF AD Forrest Karr has not returned my email or call yet, but I suspect that he will tomorrow, so check back for an update.


Donald Dunlop said...

Talk is cheap and rumors are easy to spread. In any case, should some Butt Hurt Hockey Conference form in retaliation for the BTHC then however it shakes out there is an opportunity here for UAA and UAF to be in the same conference.

Cobb has told me long prior to now that Karr and he both understand the need for some close cooperation. So, hopefully they maintain some unity if and when any opportunities arise.

Which in my opinion won't happen. But we'll see ...

Anonymous said...

Well, I can't say I understand the conference issues all that well--I like the game much more than The Game, if that makes sense--but I'm sure things will work out either way. Looking forward to the update from the AD!

Jason said...

Cobb says in today's Anchorage Daily Pamphlet that the WCHA tried to poach Miami and Notre Dame back in April, a move that would have completely screwed the CCHA remainders, including his in-state brethren. After reading that I suddenly don't feel as sorry for the WCHA leftovers, since it now appears they tried to do this to the CCHA schools and now find themselves in the same boat.