The college hockey season is coming up quickly, which means conferences released preseason polls and all-conference teams. Those can be found here for the NCHC and here for the WCHA. There is really nothing more I hate than preseason predictions or polls, so if you want to look at them, go ahead. Some fans enjoy them, so there they are if you are curious.
For future reference, the same goes for any other type of polls throughout the season. I’ll only write about the Pairwise and not until about January.
An interesting trend has been gaining steam over the past few years. Overall public opinion about the shootout has changed from an entertaining way to end a game to no way to decide a game.
The NHL started using the shootout to decide games after the 2004-2005 lockout (I originally typed just ‘the lockout’, but since there have been three since the mid-90’s I feel like I should clarify). One of the biggest complaints about hockey, and why it fell further and further in the ratings abyss, was public’s perception about ties. The shootout was initially thought of progression and a step forward for the sport.
However, more games have ended in the shootout and it wore out its welcome for a lot of fans, calling it a ‘skills competition’.
This year, the NHL has agreed to use 3-on-3 overtime format in order to have more games end during the overtime period. The point system will be the same.
Early pre-season results have been what was expected. The NHL hopes the trend will continue, but I’m not as optimistic.
When the NHL instituted 4-on-4 overtime, it was lauded the same way. Shootouts were originally down and fans loved on the faster pace and open ice. But as time went by, more games ended in the shootout. Once coaches got used to and saw the differences, the appeal was sucked out of it. Even though it may take longer, I feel that may be the case here.
We are already seeing it in Washington. Head Coach Barry Trotz is regarded as one of the best technically sound defensive coaches in the league. The biggest acquisition for the Capitals this season was shootout master TJ Oshie. While many coaches are getting a feel for the overtime using a center-wing-defensemen combination, Trotz has been utilizing more of a center-defense-defense unit, not taking chances, and then going to a shootout. Sure, it’s very early, but I can’t say I blame him. If you have a trump card in Oshie, why take a ton of risks in overtime and negate the advantage in the shootout?
I do agree the new overtime format will be a lot of fun to watch. The NHL is deeper than ever before with skill players and this will put them front and center. But I will argue it isn’t ‘more of a hockey’ way to settle things.
Overtime will now be rush after rush. Players will have to be more mindful of when changes take place. But how many times have you seen 3-on-3 during the course of a hockey game? I’ve only seen it a couple of times. But a penalty shot? I’ve seen that much more. Overtime will be an odd-man rush skills competition instead of a shooter versus goalie skills competition.
I don’t think hockey needs it to become a mainstream sport. In June of 1994, Sports Illustrated ran a story about how the NHL is on an upswing while the NBA is stumbling from an image perspective. While the article itself still had all the raw numbers in favor of the NBA, the important factor was the NHL didn’t capitalize on this momentum, but instead canceled half a season.
This was in a time where ties were prevalent. It didn’t require any overtime gimmicks. As entertaining as 3-on-3 will be, don’t be mistaken; it’s still a gimmick.
I realize we are far enough down the rabbit hole after drinking the ‘no ties’ kool-aid, but I don’t understand why ties are the big enemy. Look at the most popular sport in the world. Ties are commonplace. Soccer is gaining steam in the United States and English Premiership League (EPL) is getting more and airtime on U.S. soil.
What’s the big difference? In the EPL, the risk is worth the reward. Three points are awarded to the winner and each team gets a point in a tie. That extra point makes it more enticing for teams to take chances during the game without the gimmicks.
The problem with changing the point structure comes from the team marketing as the season winds down. The illusion of being only a few points out of a playoff spot but many teams to jump over. Teams can be only three points out of a spot, but six teams fighting for two spots. It creates the illusion of being closer to the playoffs, which can put fans in the seats.
The illusion is also troublesome when it comes to the trade deadline. Past few years have seen way too many buyers than sellers at the trade deadline because more teams think they are in the race. Last trade deadline only had a few teams actively selling. That drives up the price of players and makes it harder for trades to happen under a salary cap. Big trades at the deadline don’t happen anymore because of illusion more teams can make a push for the playoffs. Encouraging more teams to win in regulation with the incentive of that extra point would lead to better games and no ‘playing for a tie’.
If the NHL wants to continue with shootouts, three points for a regulation win would be the best for the league.
The NCHC has also agreed to expand overtime to include a five-minute 3-on-3 for all conference matches. Tie games after regulation will have the normal 5-on-5 overtime for five minutes. If still tied, it will be recorded as a tie as far as the Pairwise goes. However, the 3-on-3 and shootout will determine extra points in the conference.
Looks like the NCHC is doing everything it can to mimic the professional game, which coaches and players have reacted very positively. College hockey is divided in how to handle overtime and it can make things very confusing to some fans. For instance, the state of Minnesota has teams in three different conferences, all of which has different rules in how to handle overtimes. It has gotten to the point where fans need a flow chart to see how games at the same level are decided and which ones count in the big picture. Hockey is a niche sport and we shouldn’t make things harder for potential new fans to understand.
-It was officially announced that Madison Square Garden will host a college hockey game featuring the University of North Dakota and Boston College.
-Michigan State originally painted the blue lines green at Munn Arena, but the NCAA didn’t take kindly to that and killed the idea. I’m a little bummed about it, because I felt like it was one step closer to painting the ice light blue like NHL ’94.
Once all rosters are added to collegehockeystats.net, look at each of the teams and give you a run-down of who is returning and freshman coming in. Shift over.