Monday, October 3, 2011

Offseason Recap

Whew, well that was an eventful offseason. A quick recap:

Comings & Goings
Smile Scott, you're rich now
  • Sandelin briefly flirted with the brand-new Penn State coaching vacancy, but ultimately ended up signing a fat extension on the heels of his first ever national championship.
  • Assistant Coach Brett Larson did leave, however. He took a hefty raise to become the Sioux City Musketeers' (USHL) head coach/general manager. 
  • Sandelin replaced Larson with fellow UND alum Jason Herter, who, oddly enough was the head coach/general manager of the Fargo Force (USHL) last season.
  • Recent UMD alums Justin Fontaine (Wild), Mike Connolly (Sharks), Evan Oberg (Panthers) and Dylan Olsen (Blackhawks) will begin the season in the AHL. 
  • Justin Faulk (Hurricanes) and Tim Stapleton (Jets) have a good chance to make the opening day roster. 
  • Mason Raymond hopes to be back by mid-season after breaking a vertebrae in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals. 
  • Championship game hero Kyle Schmidt will play in Norway this season.
College Hockey Apocolypse

What's less creative? The name or the logo?

It all started when Penn State decided to take their hockey program to the Division I level behind an $88 million donation by Sabres owner Terry Pegula.

This led to the formation of the Big 10 conference, which led to the formation of National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) which led to the leftover programs from the CCHA joining the depleted ranks of the WCHA. Also, as of today, Notre Dame, Bowling Green, and Alabama-Huntsville don't have a formal conference affiliation for the 2013-14 season, but that is sure to change.

So, right now this is what college hockey will look like in 2013-14:

NCHC                                                    Big 10
North Dakota                                          Minnesota
Nebraska-Omaha                                    Wisconsin
Denver                                                    Penn State
Colorado College                                     Michigan
UMD                                                      Michigan State
Western Michigan                                   Ohio State
St. Cloud

WCHA                                                   Unaffiliated
Bemidji State                                         Notre Dame
Minnesota State-Mankato                       Bowling Green
Alaska-Anchorage                                  Alabama-Huntsville
Michigan Tech
Northern Michigan
Lake Superior State
Ferris State

Image (via)
The Big 10 conference was a no-brainer once Pegula poinied up the cash for Penn State. They already have strong rivalries in place and a programming-hungry TV network to feed. The NCHC was a bit of a surprise, but I can understand the reasoning behind it. Top-tier WCHA and CCHA teams didn't want to get left behind money or recruiting-wise by the new, rich Big 10 conference, so they allied together to create their own powerful conference.

Of course this ruins a lot of the decades of history and rivalries the two conferences had built. I, for one, loved that all five Division I hockey programs in Minnesota were in the same conference, because it made for great roadtrip opportunities. I doubt I will be driving out to Miami, Ohio or Kalamazoo, Michigan anytime soon to catch a series, but I suppose over the years that could change.

The good news is that these new 'power conferences' will probably lead to a higher national profile for college hockey. It would be cool to see college hockey get a shoutout on SportsCenter every once in a while, or a package of nationally televised games on Versus/NBC Sports.

The bad news is that it segregates college hockey into the haves and the have-nots. It's like in college football and basketball, where there are the power conferences and the mid-majors, and I'm not sure Division I college hockey is popular enough to sustain a whole sub-division of mid-major programs.

Only time will tell if the 2011 offseason brought good or bad onto the world of college hockey. In the meantime let's just agree to enjoy the season. Season preview starts tomorrow, with one post going up every day until puck drop Friday against Notre Dame.

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