An irregular series in which I fix all of a sport's problems.
10. Get rid of the penalty for flipping the puck out when you're in the defensive zone. This is exactly icing and should be treated like icing. The only competition for worst rule in sports is what happens when a football player fumbles and the ball goes out of the endzone.
9. Non-shootout wins are three points. The NHL is the only league in any sport in the world in which some games are worth more than others. This is so very dumb. College hockey uses a model where you get three for actually winning a hockey game, two for winning a shootout, and one for losing it. It is not an offense to God and math.
8. Widen the blue line. The blue line is a lovely demilitarized zone that is both offensive zone and defensive zone, so you can touch it and not be offsides. The puck can touch it and not exit the zone. Both of these things are good. No offsides whistle in the history of hockey has improved the experience of a neutral fan. Widening the blue line reduces these whistles.
7. In fact let's get rid of offsides whistles (almost) entirely. Instead of stopping the game, you can just continue playing hockey. An offsides team can't score. Game continues. Once team ceases being offsides you can go score.
6. And add passive offsides. If you can't tell already, I hate offsides in hockey. It boggles that if one guy is offsides then everybody is. If you're on a rush and one guy is a hair over the line, he and only he is offsides. Let him tag up; let everyone else continue playing. If an offsides player does anything other than try to get onside, I guess you can blow the whistle, you game-stopping ninny. But if offsides guy is headed for the blue line, let him get there.
5. Gradually introduce Olympic ice. Olympic ice is a lot of fun, but currently impractical for buildings not set up with a 100-foot-wide sheet already. The NHL should force new buildings to be Olympic-sized, leading to a transitional period where some rinks are small and some are wide and there are all kinds of home/away effects, kind of like baseball. Also there will be an increasing number of big rinks on which standing a guy up at the blue line is super difficult and skill is more important. College hockey already has a number of Olympic sheets, and the transition is both jarring and fun.
4. Just embiggen the goals already. Goalies won. Whether it's equipment size or improved technique, the fundamental truth about hockey over the last 20 years is that goalies win and we give up and to restore the proper tension of a hockey game we're going to admit they win and tweak the size of the goal.
Most protests about this are luddite or ludicrous. One common protest is that expanding the goal invalidates records going forward. It does not, at least any more than the various equipment advances have done so. Ken Dryden versus any modern NHL goalie is QED here:
Dryden's pads are not only smaller but infested with mice and 10-20 pounds heavier. Also he doesn't know about the butterfly. Goalies win, expand the net by the width of the posts, all CLANG events now are goals, add 2-3 per game, it's a good time.
This is important. The current state of hockey is too close to baseball, which is dumbly random, because the goalies can cover up big differences in team quality.
3. A team doesn't clear the offensive zone until the puck gets over the red line. Michigan actually experimented with this in an exhibition a few years back. It was deeply weird but it rewarded teams who could actually get ahold of the puck in the defensive zone and increased the number of shifts where one team was scrambling around defensively and it felt like the team with the puck absolutely had to score.
2. Force teams to change goalies on the fly once a period. This would be awesome.
1. Teams have the option of putting a guy on the ice without skates. Offsides does not apply to him. Goals he scores count double. The thing that hockey has lacked for far too long is a broomball player. What does the world's best broomball player look like? I don't know. You don't know. We've waited far too long to find out.
Michigan announced its non-conference schedule today, and while there are certainly better home games than last season they may not do much to bolster Michigan's tournament resume when March rolls around.
Michigan's two marquee matchups are two-game home series against Michigan Tech, which finished 15th in RPI, near the end of October and Boston University, which finished ninth in RPI, in early November. BU is a young team that returns three of their top five scorers and managed to finish as high as they did in RPI despite a rash of injuries. Meanwhile, what Mel Pearson's done in Houghton has been nothing short of remarkable:
A one-off November road tilt against Arizona State, which finished 59th in RPI (out of 60), and a two-game home series against Lake Superior State are the real anchors of the non-conference schedule. It's nice to keep some of the old CCHA connections, but two games against a team that finished 44th in RPI makes that a series that Michigan has to sweep; if they do they stay put in RPI/PairWise, and if they lose a game or two they're in trouble.
Meanwhile, a two-game home series against Union and one-off road game at Ferris State are roughly comparable to games against Ohio State. An east coast road trip in late October has Michigan take on Vermont, which finished three spots below OSU in RPI at 35th, and Dartmouth, whose 22nd-place finish in RPI puts them one spot below Penn State. In other words, the only possible RPI boost in that portion of the schedule would come from Darmouth moving up two spots in RPI in 2016-17, and that's not likely to happen considering they lose three of their top six scorers and their top two goaltenders.
The Great Lakes Invitational features a guaranteed game against Michigan Tech and then a game against either Michigan State or Western Michigan; both finished in the mid-forties in RPI and are uninspiring second-round opponents.
time to make another huge Swedish flag
Michigan is now waiting on JT Compher's decision, which he says he'll make after the World Championships—USA Hockey took CCM lock stock and barrel. I'm guessing he joins his linemates in the NHL. Either way the spate of departures has answered questions about which recruits will actually be on next year's roster: all of 'em.
Bork 2.0. Michigan in fact just added draft-eligible, Paris-born Swede Gustaf Westlund:
Winning a prep 'ship, Westlund (MI) was a consistent offensive look, using speed/creativity. Screams a high ceiling w/ the puck in open ice.
— Over The Boards (@OverTheBoards) April 12, 2016
[UPDATE: Westlund's father emailed to say that Westlund is a 2017 recruit.]
The late-rising Westlund was stuck playing low-level midget for longer than a draftable prospect generally does, so he was one of the few kids who end up taking their recruitment this late. He broke out in December, in fact:
The Gunnery #23 - 5'11" 160 - LC - 12/12/97
After playing Tier II Midget during the fall season, the Swedish native made his first real impression on the myriad of NHL scouts and college coaches in attendance for Monday's Berkshire Jamboree. Playing center, he showed off his wheels. He's a tremendous skater who has a good first step and can really move around the sheet. It will be interesting to see how he continues to adjust to the style of play over here, but he's an athletic, raw talent that should be watched closely. A few NHL scouts were very high on him after seeing yesterday's games against Kent and Northwood.
Like Andrew Copp, Westlund is under the radar because of his participation in another sport. In his case it's soccer. Copp turned out to be underrated. Hopefuly Westlund is as well, but probably not this underrated:
It’s absurd to compare anyone to Buffalo Sabres star Jack Eichel, but there are similarities in his skill set to that of the former BU Terrier. Westlund is a very good skater. He has a long, smooth stride that appears effortless. He can really get going quickly and seems to have that extra gear.
He has a long reach for a player that isn’t very tall. He does a good job pulling the puck back before quickly releasing a hard wrist shot on net.
Westlund is ranked #116 by the CSB and should be a mid-round pick. That is an excellent late addition, and one that Michigan needs. If JT Compher does sign Michigan will have lost five forwards; Westlund helps stanch that cut. Heisenberg shows Michigan with a couple of forwards beyond the NTDP guys but they seem like fourth-liners. Michigan will have a ton of defensemen next year even without Werenski and Downing, so a more or less permanent move forward is likely for someone. Cutler Martin moved up for a few games last year.
Meanwhile, the final CSB rankings came out. Michigan recruits on the list all fell significantly:
- #70 Griffin Luce (down from 54)
- #108 Will Lockwood (down from 69)
- #112 Nick Pastujov (down from 100)
- #117 Ken Johnson (down from 97)
- #146 James Sanchez (down from 135)
D Luke Martin is 2017 eligible and supposedly a first-round pick; Johnson may or may not arrive this fall. Other than him it's a bunch of guys like Marody or Kile: mid-rounders who might become nice players but are not going to replace Kyle Connor's production immediately. That Lockwood drop is a surprise since Kyle Woodlief recently named him a late riser.
The distant future, the birth year 2000. F Blade Jenkins and D Mattias Samuelsson made the NTDP. While that's an unusually low number for Michigan, three guys in the 2018 class—G Dylan St. Cyr, D Quinn Hughes, and F Joshua Norris—were already with the NTDP this year. (Although that may change. I'm going by the Chris Heisenberg list and he has just two skaters in the 2017 class. Kile, Shuart, De Jong, Allen, and Lohan will all depart next year. Very possible a couple guys are either misclassified or get bumped up.)
Jenkins was a shock selection in the OHL draft, going fourth overall to Saginaw. Usually that means that the player in question has an under-the-table deal already, but in the aftermath Todd Jenkins, the father, confirmed that Blade would play for the NTDP. Saginaw's GM was like "whatevs, man":
"Is it going to be easy to get them here?" Drinkill said. "No, it's not."
Saginaw is not a team that's particularly good at turning guys—Brandon Saad's college commitment was widely regarded as fictional long before he defected. But there will (probably) be a new coach so there's the potential for some wobble. FWIW, Jenkins's dad played at Maine.
Drinkill did give us a scouting report:
"Blade is the best player in the draft, and that's the consensus of the hockey world," Drinkill said. "He's got elite skills, but he's also the player who wants to be on the ice at all times. He will do anything to play."
Michigan hasn't had to worry about the OHL coming after commits for a half a decade; here's hoping Jenkins doesn't break the mold.
On the roundtable this week:
- Craig's back!
- Spring football revelations and omens
- What to do with pending basketball coaching openings
- Red returns: y/n?
THE USUAL LINKS
The band, it is no longer together:
Breaking: Red Berenson has told me Tyler Motte will forgo his senior season and sign with the Chicago Blackhawks
— Jason Rubinstein (@jrubinstein4) April 6, 2016
That's particularly bad since Motte was widely regarded as the least likely CCM line member to leave. Berenson did tell The Michigan Insider that he was "betting" on a Compher return, but Compher and Motte have been joined at the hip for years now—this news could impact his status.
Motte's lightning release and mind-meld with Compher led to a point explosion as a junior. Last year he recorded a 32-24-56 line in 38 games. He banged home the OT winner against Notre Dame in the tournament. He'll be acutely missed on next year's team.