Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Does Big Ten Deputy Commissioner Brad Traviolia really understand the frustration of college hockey fans?

It is October and we all know what that means, hello hockey season! 

This year, the Minnesota Gophers enter their fourth season in what I like to call the debacle that is known as the Big Ten Conference. I've stated in a previous blog post that I am NOT a fan of the Big Ten conference (as I've stated here).

Recently, I came across an article from earlier this year about Big Ten Deputy Commissioner Brad Traviolia. 

In reading this article, I don't think Brad Traviolia gets the frustration of Gopher hockey fans (or college hockey fans in general).

First of all, Traviolia doesn't have a hockey background and he admits it. He made this statement in the previously mentioned USCHO.com article from Feb.10, 2016 (Big Ten's Traviolia weighs in....) Traviolia states:
 "Coming from a non-hockey background, it’s kind of hard for me to imagine a fan in the state of Minnesota who wouldn’t be excited to see a Michigan or a Michigan State come in to play..."
What is he thinking? Does he honestly think that Mariucci Arena is going to sell out for a series against Michigan or Michigan State? Because it is the Gophers, there is going to be a decent crowd there. However, a two-game series against Michigan and Michigan State just isn't going to sell out because there isn't a true rivarly between Minnesota and these two schools. Yes, there is some history between Minnesota and Michigan (with having met in the semi-finals of the 2002 and 2003 Men's Frozen Four tournaments), but these rivalries aren't just going to happen overnight. Rivalries will draw fans to games (i.e. the Minnesota-North Dakota series scheduled for Nov. 4 and 5 at Marriucci Arena). 

(Just in case anybody was wondering, Traviolia was a wrestler at Northwestern University). 

Traviolia also stated this:
“In a perfect world, we’d have great national success in the early years of Big Ten hockey and it’d be perceived by the vast majority as the greatest move ever...Those things didn’t coincide. I understand that there is some frustration from the various fan bases that see the alignment of Big Ten hockey with the lack of national success that some of our programs are used to having and equate the two."
No, Traviolia doesn't get it. He conveniently forgets that one of the most successful and storied college hockey conferences was basically destroyed with the creation of the Big 10 hockey conference. That conference being the old WCHA conference (when it consisted of Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Minnesota-Duluth, St. Cloud State, Mankato State, Colorado College, Denver, et al.) For a school like Minnesota, those games were constant sell outs because of the rivalries between those schools--especially the in-state rivalries and the storied rivalry between Minnesota and North Dakota. 

This is coming from the guy who doesn't buy into a theory of " the lack of attendance is that fans simply aren’t intrigued enough with the new conference foes to make the effort to actually go to games." I'll be honest with you, watching Minnesota play Penn State is like watching an exhibition series to me. Penn State is only entering their 5th year as a D-1 hockey program. They have a LONG way to go when it comes to developing rivalries. 

Brad Traviolia just doesn't get it when it comes to hockey...and the tradition of college hockey.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Wild made coaching changes…now, what about the roster?

New Minnesota Wild Head Coach Bruce Boudreau
Now that the Minnesota Wild have their coaching staff in place, with the hiring of Bruce Boudreau as the new head coach. John Anderson and Scott Stevens were hired on as assistant coaches. Darby Hendrickson remains as the only assistant coach from Mike Yeo’s staff, along with goaltending coach Bob Mason (who has been with the team for the Wild’s entire existence).

The big question now is what moves are the Wild going to make in order to improve their roster? With the 2016 NHL Draft starting Friday in Buffalo and free agency starting at midnight on July 1st  (general managers meetings are either currently going on or start on June 22), Chuck Fletcher is going to be closely watched on what moves he makes (and which ones he doesn’t).

Let’s start off with the draft. 

This year, the Wild have only four draft picks. Yes, that is correct. Minnesota currently holds the 15th pick overall (first round). The Wild don’t have a draft pick again until the fourth round (at 106th overall) with another two picks remaining in the 7th round (at 196th and 204th overall respectively). That’s not a whole lot to build on. Chuck Fletcher traded a few draft picks away last season for upcoming drafts for basically rent-a-players (a couple of them who were busts for the Wild). I think I just saw recently that what would have been the Wild’s third round draft pick has changed teams at least 5 times already—most recently this week. (Fletcher also stated in a press conference yesterday that he’s not looking at trading for any draft picks.)

Tom Powers said on Monday, “…With the cupboard of their American League farm club now containing nothing but ant bait, the Wild need to get busy on improving their personnel.” That’s not good. (Wild must improve roster or expect miracle from Boudreau, twincities.com)

(Joel Eriksson Ek, who was the Wild’s first round draft pick last year, will be playing in Sweden this upcoming season with F√§rjestad of the SHL).

What about free agency?

The salary cap for the 2016-17 season has been announced at being $73 million (up only $1.6 million from last season). The Wild currently have approximately $9.2 million available in cap space, according to www.spotrac.com. That’s not a whole lot.

The Wild’s list of unrestricted free agents are forwards David Jones (acquired via trade from Calgary), Jarrett Stoll and Chris Porter (both claimed off of waivers last season), Ryan Carter, and Justin Fontaine. Out of those five, the possibility of any of those being re-signed remains to be seen. 

Darcy Kuemper will become a restricted free agent again on July 1st (and could become an unrestricted free agent after the 2016-17 season), along with forwards Zac Dalpe and Jordan Schroeder (whom the Wild are expected to tend offers to). There have been reports as of late that Darcy Kuemper could possibly be moved (via trade). 

It's going to be a very interesting part of the off-season these next couple of weeks. What Chuck Fletcher does (and doesn't do) is going to be very interesting...and could potentially cause new coach Boudreau, along with Wild fans), some serious headaches this upcoming season...