Thursday, August 9, 2012

NCAA Rule Changes

Catching up on a few things, we need to take a quick look at the rule changes coming up for the 2012 - 2013 season. The Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved these changes back on July 19th and are aimed at increasing offensive opportunities.

The Rule Changes I Like:

A goal that deflects off of an attacking player's skates will be allowed unless it was intentionally kicked in. Basically, if you are just standing there now and it hits off your foot, the goal counts. This rule already exists in the NHL. Pretty straight forward, the kicking motion is the important thing now. In the past, if it went off a skate, it didn't count. So now if it the puck happens to hit you, it will count as long as you aren't in the motion of kicking it in.

They also approved an overtime procedure that conferences can adopt or competing teams can use b mutual consent to allow for 4 on 4 play. 5 on 5 format is still the default play, but now teams or conferences can change it. I'd prefer they go to a straight 4 on 4 play. I don't like how the shoot-out is used in the CCHA, and I hope the Big 10 doesn't adopt it.

The four officials system (two-refs, two-linesman) will be mandatory for the 2013 - 2014 season. This could be a bad thing, but for safety concerns and the idea that one official can make up for the errors of the other (or they could compound them), I generally think this is a good thing.

The final change is one that really could have helped Michigan State back in the NCAA tournament. The NCAA is now allowing some displacement of the goal posts as long as the posts remain in contact with the pegs (or pins). The posts must have been displaced by the actions of a player. "We want Shegos" (read: referee) must determine that the puck would have entered the net between the normal positions of the goal posts.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you exhibit 'A' of why this is a good rule change:


I love how Melrose & Buccigross spend the first minute or so wondering why there was a review since the puck "never went in".

While it's obvious to say I'm biased as a Spartan, this goal would have counted in the NHL, and it only makes sense. Stuff like this can happen often, and Michigan State has been at the wrong end of this twice in as many seasons. During game one of the 2011 CCHA First Round series in Alaska, the Nanooks scored a disputed goal that the Spartans claim the net popped up. The goal was allowed on the ice and after review. And even though logic says that goal should count (as should MSU's above), there is question as to whether it really should have given how the rule was written at the time. 

In any event, I think they got it right - finally. A goal like this should stand. Now if only they'll penalize defending teams for knocking the net off "unintentionally" despite the fact that no one is within five feet of them, and they are on their heels.

The Rule Changes I Don't Like:

The last major rule change to discuss is that defensive zone hand passes are now illegal. Under the old rule, a hand pass that remained in the defensive zone was legal even if the defending team touched the puck first. That will no longer be allowed, and now you won't be able to change players before the ensuing face-off. 
The reason why this change needs to be questioned is that typically fans like fewer whistles. This looks like this will increase whistles, and it probably will increase scrums along the boards as players try to kick the puck along the boards to their teammates now. This might increase the dangers to players of a head-glass/board collision. 

Fewer whistles are better. This could chop the game up a little bit more, and even though no line changes can occur, I'm not convinced this will increase scoring. I just feel like the NCAA is out in left field with this one, but I suppose it'll sort itself out soon enough.

There was one other change - goal judges are no longer required - but I'm pretty indifferent about this. With the use of instant replay, I'm not sure if this will be a big deal.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Look Back: Tom Anastos Hired

Nearly 17 months ago (on March 23, 2011 to be exact), Michigan State University hired Tom Anastos as the head coach of the hockey team. The question over his tenure will be - was it a good hire. Obviously this question cannot be answered fairly in such a short period of time. However, we can look at the initial media and public reaction, along with the current reaction.


To say the initial public reaction was mixed probably would be an understatement.

The United States of Hockey Blog examined the hire in great detail. They wondered if the decision was rushed, if he was leaving just because the Big 10 was coming and changing the entire landscape of college hockey, and there were still a lot of question marks if he could recruit and prove he was a good bench coach. At the same time, at no point does the article state he was a bad hire.

Even the College Hockey News Q&A with Coach Anastos raised some eyebrows:

CHN: So this all came down at the last minute?

Anastos: Yeah. He called and said, "What's up? I'd like to talk to you about our coaching position." I said, "What do you need to know?" He said, "No, I'd like to talk to you, I'd like to see if you'd be interested in it." I don't remember my exact words, but I said, "C'mon!" He says, "No, I'm serious," and he asked me if I'd consider it. I said sure, why not listen. So I went up there the next day, met with the selection committee, met with them for a while, and returned back to my office. Later that evening I got a call from (Hollis) and (associate AD Shelley) Applebaum, and they said, "We'd like you to be our hockey coach. We're at the end of our process and we need to get a decision because we made a commitment they'd have a coach by the end of the week."
So I got together wife my wife — my head was spinning — and talked to my kids, and made a decision. And I told him, "I'm interested, let's do it."
He had a list of reasons for why he wanted me. He has a pretty specific profile that he uses in hiring, and he said I hit, in his view, every one of them. It started that way, we talked about expectations and philosophy.
 Thoughts from the Ann Arbor camp were (not surprisingly) mocking Michigan State for the hire.... dedicating an entire article to laughing at MSU for making this hire.  I know, I know, linking an article from MGoBlog should probably require that I'm not allowed on the internet for awhile, but you don't have to click the link. In some circles, the hire was seen as disastrous at worst and risky at best.

But it was never questioned that Anastos was a good leader with a lot of power in the college hockey world. I know I was personally shocked, and I wondered where Mark Hollis was going with this one, but as a Spartan, I believe everyone (myself included) was willing to give him a chance. Plus, why question Mark Hollis at this point, since he has hit a home run on every coaching hire to date.


Michigan State may have only gone 19-16-4, a four win improvement from the 2010-2011 season, but the Spartans managed a first round bye in the CCHA tournament, and a bid to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2008. On top of that, recruiting seems to have picked up, as the Spartans are landing some talented players. The question remains if all of these players will end up East Lansing, or if the OHL will come in and run interference, but the fact of the matter is these guys weren't always thinking 'Michigan State' under Rick Comley.

I doubt all of the skeptics are sold on Anastos, but the press does seem to be cautiously optimistic.

Dillion Davis from The State News talks about the hope of the program.....

College Hockey News even appeared to be on board with Anastos and the future of MSU hockey

It's tough to compare Coach Anastos with the start of Kobs & Paulsen (they went a combined 14-43-1 from 1925 - 1951, when MSU only played hockey for 8 seasons). Coach Bessone struggled early as MSU had losing records in his first six seasons at Michigan State. The rest is history though as Coach Bessone really put MSU hockey on the national power map. Ron Mason didn't have a winning season until his 3rd year in East Lansing. The rest is history there as well. Rick Comley had much more success early on, earning at least 20 wins in his first six seasons at MSU. However, he was only 23-14-2 in his first year, when MSU had won at least 25 games in each of its previous five seasons (33-29-27-33-27), so it'd be easy to point out that Comley was taking over a very good program.

So on that note, you could be impressed with how Anastos won in his first season behind the bench. The questions now will be to see if he can build upon that success and show improvement, despite losing some key players (including Torey Krug). This is where his recruiting will be put under the microscope - though it may take a few years before this impact is really realized. In the meantime, if the team continues to compete hard, you have to figure things are looking up, and Mark Hollis did it again with this hire.

And most of you would agree - as the earlier poll results suggest that the vast majority of voters gave his first season an 'A' grade.

But history will ultimately be the judge of his hire.