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Chuck Murray
05-07-2014, 01:57 PM
With another D-1 college hockey season in the books, and another ECAC team taking their first-ever D-1 national title, it's time to reflect on that time-honored assumption that gets bandied about on this forum WAY too often for my liking from WAY too many posters associated with the various Hockey East schools. You know ... the one where the fan (or sometimes in a spasm of self-serving CYA-speak, even the coach) of some fill-in-the-blank team usually from inside or within spitting distance of Rte. 495 says something to the effect ...

"Well, all things being considered, it's been a pretty good season for us ... after all, Hockey East is the best conference in the nation." :rolleyes:

To that I respectfully say ... utter and total hogwash. :(

Maybe a decade or so ago, there was some meat on those bones. But for the better part of the last decade-plus, the concept of so-called "HE supremacy" has rested almost entirely upon the shoulders of Boston College, with one outlying season from BU as the only other true example of ANY degree of true "supremacy". A UMaine program that won two* D-1 titles in the '90's has fallen to the level of consistent mediocrity, alongside rivals UNH, which once upon a time made 4 FF (and 2 Finals) appearances in a 6 season stretch towards the end of UMaine's greatest era, and at the ascendancy of the ongoing BC era of dominance. Some teams have tried to step up into that vacuum/void - most notably UMass Lowell in the last two seasons - but at least as of right now, that ascendancy consists of one (1) one-and-out trip to the FF.

Is that the profile of a conference whose members still seem to have the temerity to boast of its so-called supremacy? If there's any doubt as to my answer to that question, let's have a look-see at the list of suspects (excepting the lead dog BC, which pains me beyond words, but facts are facts) and their *accomplishments* over the last decade or so (or longer, if appropriate):

Boston University - yes other than Coach Parker's Last Stand, it's pretty much been a one-and-done for your program before AND since. All despite building the absolute unquestioned state-of-the-art hockey palace that is Agganis Arena to woo top recruits to the other end of Comm Ave. Once upon a time, Coach Parker was the unquestioned leader of the HE pack, but now he is retired, and the program is apparently in a state of suspended animation. A few years ago I'd have classified BU as the "Doc" of HE, but as of now you guys are officially Sleepy.

UMaine - it's been over a decade since Walshy (RIP) made his own valiant last stand, and while Standbrook and Whitehead made it work with Walshy's players for a short time afterwards ... playing in the important games (much less winning those games) has become a lost art for the Black Bears. I honestly do still have much love in my heart for the UMaine-iacs, and I don't think there's a more dedicated bunch of fans in the league. But the downturn of the program, coupled with the harsh day-to-day reality of living in the Downeast, it's hard to blame y'all for being a bit Grumpy.

UNH - kind of a compressed, less-extreme version of the Black Bear experience, which is only because the 'Cats never quite got to the top of the heap, and have receded in a much less pronounced, steadier pattern than some of the really bad seasons up in Orono, which UNH has avoided. But mediocrity is mediocrity, and UNH is basically a .500 team in a conference that's not as strong as it once used to be. UNH's out of conference record to ECAC teams was what kept them out of eking into the D-1 tourney last season, and with the Pampers Brigade on their way to Durham next Fall, it could be a tough year on the horizon. In honor of the program's history of shying away from its biggest moments in the past - arguably repeated in the HE Tourney Finals this March - yup, sad to say that my beloved UNH is Bashful.

UMass Lowell - the new "fair haired boy" and "new kid on the block" at the top of HE the last two seasons, the Riverhawks and their fans are hard to dislike. Extremely well-coached, and with some well-deserved momentum after an eternity of gazing up at their D-2 National Title banners and wondering "when", it seems like UML is on the rise, but at this point they are still newbies on the national scene, having lost in their only FF appearance to date in 2013. Will UML become the next UMaine (coach-driven program wins national hardware - maybe even without an asterisk*?) - will they become the next UNH (in the mix but never quite getting over nationally) - or will they become the next Merrimack (brief burst of hope, suddenly doused in harsh reality)? Regardless, right now the UML program and its fans are Happy.

Providence - right now a step behind UML, beginning to emerge, but with some postseason trends which raise the spectre that your star goalie's lineage may be dragging the program towards a UNH profile on the national stage if/when you ever get back there. I think it's too early to draw long-term conclusions, but as much promise as has come to PC in the aftermath of Coach Leaman's arrival, there is still a LOT of work left to be done to get the program anywhere near a regular HE Tourney top competitor, much less a national one. One also has to at least wonder if PC hired the "wrong" Union coach to lead their program, given last month's outcome. In honor of PC's key role in the founding of the league (thanks Coach Lamoriello, who no doubt learned from Coach Gavitt), that lets me designate the Friars as Doc.

Northeastern - oh, this one is going to be very painful. Has a D-1 hockey program located in a major city ever been more inept and less competitive? You have to go back to the '80's and the founding/pre-founding days of HE to find anything resembling success for the Huntington Hounds. And whenever it does look like things are going the right way, you can bet your bottom dollar that something/someone is going to mess it up. Badly. The campus looks nothing like the urban blight I remember when I worked there on the grounds crew 30+ years ago, and I love (make that LOVE) the fact they still play in Mathews (formerly Boston) Arena, which is still my favorite place in the league. But looking at the schmuck whose coaching your program now, I'm afraid to tell my NU friends your program is definitely Dopey.

Merrimack - a year or two, I would have had you right there with UMass Lowell as Happy. Last year wasn't so good, and despite all of the positive tweaks to the hockey facility, the program still plays in a souped up HS arena, only marginally nicer than UNH's similarly-deplorable HS football field. But the program is still further up the food chain in the past, and you are allowed a "slippage" year here and there. That makes you Happy Jr. and still a non-entity nationally, not helping the argument that HE remains the best D-1 league in the land.

Vermont - still paddling around directionless out on Lake Champlain, yearning for the sustained mediocrity of your neighbors to the east (and Downeast). Burlington may be one of my favorite places on the planet, and some amazing NHL level talent has come through the program in the past (i.e. LeClair, St. Louis, Thomas, and Sharp) without really ever having put the program on the map nationally, except for a rare FF appearance (and zero wins). Most of the "glory days" of the program happened when you were in the ECAC. Throw in the "hippie" reputation that gets tossed around regarding your school and your state, I suddenly have this urge to become Sneezy.

UMass Amherst - it's been more than 20 years since UMA entered the league, and much of the talk (although increasingly less in recent years) has been about how the Minutemen could be the "sleeping giant" of HE. The concept of sleep involves waking up 2/3's of the time to live life. So despite the fact one of the best NHL goalies currently playing is an alum AND has a Stanley Cup ring, the program in Amherst must be called Narcolepsy.

UConn - so many possibilities, but this is a program that can't even manage to be a factor in their last league(s), so we'll just designate the Huskies as Newbie and leave it at that.

Northern Indiana State - why are you guys even here? Does your school president have dyslexia or is he/she just plain illiterate? This is Hockey East, not Hockey Midwest. It was bad enough on the "blowhard subway alums" for the rest of us with BC ... so now the league has doubled-down to get an even more annoying fanbase?? I'll give you guys this much ... your team somehow sucked all of the potential joy out of watching BC lose to a #8 seed in the HE Tourney. I've given them loads of crap in the past about being a wanna-be football school, and likewise you are a wanna-be hockey school. Go back where you came from. You guys are just Incredibly Frickin' Annoying.

So having vented my spleen on this ... someone, convince me how/why HE retains ANY shred of current day supremacy. Besides BC and a potentially emerging UML program, I just see endless mediocrity, and I'm not sure I see any of that changing any time soon. If you're selling, consider me a very cynical "buyer" at this point ... and in the meantime, just remember it's *only* another 5 months left to kill before the season starts up again. :) ;)

Nick Papagiorgio
05-07-2014, 02:03 PM
Who farted?

Patman
05-07-2014, 02:34 PM
Chuck, we're in the party as much as B10 is if not more so. The ECAC is having their run and unlike the Cornell teams they've managed to convert. Lowell not making it two HEA teams in the F4... Well, I think we could handle No Dak and Minny.

Nothing to be alarmed about in general. The ECAC will always be constrained by the academic side of the ledger. The B10 doesn't have any character. We are the league with best players and the most drama head to tail.

At the same time nobody is owed their position. You want to know why Union won a title? Why Merrimack made their recent run? They cleared the decks of a lot of the "problem" people in their management and got coaches to get people to buy in.

Fact you can say as much as you did? We've got the interest and the story lines. We're the most interesting league in hockey, and right now the hardest league trophy to obtain is ours (collective).

----

One thing I've learned. You need people around your program to say "given what I've got, how can we make things better". This is what breeds success. Often it takes a catalyst. But the catalyst can't work without already having material to work with.

I fear becoming a UNH where the corporate attitude is to "settle". If Lowell were like that we wouldn't have varsity hockey right now. At Lowell the staff has had heart, and I don't mean hockey. That turned the students. Eventually it turned the administration.

As much as we knock around BC, they've got it as well. BU I think has stagnated but they can get it back. UNH... Ugh lot of work to do there.

---

Moral of the story, we will be just fine. Though, after Lowell's foray with frozen Fenway I wish we had a commish with his own pair of balls.

Aerman
05-07-2014, 02:50 PM
The thing is, Chuck, HE is not the best because it is particularly good, as you have clearly articulated. It's just that, these days, everybody else is even MORE mediocre (is that an oxymoron?) than HE. If you went through the same exercise with the other conferences, who would rise above?

One of the truisms of parity is that everybody sux.

Nick Papagiorgio
05-07-2014, 03:07 PM
You guys are on the right track. I think taking the approach of "what has Team X in this league accomplished in the past 2 decades" is not the right approach because as we know pretty much know no one other than BC has accomplished much if not for a very rare season from BU and UML. Not that it is necessarily an incorrect assessment when doing that exercise, God knows I've been doing it forever. :D

But really what makes Hockey East so good lately is that even the bad and mediocre teams have risen up and it's a much tougher league to play night in and night out than it used to be. Maine isn't up to their old standards but have been tough to play against with guys like Bishop and Nyquist coming through. Merrimack under Dennehy has gone the route of playing 22-25 year olds and that is never an easy thing to deal with. Lowell has gone the same route under Bazin. UNH has perenially been a good to decent team. Umass is the only real team you could knock and while their record is terrible every year and it is fun to point and laugh at them, they are also much tougher to play against than they used to be under Mallen when they were simply a joke. I got nothing on Vermont, almost forget they were still in Hockey East. Notre Dame doesn't belong here we all know that, but you can bet that is another program that adds great depth. NU is clearly better than when they had Crowder. And PC has obviously grown since getting rid of Pooley (they did have some good years in the early 2000s with him). The past 6-7 years have been solid leagues for Hockey East IMO. BU has had some clunkers but there is still a lot of (wasted) talent there most years.

The rising tide lifts all boats. I think it's just a tougher league lately even with some dropoff at BU, UNH and Maine. Instead of being top heavy with the Big 4 it is now heavy in the gut and the bottom has closed that gap in between as well.

SJHovey
05-07-2014, 04:03 PM
Maybe a decade or so ago, there was some meat on those bones. If anyone was ever going to say it, I don't think it would have been a decade ago, or around 2004.

In my opinion the idea of clear conference supremacy expired with Jerry York's first championship with Bowling Green in 1984. Up until that time the WCHA had won something like 29 of 36 total championships. The WCHA also had an absurd number of 2nd place finishes, something like 20 or 21.

That, coincidentally, is about the time HE started up and the old HE-WCHA interlocking schedule was formed. Parity has reigned ever since.

One conference or another has had brief "runs" where teams from that conference have won the championship multiple times in a handful of years, but I don't believe any conference can claim "superiority" with any sort of credibility.

Yuppie Scum
05-07-2014, 04:10 PM
BC is the evil queen. Benedetto is the huntsman. Todd is the magic mirror (who is the fairest of them all?)

Chuck Murray
05-07-2014, 04:28 PM
Nick, I gotta say that I was two paragraphs into my OP when it dawned on me that this was going to be something that sounded like it was written by a pro-BC poster to tout your program's dominance. After a brief bout with nausea, I nevertheless managed to continue regardless. Anyway, on to your thoughts ...


But really what makes Hockey East so good lately is that even the bad and mediocre teams have risen up and it's a much tougher league to play night in and night out than it used to be.

Define "risen up" please? Last time I checked, BC won the RS title this season in a cakewalk, which probably largely contributed to their snoozefest in the HE QF's to the "greatest 8th seed ever". :rolleyes: A very mediocre UNH squad somehow snagged a #4 seed and made it to the HE Tourney Finals, despite not even qualifying for the D-1 tourney. Northern Indiana, UVM and Providence were all one and done in the D-1 tourney, and Lowell won one game. Only BC made it to the FF but even they lost in the semis. Who has indeed "risen up"?? :confused:


Maine isn't up to their old standards but have been tough to play against with guys like Bishop and Nyquist coming through. Merrimack under Dennehy has gone the route of playing 22-25 year olds and that is never an easy thing to deal with. Lowell has gone the same route under Bazin. UNH has perenially been a good to decent team. Umass is the only real team you could knock and while their record is terrible every year and it is fun to point and laugh at them, they are also much tougher to play against than they used to be under Mallen when they were simply a joke. I got nothing on Vermont, almost forget they were still in Hockey East.

The term "****ed by faint praise" comes to mind here. Lots and lots of mediocrity (with the recent exception of UML). If you really think UMass Amherst has improved, I gotta call your sanity into question. They still ASPIRE to *attain* mediocrity.


Notre Dame doesn't belong here we all know that, but you can bet that is another program that adds great depth. NU is clearly better than when they had Crowder.

You call it "depth", and I call it another layer of mediocrity. As far as NU, once again, as with UMA, I think you are giving the current regime a little too much credit. Crowder had some pretty decent (i.e. mediocre) teams during his time as well.


And PC has obviously grown since getting rid of Pooley (they did have some good years in the early 2000s with him).

At best, the current PC program aspires to be what UNH used to be a decade ago - i.e. making the tourney every year and making it to Boston pretty much every year - only to of course find new and inventive ways to underachieve in the postseason. So far Providence is only showing that last trait. *Maybe* they leapfrog UML this coming season? We'll see. If I had to bet the house on it, my money is on Lowell becoming more of a "UMaine" with consistent postseason success, while I suspect Providence becomes "UNH" and consistently comes up a step short of Lowell (UMaine) with a few exceptions here and there. But Lowell isn't the old "UMaine" yet, nor is Providence even the old "UNH" yet.


The past 6-7 years have been solid leagues for Hockey East IMO. BU has had some clunkers but there is still a lot of (wasted) talent there most years.

The rising tide lifts all boats. I think it's just a tougher league lately even with some dropoff at BU, UNH and Maine. Instead of being top heavy with the Big 4 it is now heavy in the gut and the bottom has closed that gap in between as well.

The problem is, as you pretty much point out above ... there is no "rising tide". Instead of the old "Big 4" there is the "Big One and a Half" (UMass Lowell), and a LOT of wanna-be's and mediocrity bubbling around in the middle of the pack. And truth be told, the teams pulling up the rear look remarkably like they used to as well, even if there is arguably a SLIGHT difference by degrees.

This is NOT to belittle the accomplishments of BC (national hardware speaks for itself), or even UMass Lowell, which deserves more time to see how the Coach Bazin era will play out. Arguably that's ditto for Coach Leaman and Providence, although it's hard to put them on the same level as Lowell when UML is winning HE hardware and making a national impression, and PC has yet to do either.

I will say it's interesting though (and somewhat understandable) that BC and UML fans are the ones primarily vouching for the "depth" argument in favor of HE still being the premier D-1 conference. :) :)

Split-N
05-07-2014, 04:30 PM
First of all, props to Yale, Union, and for that matter, ever other program that has ever won a national championship. But using NC winners as a measure of so-called conference superiority seems kind of narrow to me. A better gauge might be conference record against other conferences and how many conference members made it to the NCAA Regionals. By these measures, NEA looks pretty good: 75-45-15 against other conferences and five teams in the Regionals vs three each for the NCHC and ECAC, two for the B1G, and one for the ATL. I'm not going to claim conference superiority based on that but it seems to be something of an indicator.

And BTW, "Dopey" (AKA the schmuck) in the fractured fairy tale that started off this thread somehow managed to win 19 games although everyone who claimed to know anything picked his team dead last. Notwithstanding last year's poor finish, don't be surprised if Dopey morphs into the handsome prince.

Nick Papagiorgio
05-07-2014, 04:33 PM
First of all, props to Yale, Union, and for that matter, ever other program that has ever won a national championship. But using NC winners as a measure of so-called conference superiority seems kind of narrow to me. A better gauge might be conference record against other conferences and how many conference members made it to the NCAA Regionals. By these measures, NEA looks pretty good: 75-45-15 against other conferences and five teams in the Regionals vs three each for the NCHC and ECAC, two for the B1G, and one for the ATL. I'm not going to claim conference superiority based on that but it seems to be something of an indicator.

And BTW, "Dopey" (AKA the schmuck) in the fractured fairy tale that started off this thread somehow managed to win 19 games although everyone who claimed to know anything picked his team dead last. Notwithstanding last year's poor finish, don't be surprised if Dopey morphs into the handsome prince.

Ha... yea Northeastern is just a powerhouse waiting to happen.

Chuck Murray
05-07-2014, 04:50 PM
And BTW, "Dopey" (AKA the schmuck) in the fractured fairy tale that started off this thread somehow managed to win 19 games although everyone who claimed to know anything picked his team dead last. Notwithstanding last year's poor finish, don't be surprised if Dopey morphs into the handsome prince.

"So Mrs. Lincoln ... other than that messy shooting thingie, how did you enjoy the play??" :rolleyes:

I won't be surprised, I promise. I'll be downright shocked. :eek: I've seen this movie before.

Trust me, I'd love nothing better than to see NU become THE team in Boston, but it just never seems to happen ...

Patman
05-07-2014, 04:59 PM
Chuck, the problem in that case is that some programs have squandered the talent given to them... Namely bu, Maine, and UNH. You know this to be true. BU won a national title in that stretch but I have to imagine to a man they believe they ought to be doing better.

If it weren't for that stuff we wouldn't be having this conversation. Those schools have had the parts, they haven't had the culture or coaching to make it work recently. I'd love to see what Bazin could do with that level of talent.

Chuck Murray
05-07-2014, 07:17 PM
Chuck, the problem in that case is that some programs have squandered the talent given to them... Namely bu, Maine, and UNH. You know this to be true. BU won a national title in that stretch but I have to imagine to a man they believe they ought to be doing better.

If it weren't for that stuff we wouldn't be having this conversation. Those schools have had the parts, they haven't had the culture or coaching to make it work recently. I'd love to see what Bazin could do with that level of talent.

I'm not going to disagree with you that certain programs have "squandered" talent. Then again, you'd be challenged to come up with a nearby program that's squandered more talent than Harvard (ECAC). I'm not sure the question is whether HE is the most talented D-1 conference, as opposed to fielding the best slate of teams competing at the highest level.

As far as your wish for Coach Bazin ... rest assured, if Lowell keeps winning, the enhanced talent will find him.

cavbim
05-07-2014, 07:18 PM
Northern Indiana, UVM and Providence were all one and done in the D-1 tourney, and Lowell won one game. Only BC made it to the FF but even they lost in the semis. Who has indeed "risen up"?? :)

The Providence opening round game I watched ended with PC wiping the Bridgeport ice with Qpac, not sure what game you watched.

Chuck Murray
05-07-2014, 07:27 PM
The Providence opening round game I watched ended with PC wiping the Bridgeport ice with Qpac, not sure what game you watched.

Yeah, a friend pointed that out off-line to me a couple of hours ago. Where was he in my true hour of need? :mad: :o

At least you guys have the UNH "We're really good at almost making it to the FF" thing coming into focus now. :)

J.D.
05-07-2014, 07:53 PM
boring day at work, chuck? ;)

UncleRay
05-07-2014, 09:44 PM
boring day at work, chuck? ;)I think somebody pizzed in his Corn Flakes.

scoreboard
05-07-2014, 10:54 PM
boring day at work, chuck? ;)

Agreed, I usually like what he posts. This thread came out of no where. Hockey East as a group has nothing to be ashamed of. Like our country's borders, nobody is looking to leave and if the opportunity came up plenty would like to join.

Chuck Murray
05-08-2014, 07:53 AM
Hockey East as a group has nothing to be ashamed of. Like our country's borders, nobody is looking to leave and if the opportunity came up plenty would like to join.

OK I call BS. :D Putting aside the pseudo D-1 schools competing in Atlantic Hockey ... name one? :confused:

and yeah, yesterday was kinda boring :o

claver2010
05-08-2014, 08:14 AM
But really what makes Hockey East so good lately is that even the bad and mediocre teams have risen up and it's a much tougher league to play night in and night out than it used to be.


You guys have different definitions of good/quality.

One of the changes is any team can beat any team anywhere in this conference. Well except Merrimack at Conte, the last time that happened the players on Merrimack's roster were only 15.

I agree with Chuck it's really only BC & the last 2 years UML, though 2013 was an extremely weak year banners hang forever (and if you're UML 10 banners restating the same accomplishment), competing on the national stage.

Maybe Quinn will have BU back but having talent was never the issue down the street.

Maine & UNH are perpetually meh middle of the conference, maybe make the tournament but not really challenge for the FF.

UMass is miserable and they are the team I least enjoy coming to Conte, I wish HE contracted them.