Thursday, September 22, 2011

College Hockey News Releases Preseason Rankings; Champs Not in Top Ten

We're going inside of ten days until the UMD Bulldogs play their first game of the 2011-12 season, an exhibition against the mighty Lakehead Thunderwolves of Thunder Bay.

It's about time that we see some preseason polls from the various sources of college hockey coverage. First to the plate is College Hockey News, which released a preseason top ten Wednesday.

In defense of CHN, managing editor Adam Wodon tells us this isn't really meant to look like a poll. It's one guy's opinion. Not only that, but the design is to try to look ahead at what the rankings will look like when it's all said and done.

That said, here are the rankings the site published.

1. Miami
2. Boston University
3. Notre Dame
4. Colorado College
5. Boston College
6. North Dakota
7. Denver
8. Western Michigan
9. Michigan
10. Yale

Also listed were some "teams to watch," a list that included UMD, Nebraska-Omaha, Lake Superior State, Holy Cross, Union, and Maine, in no particular order.

You might expect that a UMD guy would hate these rankings and think there's something seriously wrong with any poll that doesn't rank the defending champions No. 1, but that's not going to happen here.

I've said this before ... when you are handed a ballot and asked to vote on a top ten, you're picking the ten best teams right now. Not the ten best teams last season. Or, more specifically in UMD's case, the ten best teams last April.

(That's not a shot. It's reality. I saw every game UMD played last season. I'm probably the only person outside of the UMD players and staff who can say that, because not even our beloved newspaper guy was allowed to go to every game. And if you think UMD was the best team in the country from start to finish, you're crazy. That's not what the NCAA Tournament is meant to decide, or what it was ever meant to decide. Boston University in 2009 is a rare example of a team that was probably best in the country from October to April. Unless you're one of those who thinks that Miami and Bemidji State were among the four best in the country that year. It's antiquated and -- in my opinion -- backwards thinking.)

You could argue it's kind of silly to not have UMD in the top ten, but not many teams can claim to have lost the best (or one of the best, depending on your opinion) overall player (Mike Connolly), one of its top 20 all-time point producers (Justin Fontaine), a three-year mainstay on defense (Mike Montgomery), and a defenseman who developed into a force in just one year (Justin Faulk).

It's not insane to say that UMD isn't a top ten team. What's insane is blindly marking UMD No. 1 on a ballot without thinking about the attrition, or what other teams who were pretty good last season have coming back for this year.

Many fans will take this as a sign of disrespect. It's hard for me to see it that way.

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