NHL All-Star shakeup, Brad Marchand, hurting NCAA hockey (Wednesday Countdown)

Ryan Lambert
NHL All-Star shakeup, Brad Marchand, hurting NCAA hockey (Wednesday Countdown)

9. Making your product worse

Yesterday, the Big Ten Hockey Conference announced a rule change proposal that would limit the age at which you can be a freshman playing college hockey and keep all four years of eligibility to just 20 years old.

While that sounds reasonable on the surface, you have to understand that many college hockey players are 20- but often 21- and even 22-year old freshmen, simply because it's really hard to be impactful at this level as an 18- or 19-year old. You're playing against guys that are a lot more physically mature, so unless you're Jack Eichel or Dylan Larkin, you're not blowing anyone's doors off as a freshman.

But here's the interesting thing: The Big Ten did this without checking with anyone else in college hockey. The vast, vast majority of coaches are very opposed to such a rule because they understand it would give “big name” programs with much better funding a significant edge over everyone else, who would then be fighting for scraps. By the most unbelievably and incredibly amazing of coincidences, all the Big Ten programs are big-name programs with much better funding.

But if you're thinking, “Hey, I'm sure they have a really good reason for doing that!” You're right. They do. It's because the Big Ten is routinely embarrassed by almost every other conference in the country, and has been for three years.

NCAA
NCAA

Yeah I'd want to push through legislation that makes it easier for me to not humiliate my school when we lose to Vermont-level programs every weekend too.

"What is the problem? What is your issue? You don't want to recruit those kids, then don't recruit them," Northern Michigan coach Walt Kyle told College Hockey News. "It's a joke. Number one, these kids graduate. They have a higher graduation rate than the younger kids. Number two, what business do we have to restrict the age of who can and cannot play? We all know junior hockey has become a big component in the development of hockey players and kids want to stay in it for different reasons, and they go into college for different reasons. ... (They are) better prepared to go to college for their experiences. I think those kids do nothing but benefit our game."

Not if you're the Big Ten, though, because your program recruited a bunch of 18-year-olds who get punked out by Western Michigan, then leave school early. Boo hoo hoo.

It's hard to say exactly how many kids who are currently playing college hockey would be affected by this change, but suffice it to say it's a not-insignificant portion. That, in turn, allows teams with better on-paper talent — think BU, Minnesota, North Dakota — to dominate everyone else to a ludicrous extent, because they're playing a lot more 19-year-old guys who by current standards aren't ready for college until 21 or so.

If you're forcing more players into a development level before they're “ready” for it, the on-ice product suffers. As does the quality of competition against which top kids play. Which maybe leads Eichels and Larkins to play major junior instead.

Yup, great idea.

8. The Nashville offense

It was just last week that David Poile told our own dear leader Greg Wyshynski that while the Predators are set in goal and on the blue line, a forward is clearly the “missing piece” on a team that looks pretty damn good. Here on Wednesday, we can see how badly that need is felt.

The Preds have as many goals as you do in their last three games. In fact, they haven't scored since early in the second period on Nov. 17, which was more than a week ago at this point.

The good news is they're dealing from a position of almost-unfair depth if they need to move a defenseman to make a trade, and there are probably some good players on expiring deals to be had from bad teams after Thanksgiving. And hey, Thanksgiving is tomorrow.

Hey, speaking of teams with forwards to give away...

7. The Flyers' lines

Look we all know it's easy to get desperate when things go sideways, but good lord:

Flyers
Flyers

We've all heard of lines in a blender, but this is lines in blender set to puree, and also the thing you're blending is vomit or something? Jake Voracek with Bellemare and VandeVelde; I know he's not playing well, but did he run over Hakstol's dog too?

Not that anyone is going to be clamoring for most of the guys the Flyers would want to give up, but maybe you take a flier (haha) on Sam Gagner, Brayden Schenn, or Michael Raffl, all of whom are up for new deals next season, and with whom Philly might be willing to part if you offer up a decent defenseman or two.

6. “I NEED A VACATION!”

Next year the NHL will have five-day bye weeks for every team in either January or February. Because you know what people don't talk about enough? How fun it was to cram all those games in before and after the league took a month off for the Olympics.

Now, it won't be the whole league doing it, but instead just individual teams, and only for five days. This is presumably being done in part because the NHL isn't counting money from the World Cup as hockey-related revenue, which is still hilarious.

The cool thing about this is I bet no players get in trouble at all without having to even practice for five days in the middle of the season.

5. Cocaine testing

On a totally unrelated note, the NHL is reportedly launching cocaine testing as part of its normal drug screening later this season. They want to make sure Dave Hakstol is the only one with undesirable lines.

4. The All-Star Game format

I wrote about it last week but I'm really psyched to see this. However, the Central is absolutely going to rip everyone else's heads off so that's not going to be so fun.

The big question for me, though, is what they do to replace the All-Star Draft. There are very few things the league liked less than its players being entertaining. I mean drunk.

Some proposed alternative contests for Friday night entertainment:

-- Three-legged races on skates
-- Best “incredulity at being asked a 'talk about' non-question” face
-- Stickhandling in a phone booth
-- Trying not to be creeped out by how close to you Pierre McGuire is standing
-- Who can go the longest without privately complaining about escrow?
-- Getting drunk on national television and having fun with your friends

No wait don't do that last one.

3. Really hoping for Seattle

Love the idea that the NHL might be delaying the expansion process because man it really doesn't want to give a team to Quebec. That's hilarious.

They don't want a team, guys. Stop trying to make them have an NHL team. And also don't expand, because we don't have 24 actual good teams yet, let alone 30.

2. Brad Marchand

Remember when Claude Julien, desperate to make a change that would jump-start his team after a three-game losing streak (albeit games hosting Dallas, at Washington, and at Montreal — not exactly easy) broke up the potent pairing of Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.

He kept them apart for the majority of a four-game stretch in which the Bruins went 2-2-0 but allowed 10 goals, which is too many. Then he put them back together and hey good golly what do you know, the Bruins are winners of three straight, conceding just five times and scoring nine.

He broke them up because the third line sucked — which makes total sense let me tell you! — and he figured that having one fewer dominant line would help I guess?

The sudden realization that keeping together a tandem which has, for years, been among the league's absolute very best is why Claude Julien is himself among the best in the league.

1. Being interviewed by your dad

Landon Ferraro is lucky he didn't get asked if he needs help with anything around the house.

“Good luck in the third, and let me know if you need me to come over and look at the furnace. Maybe give your mom a call this week.”

(Not ranked this week: Patrick Roy.

Now he's blaming Semyon Varlamov for why the team isn't good? Man, must be nice.)

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

(All statistics via War On Ice unless otherwise noted.)