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January 7, 2011 E-MAIL PRINT Bookmark and Share

Between the Lines

Dylan Olsen; Yale and KRACH; World Juniors Wrap

by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor

Dylan Olsen helped Team Canada defeat Team USA in the World Junior semifinals Monday, but that's not the reason why his name is 'mud' in Duluth.

Olsen, like Kyle Okposo did to Minnesota three years ago, decided to leave in mid-season to sign with the NHL team that drafted him, Chicago. The sophomore was a key part of Duluth's early-season success, and will be sorely missed.

Unlike Okposo, however, Olsen left entirely on his own accord, and it appears he would've been academically ineligible anyway, though who can say whether he got that way because he simply stopped caring long ago. In fact, he cornered Chicago, by telling team officials he would only leave if they would sign him to a pro deal. In other words, he didn't want to go to juniors or Europe.

The real problem, however, is that Olsen signed his deal without informing Minnesota-Duluth's coaching staff. The only way coach Scott Sandelin found out was through Chicago officials — which include former UMD standout defenseman Norm Maciver.

Olsen was even ducking media at the World Juniors. The way things work there, locker rooms are not open. Requests are made by the media to speak to players, a list is compiled, and then IIHF and team officials bring the players out to an interview area after the game. In my three days at the World Juniors, none of these requests were denied, and every player showed up ... except Olsen. Perhaps he saw "requested by College Hockey News" on the list, and realized he was going to have to face the music.

Meanwhile, UMD teammate Justin Faulk was there for Team USA. He also said he heard indirectly, from Bulldogs coach Derek Plante, and not from Olsen himself, even though they must have crossed paths numerous times. Faulk finally tracked Olsen down and talked to him, and Faulk said the two spoke and things were fine between them.

This is not an Okposo situation, where the Islanders could have tried harder to prevent him leaving mid-season. No, this one is entirely upon Olsen.

Yale No. 1?

Yale is currently in the top spot in both the Pairwise — the system the NCAA uses to pick and seed teams for the NCAA tournament — and KRACH — the alternative computer ranking method that CHN, among others, publishes.

Predictably, fans of other teams, especially many WCHA ones, are crying foul, unable to understand how a team like Yale, with a "weak" ECAC schedule in their minds, can be in such a position.

We hear the same nonsense any time an ECAC team is in this position, so it's just noise at this point. What people fail to understand is that KRACH, especially, takes into account strength of schedule, obviously. So it's already factored in.

What completely untrue is that KRACH is just as "arbitrary" as the Pairwise. This is wrong. There is absolutely nothing arbitrary about KRACH. KRACH is a pure mathematical model that exists to precisely describe the results that have already taken place.

Note — I said, "already taken place." KRACH doesn't predict anything, any more than anything could. But as a reproduction of what's already taken place, it's wholly 100 percent pure.

True, it doesn't factor in home/road (though a home/road KRACH version exists, called KASA, created by our own John Whelan), or perhaps other factors — but that, by definition, is making other things arbitrary.

To say KRACH is just as arbitrary as anything else, is to misunderstand it. From our FAQ:

In other words, if you took one team's schedule to date, and played a theoretical "game" for each game already actually played, using the KRACH ratings themselves in order to predict the winner, then the end result would be a theoretical won-loss percentage that matches the team's actual won-loss percentage. Pretty cool.

It is not possible to do any better than that with a completely objective method. Any other method would introduce arbitrary-ness and/or subjectivity.

Which is not to say it's a perfect way to choose an NCAA tournament. There are very good arguments to be made for using other factors — such as "record down the stretch," or record head to head against other teams. CHN endorses KRACH as a replacement for the RPI, not necessarily for the process as a whole. In fact, myself and Mr. Whelan, years ago, wrote a paper outlining the various possibilities for a KRACH-powered Pairwise.

We've stopped barking a lot about it, because there doesn't appear to be momentum anymore to change it. And the Pairwise is pretty close to KRACH anyway.

But KRACH is not arbitrary, and Yale's No. 1 ranking — right now, given the results to this point — has been earned.

World Juniors

Another World Junior Championship has come and gone, and while Team USA failed to defend on a gold medal on home ice for the second time in six years, it did win a bronze — meaning it's won back-to-back medals for the first time in the tournament's history.

The World Junior tournament continues to be the most under-appreciated hockey spectacle in the United States. As I've written about for years, even among hockey die hard — and there are plenty in Buffalo — the tournament is barely recognized.

Clearly a lot of Canadian fans were going to make the short trek across the border to Buffalo (though watching them all run out after a game, hoping to get to the Customs line and avoid waiting hours at the border, was entertaining) — but that shouldn't have precluded more Americans from attending the event.

There's really no use getting all worked up about it anymore. It's been long determined that this tournament will be this way. If one day it gets more interest, great. In the mean time, we can only continute to say that it's a shame.

On the other hand, another thing that has continued, and that I'll continue to rail about, is the vitriolic booing of Team USA by Canadian fans. It's not just wrong, it's an unmitigated disgrace.

I don't want to hear that this is about George Bush's politics; this has gone on since the 1996 World Cup, when the U.S. went up to Montreal and beat the Canadians in a major tournament for the first time ever.

And I don't want to hear that this is just about hockey now, because the U.S. is a true contender in everything these days, and fans are just booing the "hockey enemy"; no, these boos seem a lot more passionate and personal than that.

And I don't want to hear that it's just a few; no, it's the large majority of the crowd.

I spent my entire childhood and young adulthood passionately, vehemently, rooting for Canada in international play — particularly, of course, against the Soviet Union. The 1987 Canada Cup — a best-of-3 series win by Canada over the Soviets — stands, to me, as the greatest three consecutive hockey games I've ever seen. Obviously, we hated the Soviets because they were good and because of their politics. They were the Evil Empire, for real. And Canada represented, essentially, the NHL — and, thus, were representing any die hard hockey fan North America.

Whatever "issues" Canada has with the U.S. should have nothing to do with U.S. hockey fans or players. To conflate the two, if that's indeed what is happening, is ignorant.

I — like most other hockey fans in the U.S. — grew up revering and admiring Canada, learning its national anthem by heart, treating Molsons like Dom Perigon.

To be treated in this manner by Canadian hockey fans now ... well, I'll repeat, it's nothing less than a disgrace. There is no reason Canadian fans have to boo — particularly in a game they're not playing in, and particularly watching the U.S. play Russia.

The passion is fantastic, on both sides, and it shouldn't change. But there is no reason why that has to include the booing. I never thought I'd ever do this, but I rooted hard for Russia in the final.

Etc...

While those Canadians are booing — maybe they should check out this list of college players in the NHL, and remember that those schools are in the U.S.

Does anyone really believe all those dead birds had heart attacks because they were scared of fireworks?

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