March 22, 2006 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Gwozdecky: 'No Problem' With the Process

Denver Coach Believes System Worked as it Should Despite His Team's Absence from NCAAs

by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor

There has been little complaint from Denver about not making the NCAAs, and we can consider that progress.

That may surprise some people, especially some fans of other WCHA teams who were filling the blab-o-sphere to proclaim "travesty" on Denver's behalf. After all, they say, shouldn't the WCHA's second-place team deserve a bid?

But George Gwozdecky doesn't agree.

"We knew where we sat, at least when the Pairwise first came out in early January," said the Denver coach. "And we knew we had to do an awful lot of work to put ourselves back in contention. And we were able to do that, and we moved up quite a few notches.

"We controlled our own destiny and, unfortunately, we weren't able to get past that first round (of the WCHA playoffs).

"Am I disappointed for us? Absolutely. Am I disappointed in the process? No. I thought the process worked fine."

Denver has a very good subjective case for making it, but being in second place in the WCHA is not the reason. College hockey's system weights the season as an entire entity. What you do near the end of the season, and what you do in league games, are not weighted more. Whether that's more desireable or not is up to debate, but again, everyone knows the rules.

The problems with the Pairwise have been well-documented, including in our NCAA Tournament Primer. And the tool that we tout as a replacement, KRACH, would have put Denver into the tournament.

But the good thing about the Pairwise — or any objective, transparent system, for that matter — is that teams more or less know in advance what they need to do to get into the tournament. And Denver has no one to blame but itself for losing at home twice to Minnesota-Duluth in the first round of the playoffs.

"I recall prior to this whole objective Pairwise/RPI thing, it used to be just the committee getting together and deciding who the at-large bids were, and how absurd some of the decision were made and how little informed some of the committee members were," said Gwozdecky.

"They were going on hearsay (often) and it was a crime how certain teams were left out. And I remember how this whole process was changed, and how supportive I was — to really give the committee a much more objective tool to use in order to select the top 16. And I still remain a great proponent of that."

Denver was 10th in KRACH, the more sophisticated ranking formula that wipes away all of the Pairwise/RPI flaws. Some don't like KRACH because they say it overweights the WCHA. Perhaps the WCHA just really is that good. Perhaps the WCHA is currently under-represented in the Pairwise. Of course, the bigger issue is that the sample size of non-conference games is too small. But that's not KRACH's fault.

Interestingly, it's not Nebraska-Omaha that would've been replaced under KRACH, it's Cornell and New Hampshire — with St. Cloud making the tournament as well.

But can hockey ever move to KRACH? The NCAA and the committee would suggest no if you listened to them recently. But what if this year's nightmare scenario materialized, and Holy Cross lost to Bentley in the Atlantic Hockey final? That would've sent Holy Cross rocketing UP the Pairwise list.

"That probably would've caused many of us to say, 'We have to re-examine this,'" Gwozdecky said. "Nothing against Holy Cross or Bentley, but that type of scenario would've raised red flags."

Rick Comley, Michigan State's coach, made a good point to the Lansing State Journal, too:

"The league's got four, and around the country, there probably will be some second-guessing," Comley said. "Somebody told me last night (UNO's) best win of the year was against Holy Cross. That that was the most important win they had."

So, if we agree that the current system is much better than most alternatives, but that KRACH would be even better, what would it take to change it?

"We're hockey coaches, we're not mathematicians," Gwozdecky said. "But as time goes on, there are more and more coaches and assistant coaches who are getting more and more familiar with the formula and are able to predict what's going to happen. But it's taken a number of years to feel at least comfortable with what's going on.

"Now, if the coaches can be convinced that there's a better formula or more accurate formula, then it would make sense to review it and examine it. ... I know KRACH has been at least suggested in the past. ... Remember, RPI was completely foreign at one time. People said, 'What the heck are we doing going from what coaches should know to a formula that who knows what the heck it will do?' It just depends on the amount of people who would really like to review it and examine it."

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