August 12, 2010 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Between the Lines: The Tipping Point?

College Hockey Continues to Bleed Talent

by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor

Frankly, the whole thing borders on the ridiculous right now.

Ever since the NHL's new Collective Bargaining Agreement was signed five years ago, it's been bad. But have we reached a tipping point of pure chaos?

We are well over 30 players who have left school this summer to sign pro deals. That is a record. I didn't think there were that many more players left to leave, since so many left early in previous years. But it means two things: a) college hockey keeps bringing in good players; and b) the NHL teams are stretching farther and farther to pluck them away.

That figure doesn't even include the players who have bailed out on commitments. Last year, it was Jack Campbell and Cam Fowler.

Now we have Jarred Tinordi, a first-round NHL Draft pick this June. He was headed to Notre Dame. What do these players all have in common? They all helped Team USA win a gold medal at the World Juniors last winter.

In addition to Tinordi, the ECAC lost two key sophomores-to-be in Jerry D'Amigo (RPI) and Louis Leblanc (Harvard). No one is immune from this.

USA Hockey is in great shape. NCAA hockey is not.

Although you can make an argument that NCAA hockey is still a far better product than 20 years ago. And that is true. A victim of its own success, if you will.

But the constant turnover is both frustrating, and chaotic. Among other things, it's too late for coaches to give scholarships to anyone else.

Unfortunately, I can keep writing this until I'm blue in the face (I think I already am) and it won't make a difference. We're preaching to the converted, and the kids aren't listening.

But, I'll say it again — for poops and giggles ....

These kids are doing the wrong thing. Not only is it morally wrong this late in the game, but they are being sucked into a Major Junior system that is not going to be more beneficial to them than college hockey.

It appeared the conventional wisdom of major junior's superiority had gone by the wayside, considering all of college hockey's growth and successes in the last 20 years. But thanks to rule changes and a lot of marketing and gimmickry by the CHL, the thought process is going the other way again. Never mind that the thought process is wrong.

Kids like D'Amigo and Leblanc are great kids — most all of them are — but they are woefully misguided and have a short-term mentality. They are not going to be better players for leaving, they are not going to make the NHL faster, and they are not going to get their education.

Any claims to the contrary, frankly, are poppycock. All of the factual evidence bears this out.

But the bloodletting continues, and shows now sign of abating.

It's time for the NHL to do the right thing. It must implement a rule that most other sports have, and give college hockey the kind of protection that most other developmental leagues have. There should be a cutoff date for signings — something like July 1, or whatever — and players who are signed must play in the NHL, not the AHL and certainly not major junior.

I'm not holding my breath for this to happen soon. No college hockey representatives were even invited to the recent World Hockey Summit in Toronto, a series of panel discussions about the state of the game.

But this farce has to end.

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