October 22, 2009
During this year’s National Ringette League season, we will be bringing you a bi-weekly (or close to it) overview of the past weekend’s games and events around the league. Since Peter King of www.si.com has pretty much perfected the post weekend wrap up (for the NFL) we are going to use his format, hopefully without too much objection from him. So, for this week, here goes:
1. I think that trades are going to happen more often this year. The salary caps in the "big 3" leagues have made trades for performance nearly obsolete – it is always a contract for a contract. But not in the NRL. Teams are using the trade as a way to improve their teams and get more playing time for their players by moving a "surplus" player at one position to acquire a needed player. This week, Gatineau and Gloucester completed a straight up ringette trade. Gatineau moved goalkeeper Erin Walker to the Devils in exchange for defender Claudie Carpentier. Both players played this weekend for their new teams, making a contribution right away and helping to fill a need right away. This is the way trades are supposed to work, so we should expect to see more of them.
2. I think that changing the schedule may be the most important change for Fraser Valley this year. OK, who am I kidding? Of course, adding Jennifer Wakefield is the biggest change for the Avalanche (that and a new name, new logo, new coach, and new location!) but another big change is the schedule format in the west this year. Last season the then-BC Reign played only a handful of games in super natural British Columbia. This year they get a full slate at home, and they also play manageable schedules on the road. This past weekend they were right with the Edmonton WAM! for two games before falling 8-0 in game 3 of the series. The third game on the road is a tough way to go, but last season game #3 on the weekend was often only the halfway point, so BC was often playing three more games after running out of gas. This year, they can learn to deal with game #3 knowing that it is the end of the road not the midway marker.
3. I think that coaching is going to matter this year. Sure, players win and lose games, there is no question of that. But watching the Ottawa Ice utterly frustrate the Montreal Mission this past weekend showed that their coach, Lyndsay Wheelans had them ready to play, ready to match up with the powerful Mission. Watch for this as many coaches are getting settled into the league, and many teams are deploying new head coaches who will inevitably need some time to get used the level of play in the NRL.
4. I think that having an off-game will be costly this year. I mean this in more ways than one. In one sense, good teams will not be able to coast against teams lower in the standings, because if they do, they will find themselves the second best team for the day. But also, it means that dropping a game in November may end up costing you a trip to the national championship in Saskatoon. Two points are two points and teams can ill afford to give up any of them this year.
5. I think that you have to score to win in this league. This past weekend, the teams averaged 11 goals per game and the winning teams averaged eight goals. 1-0 grinding affairs are not likely to be too common this year – you will have to score to win in the NRL.
6. I think that the more you score, the more your goalie matters. Only two goalies have a save percentage above .900 after one weekend, but given the amount of goals it may not be the amount of saves the goalie makes, but when she makes them. Key saves at big times will make or break games in the high-flying NRL.
7. I think that an NRL with Alexis Snowdon in it is better than an NRL without her. Alexis Snowdon notched two assists this past weekend in her return to the NRL after a couple of years away. Be it her uncommon command of the defensive zone or her booming voice, leading the way on the breakout, the NRL is more fun with Alexis around!
8. I think that the U19 program will be important this season. This summer, Ringette Canada sent Team Canada East and West to the World Juniors. This fall, the alumni from those programs are already having an impact in the league. Alison Biewald is leading the Gloucester Devils in scoring and Jayme Simzer scored four goals in Ottawa’s upset of Montreal.
9. I think that the bye will lead to motivation, not complacency in Saskatoon. The Saskatoon Wild are already in the national championship tournament, but they would very much love to get there through the standings rather than as the host. Last year, they missed the tournament, for the second year in a row, on the last day of the season. Head Coach Dwayne Andreen wants to take the team to the next level and Saskatoon is in a good spot to make a real run at the playoffs in the Western Conference.
10. I think these are my non-NRL thoughts this week:
a. I think that if you are missing out on Twitter you are really missing out. Follow @ringettecanada, @redringette and @kc77 to get yourself started!
b. I think that in a tough economy people are still making ringette a part of their lives. We know that this is tougher for a lot of families and we are incredibly glad to have you in our ringette families.
c. I think that some families have had to cut ringette to make ends meet. I can’t wait for you to get back on your feet and you will be more than welcome when you are able to get back on the ice again.
d. I think that it is great to be back on the ice again!