Notre Dame Fighting Irish

College hockey: Notre Dame set to join Hockey East in 2013-2014


College hockey’s ever-changing landscape this summer had another shoe fall today as Notre Dame announced they’ll be leaving the CCHA and joining Hockey East starting in the 2013-2014 season.

Notre Dame’s move doesn’t come as a surprise as the CCHA was losing schools in 2013-2014 thanks to the development of both the Big Ten Hockey Conference and the National Collegiate Hockey Conference in that season. Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Miami University, and Western Michigan are all headed for new homes in those conferences while Bowling Green will be going to the rebuilt WCHA.

The NCHC announced the other day that they would be starting their season in 2013 with just eight teams and not expanding any further, shutting the door on the Fighting Irish. Hockey East was also in pursuit of Notre Dame and won out. The payoff for Hockey East is that Notre Dame will be arriving with a television deal in place with NBC Sports Network to carry Notre Dame home games beginning in that season. Getting a national television deal in college hockey is a game-changer as there’s not much in the way of national cable TV coverage for the sport (ESPN and CBS College Sports also have smaller deals). Notre Dame being able to bring the NBC name to college hockey helps in a big way.

Hockey East is now set to have 11 teams starting in the 2013-2014 season. A conference with an odd number of teams is rare (the CCHA is currently at 11) which means that Hockey East is likely on the prowl for a 12th team. There are a number of candidates ranging from Rensselaer and Quinnipiac in the ECAC to Connecticut, Holy Cross, and Robert Morris in the Atlantic Hockey Association. For more thoughts on that, Rensselaer hockey fan blog Without A Peer has that discussion covered.

For now, Notre Dame joining Hockey East is the last huge move to be made after seeing the carnage that’s happened this offseason. Notre Dame with coach Jeff Jackson brings a lot of clout to an already loaded conference and bringing the national stage courtesy of NBC Sports Network helps make Hockey East perhaps the preeminent college hockey conference starting in 20

DiMaio named Blues’ director of player personnel

via St. Louis Blues
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The St. Louis Blues named Rob DiMaio their director of player personnel on Tuesday.

He’s been with the organization for some time. He joined as a pro scout in 2008 and was the pro scouting director starting in August 2012.

He was also a scout for the Dallas Stars before landing with the Blues (one would assume his biggest connection is GM Doug Armstrong, then).

In case his nose didn’t give it away, he also enjoyed a lengthy hockey career over 19 seasons.

No doubt about it, this is a pivotal season for the Blues after multiple campaigns in which strong regular seasons dissolved into playoff disappointments. Perhaps DiMaio can make a difference in a heightened role?

Hitchcock going to more aggressive attack for Blues

Ken Hitchcock

ST. LOUIS (AP) After three straight first-round playoff exits, the St. Louis Blues have learned to temper expectations.

They have been consistently among the NHL’s best in the regular season and realize it is past time to build something for the long haul. The sting still lingers from the latest failure, against the Minnesota Wild last spring.

“We’re all disappointed, everybody can agree on that,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “It’s never easy to kind of think about your failures, but we grow every time it happens.”

Management isn’t ready to tear it all down yet.

“We play, in my opinion, one of the toughest if not the toughest division in the NHL, and we’ve finished first or second in the last four years,” forward Alexander Steen said. “So we have an extremely powerful team.”

Maybe a change in strategy will be enough: Coach Ken Hitchcock is back with a mandate for a more aggressive, even reckless, style of play from a roster that hasn’t changed appreciably.

“We’re coming hard from the back and we’re coming hard to see how close we can get to the attack,” Hitchcock said. “I think it’s where the game’s at; I think it’s where the game’s going to go.”

The 63-year-old Hitchcock is pushing forward, too, unwilling to dwell on the flameouts. Coach and players agree that would be “wasted energy.”

“My opinion is when you sit and think about the past, you do yourself no good,” Hitchcock said. “If you learn from the past, that’s when you do yourself a whole bunch of good.”

There were only two major roster casualties. Forward Troy Brouwer came from Washington in a trade for fan favorite T.J. Oshie. Defenseman Barret Jackman, the franchise career leader in games, wasn’t re-signed.

“If you were expecting 23 new faces to be on the roster this year, I don’t think that was realistic,” captain David Backes said. “We’re going to miss those guys in the room and on the ice, but there has been some changeover and I think it’s pretty significant.”

Things to watch for with the Blues:

GOALIE SHUFFLE: Just like last year, there’s no true No. 1 with Brian Elliott and Jake Allen sharing duties. The 25-year-old Allen missed a chance to seize the job last spring when he failed to raise his level in the playoffs.

TOP THREAT: Vladimir Tarasenko had a breakout season with 37 goals and was rewarded with an eight-year, $60 million contract. The 23-year-old winger is by far the Blues’ most dangerous scoring option and said he won’t let the money affect his play. “I never worry about it,” Tarasenko said. “If you play good, you play good.”

NEW FACES: Brouwer and center Kyle Brodziak add a physical element that was perhaps lacking a bit last season. Brouwer has three 20-plus goal seasons and Brodziak, acquired from Minnesota, fills a checking role. Veteran forward Scottie Upshall got a one-year, two-way deal after being coming to camp as a tryout. Rookie forward Robby Fabbri, a first-round pick last year, will get an early look. Another promising youngster, forward Ty Rattie, begins the year at Chicago of the AHL.

RECOVERY WARD: Forward Jori Lehteri bounced back quickly from ankle surgery and opens the season without restrictions. Another forward, Patrik Berglund, could miss half of the season following shoulder surgery.

TRACK RECORD: The Blues won the Central Division last season and Hitchcock, fourth on the career list with 708 regular-season wins, has consistently had the team near the top of the standings. “He is our coach, tough cookies if you don’t like it,” Backes said. “From my experience, he puts together one heck of a game plan.”