Since the dawn of mankind, one question has yet to be answered: how do coaches vote for All-Conference and All-State teams?
I am here to offer some insight into this convoluted process, which sometimes includes grudges against other coaches, politics, and maybe a general lack of knowledge of players in the state, the latter of which is completely understandable.
First of all, we need to understand the process at the conference level. Coaches get together—via email or in person—and nominate their own players that they think are deserving, and then vote for All-Conference teams (most can not vote for their own players).
Some conferences vote for first and second teams and award points accordingly, while other leagues might vote for a set number (9-F, 6-D, 2-G), or something like that.
Coaches might add players to honorable mention teams, or the players might get distributed to the 1st, 2nd, and HM teams depending on 'points' that they earned in the voting.
In my opinion, All-Conference teams more accurately 'rate' the deserving players than the All-State team does.
Why is that?
For players in a conference, every coach in that league sees those players on the ice at least once, if not more, and has a good idea of who the best players in that conference are, and they usually vote according to their conscience.
All-State voting is a little more complicated.
The All-State ballots are divided between 'North' and 'South' votes, based on the location of the voting team. The rationale behind this is that coaches are more likely to play teams in their region and have a better idea of who the top players are.
Coaches are also given the option of voting for players in the 'opposite' region depending on familiarity, but that can also muddy the waters because coaches might just vote for players on 'name recognition' or historical data.
Notre Dame coach Cory McCracken agrees.
"There seems to be a level of disconnect every year between All-Conference and All-State," said McCracken. "I think that’s driven by coaches not having the ability to see all players in a season, basing decisions off of points or prior history. High school points don’t even begin to tell the story of a player's value. It’s a piece but should not be the driving factor."
If the All-Conference to All-State translation is lacking, what can we do to make it right, to give players the accolades that they deserve?
"We need a committee from the WHCA that looks at nominees and agrees on All-State players," noted McCracken. "I think we need to do a better job of narrowing the list down to qualified First Team All-State players."
Another issue that pops up on a fairly regular basis is that an excellent team might have three top-notch forwards that earn more votes than a talented player on a team that is not quite as good. This can happen both in conference and state voting.
But it can also happen in reverse.
"Certainly for our sport the third best forward on a really good team might not get recognized even though he's better than the best forward (and top scorer) on a lesser team," noted Madison Edgewood coach Pete Rothering.
Or a top player from a below-average team might get overlooked.
"You could also have a good player on a lesser team that doesn't have the help a kid on a better team has and therefore isn't recognized the same," said Rothering. "It can go both ways."
Scheduling can also come into it. A good team that plays a weaker schedule can have multiple players that rack up points, whereas a premier player might have a pedestrian point total because his team plays the strongest schedule in the state.
The coach that knows little about either player has a dilemma: choose the guy with 78 points that plays a weak schedule, or the guy that is known to be a solid player, but only has 34 points against powerhouse teams?
Decisions, decisions. And most likely, the choice will be debated by coaches, players, and fans.
And then add in defensemen. While forwards and goalies have stats that 'more or less' tell the truth, the blueliner's numbers almost never tell the true worth of that player.
A 'shutdown' d-man might have fewer points than a guy that grabs the puck behind the net and goes, but in reality, which player is better? Coaches and knowledgeable fans know, but coaches will often select defensemen based on points.
So, since we are coming to the end of this piece, the question remains: how do we make the system better?
First of all, coaches should put all grudges and politics aside—these are honors for teenagers that display their talent on the ice. Forget that you dislike the other coach or maybe one of your players doesn't like the kid on the other team. Be honest and vote your conscience!
When it comes to the All-State team, the system needs better cross-checking. For example, a kid that makes Second Team All-Conference shouldn't be elected to All-State Honorable Mention over a kid in the same conference that was First Team All-Conference.
Maybe a fresh set of eyes (and I would volunteer, although I would need my reading glasses) can make sure that deserving players aren't overlooked.
They say it takes a village to raise a child; maybe it takes coaches and media to select an All-State team.