And, of course, there was the debate last fall about whether returning the field to its original length or adding additional props was the answer to speeding points up. Related to that Sup'Air posted some alternate ways the Cup field might have been different (read: faster) with extra props. The problem with that was while some extra props in the back 30 was nice they had zero impact on one of the causes of slow play (on that field) which was placing a dedicated gun on the gap feeding the snake and frequently doing so from one of the midfield stand-ups.
With the PSP returning to the original length I was curious to see what if any changes might be made to the general designs offered by Sup'Air--particularly given 4 more props. I was also curious to see how new designs would compare to old ones, would there be any indications of change consistent with the talk surrounding Cup? For some years now designs have utilized the stand-up props as blocking lanes OTB. In many instances the placement of some of those stand-ups encouraged teams to play one or both, oftentimes shooting the crossfield. While not inherently wrong it is a characteristic that doesn't serve the stated aim of encouraging speed, movement and aggressive play as it is a fundamentally defensive posture. (Not every stand-up within the zones or elsewhere is necessarily a defensive play--but it's easy to see the difference.) As you can see on the diagram the two center (grey) columns are marked A and the two bordering (darker grey) columns are marked B. These are the zones where the stand-ups serve the majority of their lane blocking function and incidentally encourage a defensive posture when played. On this layout 6 of the 8 stand-ups are within the two zones and the other 2 abut a B boundary line. This is in line with the last three years of designs that on average have 2.85 stand-ups in the A zone and 2.3 stand-ups in the B zone for an approx. average of 5 stand-ups per design.
Looking at inserts and feeds to both wires our sample doesn't appear to have added extra bunkers to shorten the gaps between props but to be sure I calculated the appearances of inserts and feeds by wire side over the same 3 year period as I did for the stand-ups. And with two on each side this is actually a small increase as the snake side average is 1.5 and the d-wire average is 1.2. (I did not count Pins when they were used in place of other more traditional props thinking that the Pin remains primarily a blocker not really suited to consistent play from the majority of players. (Even so that alone wouldn't change the numbers more than a fraction.) So while 2 per side is slightly above average it's not unheard of.
So far it looks like business as usual--so will the shorter field really speed up points across the board and across the divisions? I still think so but there is another factor I hadn't given much consideration until the end of last season, the "technical" snake. Oh sure, I didn't have a good word for it from its first appearance in the media but it can be made playable. What is proving more difficult is to make it playable past the 50. If neither team can use the snake to effect from their opponent's territory it's like posting a giant stop sign.
(And this particular snake will be problematic both in terms of passing the 50 and playing snake 1--if there's an opponent in their snake side MT. It looks like the move is to go for MR in the central snake construct.)
No doubt VFTD will revisit this topic a time or two during the year to see what, if anything, is changing--and whether it's for the better or worse.