Gold Miners Newsletter – January 10, 2014

January 10, 2014

  Trades, Player Rosters, Cards, Etc
  It is one of the most difficult parts of the sport we all love. Go to the rink or view the comments that appear on the many forms of “social media”. You will hear it every day; “Why was this player traded or cut or released?” or “How good is the new player and why did his previous team make him available?”

The truth is usually there is no simple answers and most often there are a number of circumstances that affect any one such decision.

To try to gain insight into what teams are faced with it is important to understand the complexities of how player cards and roster sizes work throughout the year. In late spring or early summer most teams will already have their full compliment of player cards available for the following season. The teams in the NOJHL each receive 40 player cards to start the season. This means that at any point in time a team can have a combined total of 40 “open” cards and players signed. Teams can start signing players immediately upon receipt of their cards. Players who played for the team the previous year are still the property of the team and are not necessarily signed quickly. Most teams will focus on recruiting new players and getting them signed before losing them to another team. This whole process is very time consuming and some teams do a better job than others at recruiting. Also teams from larger centres with a strong “feeder system” of a large number of players do not need to spend as much time searching for players. This is the first step in the understanding of the “numbers game” facing coaches and managers. How many new players do I sign? How many cards do I keep for returning players? How many cards do I keep for players to sign during try-outs and through the season.

The next challenge comes during training camp. How many unknown players might make the team? How many players from last year’s team will return? Many returning players will also attend training camps of higher level teams and it is unknown if they will return or not until after the season has started. Do I hold cards open for those players?

During the early stages of the season teams will manage their 40 cards differently. Teams can only dress 21 players for each game, but some teams will have many more players than that signed. This means not all players are able to dress to play every game. Other teams sign less players and keep extra “open” cards. There are arguments on both sides which is the best way to manage your team. Signing more players might give a team more options if wanting to trade with another team, signing less players might give a team more available cards to sign additional players later in the season or to sign newly acquired players from a trade. (players acquired in a trade even if signed by another team previously must be signed again by the new team, thus using up another of the 40 available cards)

The challenge for teams increases on December 1st of each year, this is the first of two “cut-down” dates in the season. Teams in the NOJHL must reduce from a total of 40 players and cards down to a total of 25 players and cards. The same questions start all over again relative to how many signed players to keep and how many “open” cards to keep for future developments. This is usually when a number of very difficult decisions are made to get the roster size reduced. It is also usually why you normally see a number of trades made just before this date and unfortunately some players are released outright. Often fans will wonder why decisions are made on certain players but again there is likely a large set of circumstances that affect any individual decisions. Most responsible teams will try to help players find another place to continue their career and look to trade them before the date. As unfair as the system may seem to fans, billets, players, friends or families the intent is to make sure to maximize the number of players who actually are playing and not just sitting in the stands. Sitting in the stands does not help individual player development and in the long run is not good for the sport of hockey.

On top of all of this teams, coaches and managers are under pressure to win and constantly improve as the other teams they compete with continue to get better. Teams are also faced with injuries to players, players who have not performed up to expectations and the ongoing evaluation of players who might become available from other teams.

After working through all of the complexities of trying to manage their rosters in the first half of the season, the teams then encounter the Christmas Season and the trade freeze period that is in place. When the New Year begins the teams are quickly facing the final “cut-down” date of January 10th when the total number of players must be reduced to a maximum of 23. As a result the same questions are facing the coaches and managers again.

It is often difficult for observers to understand many of the decisions made by a team throughout the course of a season. But one thing can be appreciated, the decisions are not easy and many coaches and managers spend countless hours (and sleepless nights) trying to do the “right thing”. The problem is the “right thing” is not always that simple and is open to personal opinion and interpretation. This is not the fun part of being involved in hockey but it is however a reality in a competitive sport. 

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