Written by: Larry “The Nucks IceMan” Johnson
After watching the injury lists since the beginning of the season, the NHLPA needs to lobby for a roster increase. Not too many teams this season and previous, have escaped the injury bug to their defensive corp.
As mention earlier, the D-men have become sitting targets with no protection from the missile guided forwards. Not every D-man is in position to get rid of the puck before he is hit. Enough repetition and injuries are the result.
There have been a multitude of teams that have had three-quarters of their starting six D-men in the infirmary. Colorado, New Jersey, St. Louis and Vancouver off the top of my head, have had to go deep into their depth charts to ice a back-end squad.
The Canucks for instance have dipped down to their 13th player this season, which has had a ripple effect throughout the organization. Why? Because there are two other teams that have to replace each of those D-men, once the NHL loses three or four.
If the Canucks have to replace three starters then Manitoba will also be down three, which in turn precipitates the ECHL Victoria Salmon Kings diving for some of theirs. Not sure what Victoria does if they exhaust their defense. Maybe they sign some potential players to pro tryouts.
This whole dilemma could be rectified by increasing the roster size from the current 23 to 25 or 26, to accommodate the expansion of the reserve list, like in football. Not only that, but it would add jobs for some of the UFA’s sitting around collecting dust.
I’m sure the NHL owners would kick and scream all the way to the bank, since the extra players would cost them and cut into their profits. Hey, what’s an extra $1.5 to 2 million to the teams that are making money? As for the teams that are losing money, well that’s for a later article (think Phoenix – no, just move it).
The other suggestion to the NHLPA might be the loosening of the restrictions on players clearing the waiver wire. This really hinders teams when trying to send or call up players from their farm teams that have one-way contracts, unless of course they are trying to dump salary. I’m not going to go into how many times a player can be sent down or called up, age, or games played. You can read that for yourself.
Maybe the teams could have a couple of designated players that could move freely from the main to the farm team without waiver restrictions. I’m speaking of course of both the one and two-way contracts even if the player had the maximum amount of years played in the NHL.
Case in point – Jeff Tambellini might have been sent down to Manitoba recently when the Canucks were up against the salary cap but they didn’t want to lose him to waivers. Same thing occurred when they were going through the rash of injuries on their blue-line and couldn’t call up an NHL-experienced D-man in Ryan Parent, for fear of losing him on waivers.
The other downside is having to absorb half the salary of a player that is claimed off waivers, especially when the Canucks are already butting the cap limit.
Having to keep a player in the minors seems an unjust penalty for someone that is capable of playing with an NHL team. Yes, you can say that if he’s good enough some other team will claim him but that doesn’t help the team that needed him.
Unfortunately that leaves an NHL team no choice but to call up a rookie for that emergency replacement. This in turn dilutes the play in the back-end or forces management to play the other D-men extra minutes.
Now the extra minutes may work for a brief period, but if this extends into a lengthy time then you can run into a problem by wearing down a player, which subjects him to injury. You see the cycle?
Anyway, whatever decision they make, I hope they at least explore some creative way to expand the roster because it sure is long overdue.
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Filed under: NHL