The Contrarian – Cuts Like a Knife

by Demetri Fragopoulos on October 4, 2015

Would it be advantageous for teams to make more significant roster cuts than they presently are?

I was searching the web for stories from all the teams. What I found was a collection of the same themes. Here is a brief illustration of the headlines:

Does “Team A” have enough depth this year to make the playoffs (or win the Cup)?

<#> burning questions about “Team B”

Are the players of “Team C” ready to battle?

The <#> players that could be X-Factors for “Team D”

It is part of each start to a season for all sports leagues. As tempting as some of these stories were, they simply did not grab enough of my attention.

There were another set of articles that were about opening rosters and who should make or have made the cut.

Coyotes (ArizonaSports.com), Stars (Dallas Morning News), Canadiens (The Hockey Writers), Devils (NJ.com), Rangers (Newsday), Flyers (Philly.com), Maple Leafs (thestar.com), Canucks (The Province), Capitals (The Washington Post) and Jets (Metro News).

If the decision on how the team is to trim the roster is still pending, then the story usually involves a young versus old scenario. In the Flyers’ cases it may come down to who can be cut but not lost to another team.

They already lost Chris Porter to the Wild, and while his name might not jump out at you, the issue is that they could lose yet another player. That is why the trade rumors have been swirling around them.

Tim Panaccio of csnphilly.com explores the idea with GM Ron Hextall but he knows that he’s caught between a rock and hard place.

Hextall notes “We’ve got options. We’re going to look at them all and figure it out at the end.” But when specifically pressed about making a trade to get out of the current circumstance, “Probably, but it’s not something you can make happen.”

He has a similar response to Dave Isaac of the Courier-Post, “We’ll see what comes along, if anything, and go from there.” So the trade clouds form around Luke and Brayden Schenn.

Yet, in another article, Isaac investigates where Vinny Lecavalier would be slotted if he stays on the Flyers.

As Isaac puts it, “His decline has been staggering since signing a five-year, $22.5 million contract with the Flyers before the 2013-14 season.” It may be Lecavalier who the Flyers are trying to move in order to solve their problems.

“The Flyers and Predators explored potential trades – twice – but Lecavalier is still with the Flyers,” and he highlights this because former Flyer coach Peter Laviolette is now employed by Nashville.

In defense, “Lecavalier argues that if he had a better opportunity – more minutes and a bigger power play role – that he could get close to the numbers he used to have,” writes Isaac.

How many times have we heard similar excuses from 35-year-old players?

The quick, short-term solution may be to send Scott Laughton down to the Phantoms because he cannot be claimed off waivers, but coach Dave Hakstol has indicated to Isaac, “I think when you look at (center) Scotty Laughton’s performance it’s been solid and sound and good all the way through”. Cutting Laughton now would not indicate to the players with any amount of confidence that if they perform they will play.

Trading a Schenn or someone else might alleviate the pressure, but it still will not be a long-term solution.

Trading, or failing that, demoting Lecavalier would show the players that you have to earn your keep in order to stay on the big club’s roster.

As Hextall voiced to Isaac, “Why we’re going to be better, mainly is because our guys are going to be better from within,” and “Hopefully we stay healthy, but to look and try to hit a home run every year and sign this guy and sign that guy to try to sign a 50-goal scorer to get better in the cap world, it doesn’t work. You’ve got to find the little ways from within.”

Sometimes, the first cut should be the deepest.

Speaking of cuts, what resulted from all those professional tryouts (PTOs)?

By my count there were five players that went in on a PTO and came out with a contract of some sort. Those players were Mark Fraser, Brad Boyes, Michal Rozsival, Lee Stempniak, and Steve Bernier.

There are probably another eight that are still on the bubble with their tryout clubs.

However, the majority of the players trying to earn a spot on a PTO were cut. I guess they were not motivated enough to earn their next contract.

My personal theory about PTOs, to use a Gordon Gekko-ism, is that clubs use them as a negative control over other teams.

They get a player over to their camp to prevent their divisional opponents from properly evaluating the player. When the team cuts the PTO player, it is usually too late for the player to get over to another training camp.