The Leafs released their training camp list today. In a surprising- and unprecedented- move, the coaching staff decided to invite their entire roster to the Leafs rookie camp. This brings the total number of training camp attendees to 70 players.
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Yes, 70. Or, in other words, enough to ice three 23-man rosters. On top of six goaltenders, they have enough players to roll 14 lines, play 10 defensive pairings, and still have a couple healthy scratches left over.
Preseason plays an important role in the NHL. For established NHLers, it's a chance to get some conditioning and ice time before a long 82-game season starts. For bubble players and up-and-coming rookies, it's a chance to compete for the vacant roster spots and impress your way into the lineup on Opening Day (see: Tim Brent, 2010). For younger players in need of development, it's a good chance to share the same ice as seasoned pros and getting top-tier coaching before going to the AHL for more seasoning. And for junior-aged players, it's a chance to get a taste of the NHL before going back to their junior club.
These are all important things that occur in preseason. The problem is a 70-man roster pretty much clusterfucks every single one of them.
Let's just state the obvious here. The Leafs roster will be down to 23 on October 6. All but maybe one or two of those positions, tops, are written in stone. Ron Wilson has even all but confirmed what his top three lines will be to start the season. So, in addition to roughly 20 people who are already a lock to make the team, you have maybe 3 or 4 more competing for the remaining spots. That's less than half this roster that has any realistic chance of making this team. Even if there is one Tim Brent we have yet to discover, there's about ten more that have no hope in hell of playing in the NHL this year (if ever).
Of these also-rans, some of their presences are vital. Our prospects, whether AHL or junior-bound, can rely on this for development. But, it seems for every one of these we have, there is a number of names on this roster that will be lucky to compete for a spot on the AHL roster. Is having the likes of Kyle Neuber, Kelsey Wilson, Mike Schwindt, or Denny Urban around that worthwhile? Honestly, how many games will it be before this lower tier of players is cut? One, if that?
Every season, players who have no chance of making the NHL are given invites to training camp (Mike Liambas, anyone?). But, in a year where roughly 25 people are competing for 23 spots, and the team is trying to provide solid development to another 10-15 prospects, it seems at least half of this 70-person roster is simply wasting time and taking away resources from players legitimately fighting for a spot or trying to progress their young careers. An invite to the AHL camp in October might be permissible, but the big leagues? Please.
Regardless of how much or little they play, every minute Matt Caruana is on the ice is a minute Matt Frattin isn't getting to prove whether or not he has the skillset to make the Leafs roster. Every minute Dave Cowan is out there is one that Jake Gardiner isn't to gain some valuable experience. These minutes are invested into players that will likely be cut within the first game, and they add up.
Even if it's just a minute, it's a waste. It's unfair to these lesser players, whose fate has been sealed, and to those who have a more serious shot in training camp. A big roster benefits nobody.
Posted by F.M.C. at 9:00 AM