Sunday, October 5, 2008

...And the waiting begins

They say training camps are the toughest part of a players season. After all, you're doing more skating than you do in any practices during the year (unless of course you piss of the coach so bad with a lack of effort that he breaks out the "bag skate" tactic and you don't see a puck all day). You play a series of "meaningless" games, in unusual places. You're never really in any kind of routine. Just a seemingly endless cycle of practice, travel and playing scrimmages. So on the surface, you'd think everyone in Black & Gold would be thrilled to have the day off Monday, after winning their final pre-season game Sunday (4-3 in a SO). But how do you feel if you're Blake Wheeler, Jeremy Reich, Vladimir Sobotka, Matt Hunwick, Petteri Nokelainen, Peter Schaeffer, Nate Thompson.....or a host of other "bubble players"? My guess is you'd be pretty damn anxious, nervous, frustrated and stressed. At this point, after all their hard work, they're suddenly helpless. There is nothing more any of them can do to prove they belong on the NHL roster on opening night. Some, Wheeler especially, have done everything you could ask of them and more. Yet even after proving they can play at the NHL level, they are far from assured a spot in Boston. Such is life in the salary cap era. Sometimes playing like a multi-million dollar player isn't enough, if you also happen to have a contract to match. Wheeler, in all likelyhood would never earn his $2.85M this year because of how heavily weighted it is with bonuses. But this year, the full POTENTIAL value of the contract counts againt the cap. Wheels was quoted as saying if he could go back in time, he'd reduce his cap hit by half. I wish he could.
Complicating matters more, is the fact that some players have to clear waivers before going to Providence while others don't. Just another reason that a more deserving player may end up being demoted, at least for the short term. Julien is adamant that the best possible team will be on the ice opening night, regardless of contract status etc. Noble plan, but I don't know that it is possible, barring a trade before they have to submit their 23 man roster (also a complicated mess, as any players who must clear waivers have to be submitted by Tuesday. All others have to be submitted to the league office by 3PM EST on Wednesday). So the bubble players have all day Monday to sit idly and await their fate. Not something pro athletes like, I'm sure.
With all of these factors to consider, I don't envy Chiarelli and his staff. Granted, it's a good problem to have, to a point. It shows a lot of depth, which is great. It also shows that there may be a few over inflated contracts that Chilly would probably like to have off his books (yes Schaeffer & Fernandez, I'm looking at you!). Schaeffer is the easier of the two to get off the books. He can be sent down, and if he's claimed off waivers, great. He's off your books for good. If he doesn't get claimed, he's still off the cap (although yo're still paying him) and you allow a youngster to make the team. Manny is a tougher deal all together. He makes a ton of money, and hasn't been able to stay healthy for a couple years now. Barring something drastic, we'll be seeing Fernandez as Tim Thomas' backup as we head to the regular season. This hurts big time as far as cap hit, and almost as much in talent. Tukka Rask has proven he's ready to make the step up. He was Boston's best goalie in camp, but will open in Providence.
I was going to post my hoped for roster for Thursday night, but's giving me an ice cream headache trying to decipher who deserves to stay, who can't stay because of cap hits.... good luck Chilly. Sleepless nights ahead for you. Go B's - Kynch

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