There is always a lot of debate at this time of year about which players have played well enough to make the NHL roster of their team. After training camps open and teams have a few preseason games to evaluate, tough choices will have to be made.
For the Dallas Stars, those choices are not shaping up to be easy.
“You know, right now they’re making it hard for decisions, right? And that’s what we want,” head coach Jim Montgomery said after his team won their second of two preseason games played so far this year. “We want players to make it hard on us because they’re all excelling. Right now, everyone is playing well, they’re playing hard.”
So how does a team make decisions between players, all things looking relatively equal between them?
For some players, it could come down to position. The Dallas Stars have several players vying for the bottom six forward group that play center. A player like Jason Dickinson, who has learned to play wing as well, could have an edge over another player that isn’t as comfortable shifting over. That flexibility gives the coaching staff more versatility in their bottom six lineups depending on the opponent any given night.
“If you have two wingers who can’t play strong down low, it makes it so much harder for the center,” Dickinson told Mike Heika of the team website. “He’s got a lot of work to do and a lot of coverage that he has to take. It makes it easier having another center who knows those responsibilities.”
For others, it could come down to contract status. Those players on two-way deals that are not subject to waivers may find themselves in the AHL to start the season because it’s easy for the team to make that move. These kinds of players are likely to also be the first call-up when injuries inevitably hit the NHL roster.
However, making a player subject to waivers is easier at the beginning of the season.
All teams will have players that need to go down to the AHL and will clear at this time of the year. After all, if a player gets claimed, they have to immediately be placed on the NHL roster, and the team waiving the player gets nothing in return for losing an asset. But because every team is trying to get down to their opening roster before the season begins, they have a better chance to waive some players and have them clear than they might at other parts of the season.
With a new head coach and new system this season, Dallas should ensure that the bottom six has the best players that will fit the style Montgomery prefers — and will make it most successful. That decision should be made without concern for losing players on waivers, because the chance of losing a player such as Remi Elie are lower when every team has a similar bottom six forward in their system, and therefore wouldn’t need to claim one from another team.