It happens every year; pay-to-play teams start to get anxious about filling those last six to nine roster spots. These are the times that poker player coaches love the most.
The good teams with excellent reputations will hold onto those last spots until the final Canadian Junior Hockey League and North American Hockey League cuts. The desperate teams will simply lower their standards and take any player with a valid credit card.
There lies the danger. When teams lower their standards, the developmental opportunity for the entire team, and even league, decreases. Coaches should never settle for a player that is beneath the overall caliber of play. That's a great concept, if only the owners would buy into it.
I've always thought the 25 man roster to be a bit excessive and feel prospects would happily pay a little more if it means the elimination of the healthy scratch....but that just my opinion.
Clubs could easily take a bit off the budget by limiting their rosters to three lines, three goalies, and a few spare skaters. Doing so would create more value for the developmental product, reduce overall costs, and give opportunities to high school and youth level players to fill in when needed.
I remember a time when lower level professional teams were limited to seventeen dressed players. Add the coach, equipment-trainer, and radio guy (who also doubled as the second bus driver when needed) and it's easy to see how hockey survived on $10 tickets with $1 beers.
There's a little less room on the bus these days.
Let's be realistic, that fourth line and third goalie is not really getting much development in. There's little doubt that a twenty-man roster would strongly consider a 20% tuition increase if it means playing every game.
Instead, we have some unsanctioned clubs with 30+ players on the ice last season. There were even higher level Tier II teams allowing a pile of extra bodies on the ice while COVID impacted the game in other areas of the countries.
As we move forward to the start of the 2021-22 season, it's going to be interesting to see the rosters of all the teams. Let's hope we can have a return to normal type of season.