Fri Jan 21 02:05pm EST
The core of a pro hockey team is generally composed of a number in the neighbourhood of 15, while another five or 10 players exist as moving parts.
Between call-ups, cuts, trades and injuries, the fringe pieces to your roster see more turnover than a puck in Toronto Maple Leafs game, and you grow accustomed to that -- it's one of the realities of the job.
Right now, teams are dealing with those fringe parts, trying to make the right tinkers and tweaks to put themselves over the top, or at the very least, get them into playoffs. GM's deal in roster moves like they're swapping out names in a video game, and lives get shuffled like cards in a deck.
We're seeing new cards from across the globe being added to each team's hand, as the apparently-not-fat Kyle Wellwood(notes) (so disappointing, thanks for digging that up, Wysh) joins San Jose, Marek Svatos(notes) joins Nashville, and Evgeni Nabakov is likely going to find a new North American team by the time you've finished reading this column.
When you walk into the dressing room and there's another team's bag being unpacked in your locker room, it becomes high school gossip central. Everybody wants -- nay, needs -- to know the guy's bio, because everybody's life is about to be affected by him.
Unless he's a big name, you start digging - this usually starts by going through the trainer, as he's the rare liaison between the coach's office and the locker room.
What's his name? What position? Where's he from?
And as a second-line right winger, all you're hoping is that the info doesn't come back that he's a year younger, an inch taller, and a right winger.
A new addition can be a good thing for a struggling team, as it provides a jump off point for a group that hopes it gets to say something like "ever since we traded for Butch Goring, we've been unstoppable" in the near future.
Having a new teammate is a bit like getting a present at Christmas, as everybody pays a little extra attention to him in practice to see just what this new addition can do. You've suddenly got a new weapon to deploy, and you need to know how it's best used.
Most new players looks great in practice those first few days, since they know everybody is watching. There's plenty of incentive for him to take it out of practice mode and bomb around at game speed.
(The new guy almost always gets chucked in with quality players early on, as coaches and GM's want to prove they made the right decision by bringing the new guy in.)
The problem is that GM's shouldn't overdo the whole roster adjustment thing unless they really want to change the team's culture. I've been on a team that brought in so many new guys that they sort of banded together and started to form their own mini-culture.
It gets old fast when every other day it seems like there's a new dude in the room, as your team can either struggle to find their new identity with these new players, or begin to lose their old one.
And it takes time for a team to mesh. You don't want be stuck heading into playoffs trying to figure out not only what all your teammates can do, but who you've become as a group.
Team identity is a big thing in hockey, as you find yourself having a measure of pride in being that "hard-working blue collar club" or the "skill team with the deadly powerplay." General managers have to be careful not to shake that up too much as we delve into the second half of the season's schedule.
Yes, maybe a team like San Jose that's made a few additions and is likely to make more needs a new identity -- that's the tough decision Doug Wilson has to face going forward.
My hunch is, the players in the room think their team is pretty good and believe in each other, so they'd rather see one or two minor changes than some complete overhaul.
As we're entering the equivalent of playoffs for GMs, the roster tinkering is underway. They're under pressure - as proven by Dean Lombardi's ridiculous quotes about the NHL's Mike Murphy(notes) - and we're about to find out who can come through in the clutch.