Wow, what an excellent question! And on the same day as we will be releasing our 23 man roster.
The decisions made around the League at this time of the year are never easy, in fact, I know every team goes through the process in their own unique ways and the bottom line, its difficult to say goodbye to talented individuals.
The job of each team staff is to assemble the best possible mixture of 23 players that will compete for 16 regular season and hopefully 3 more playoff games. It is a numbers game, no question, managing offense, defense, transition, goaltending, lefties/righties, size, age, salary, chemistry, experience, travel/relocation, are just some of the factors. It is never a perfect science, it starts with a plan, that sometimes twists and turns with multiple variables, the genuine hope is you have a team that competes at the highest level.
As we have decreased the number of teams in the past few years by three, Chicago, Arizona and Portland, and only increased by one, Boston, there are 46 players that will be out of work. 46 quality NLL calibre players have been shut out of roster spots. Consider that this past draft was so very good with perhaps 25 players making roster spots this year, you increase that number of players on the outside looking in to about 75. The economic times might also dicate that teams are opting for middle range players that can develop as opposed to maximum salary guys at the end of their career, this adds to the challenge of the decisions. There might be 2 or 3 of those per team, this is another 25 guys, now we are at 100.
If 100 players over the last two or three training camps are getting turned over, then we are closing in on 30% roster turnover. This provides for very difficult decisions. You have to manage those decisions with all the factors described above at the time that you have that information, all without a crystal ball, its all gut feeling based on experience.
All of the players you mentioned, were valued members of the team at the time they were on the team. We feel we are getting better, only time will tell if we are right. Whenever you sign a player or draft a player to come to camp you are pulling for all of them to play great, to wow your staff, to overwhelm. Sometimes that happens, and sometimes it doesn't. We have high hopes for every player in camp, but you start at 36 and every team has to get to 23 at the same time.
We finished 7-9 last season with the roster we had, regardless of the reasons, we think we can do better, this is why the decisions were made to go in different directions on many fronts. We don't blame these players, the blame falls squarely on management for putting those players in that situation. No matter what happened in the past we are challenged with fixing it for the future, for our owner and for our "stakeholder" fans, we are committed to doing that.
Many times you make decisions based on the style you will play, for instance if you have a 6-4-6 style, you only dress 6 offensive players, 4 transition players, and 6 defenders. You need 3 offensive rightys and leftys, a 4th or 5th righty might never see the floor and therefore you may want to invest in another defender or project transition player that lives in the market.
We all like players that get cut, we wouldn't have brought them to camp if we didn't like something that they did. We ask this question every time player is considered for release, who on the roster is he better than, in his specific category?? And then, is he versatile enough where he can play in multiple categories, or is he so specialized that he only fits in one place? You could have 7 of the best offensive rightys in the game but if they can't do something else, then you have to release at least one or two of them in order to fulfill your other categories. Some players are so good in one category that it doesn't matter and you keep them anyway, someone else has to go!
What is most difficult to explain when a player is released is what did he do in camp? Was he out of shape? Did he play great in some drills and poor in others? Maybe other players came in and were better than him. If he is a transition player that struggles on defense, can he play transition? Can he play just offense? Who is he better than? Keeping players, is about contribution, if they don't contribute in camp, its tough to go on blind faith that they will in the season. Is a player as good as he is going to get or does he have potential to get better? All these questions must be answered in 4 weekends.
Good men will be released, big names with good careers will move on, without that process there is never room for the new super star. It wasn't too long ago that no one had ever heard of Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin, some name had to be moved on to make room for them.
Of course we watch the players around the League that are being released, we are always looking, Peter Veltman is a good example. Most teams wait for the deadline to release their players so its tough to take a player then and release another player that has worked hard through camp just simply based on reputation, if you can't see him play in your camp with your players its difficult to cut someone loose that did.
Trades are near impossible at this time of year, unless its marquee players like Doyle and Ratcliffe. Teams know that if you are releasing them you are doing it for a reason and unless you have a specific need, chances are your released player isn't worth a draft pick or two of their released players. We are all trying to get down to 23, not to go back up!!!
We contact every player that is released prior to the paperwork being processed, we feel its only fair to let them know first before anyone else. Then we contact our captains, then the rest of the organization, then the paperwork is sent to the League and accessed by the media. We try to give them some feedback, sometimes its a very short discussion other times much longer.
Depending on the situation we will call other GMs to let them know that this player may be contacting them for a tryout, sometimes we send GMs contact info to the player. There is no perfect formula, there is no easy way to do it, we try to be as professional as possible, sometimes circumstances make the contact easier or more difficult. I can honestly say that this is the most difficult time in the NLL, it always has been, ask any coach or GM, they will tell you the same thing. There are so many mixed emotions, saying goodbye to good men, but excited and anxious about a new team and new players.
Our goal is to move to our 23 man roster as quickly as possible so that we can begin to develop culture and chemistry with a young new group. 11 new players, 7 rookies and 4 from other teams, 12 returning veterans. We have cut our work out for ourselves, but to a man everyone in the organization is committed to success. Time will tell, but we are not focused on instant success, this will take time, the goal is that we are competing at the end of the season for a championship.
I know I didn't answer your question specifically about players released but hopefully this is he insight you were looking for!!!
I hope everyone is ready for a little Mammoth fix on Friday night!!!