Last weekend, my in-laws made the drive from Las Vegas to Southern California to spend a few days with Mrs. Seats and me for Christmas. For anyone that has done that drive, you know that it’s a long, boring, tedious 4 hours that you’ll lose from your life and NEVER get back. Considering my best friend AND my in-laws live in the City of Sin, I know that drive better than I ever wanted to. For those of us that do the drive often—we know how to turn our brain off until we’re magically transported to our destination city.
Every once in a while though, something different will happen on the drive and throw us for a loop. While driving out to California, my father-in-law had the joyous privilege of experiencing a tire blow out at 85 MPH in the middle of the desert. When that happens, your thoughts turn from “I wonder how good my time is going to be,” to something like, “Thank God no one was in the lane next to me when that happened.”
Instead of lazily waking up on my Sunday morning, I instead awoke to a frantic phone call from I-15 in the Mojave Desert. Not exactly the type of alarm clock that I’d suggest. They had been waiting on the side of the road for half an hour hoping that someone would stop and give them a hand. Maybe people were afraid of the 60 year old Asian couple or maybe they were concerned about THEIR world-record time from Vegas to California. Regardless, no one was in a hurry to stop.
They called and desperately asked if there was anything we could do to help. Using my AAA membership, I called Roadside Assistance asking if there was anything they could do. Thankfully, their Customer Service representative helped more than I could have imagined and they were able to send assistance to my in-laws. They arrived about 2 hours later than they expected—but things could have been much worse. And just think, I was THIS close to letting the membership lapse.
Awhile ago, Chris Rock said we should rename “insurance” to “in case shit.” You never really truly realize why you have it, but you keep it around “in case shit happens.” But there are more things than just insurance that you take for granted until you need it. In hockey, there’s no better example of that than the depth of your favorite hockey team.
On opening night, everyone will look at their team and map out the best line-up that undoubtedly has the potential to get them to the playoffs. Before the season starts, everyone will look at the team and at least have HOPE that they’ll make it to the 2nd season. Of course, the 4th line might not look that great and the 3rd defensive pairing could be a little better—but if those are the biggest problems, then everything should be OK.
Well, the problem is that injuries happen to everyone. Just like your rivals will sustain injuries that will make them seem easier to defeat, YOUR team will sustain the same types of injuries throughout the season. Every team is going to have to deal with injury problems throughout the year. But is your team prepared?
DEPTH is hockey’s version of INSURANCE. A team better have some players that can fill in the NHL level or it’s going to be a long season for the organization. More importantly, a team better have players that are capable of moving up and accepting more responsibility or there’s no way that they’ll survive the grueling 6 month regular season.
Depth is one of those things that you don’t know you’ll need (or appreciate it) until you actually need it. It’s depth that allows the Sharks to lose like a guy like Joe Pavelski and continue their winning ways without missing a beat. Depth is the reason that a team will pick up a guy like Randy Jones when their top 6 defensemen look good. It’s the reason that Dean Lombardi is a General Manager and I’m only a hockey blogger.
Depth on a hockey team is something that you don’t realize you need until you watch a few players get hurt and you’re depending on that 4th liner and 7th defenseman. It’s why you always have an eye towards your AHL team. It’s the reason that you EXPECT your players to thrive in the role given to them, but HOPE they could thrive in a bigger role.
Things that you probably NEVER think about will end up determining the success of your team’s season. Before you know it, 4th liners will be getting real minutes in a game. Bottom pairing defensemen will be getting minutes on both the power play and penalty kill. 3rd liners will be put in a scoring role, and 2nd liners will be expected to carry the team in scoring. None of them are easy. It’s the very nature of why injuries screw with your team’s roster and team chemistry.
It’s fine when they’re playing 5 minutes per game—but how comfortable would you be if those guys were playing 15 minutes per game? If they were on the penalty kill? If you were depending on them to create pressure on the power play? Because at some point in the season, EVERYONE goes through those moments. Everyone.
Next time you’re looking at your team’s roster and trying to decide if they’re good enough to make a run to the Cup, take a minute and think about how much depth the team has. Are they going to be able to handle an injury or two? Will any of the players be able to step up into bigger roles than they’re currently playing filling? Take a minute and think about that—because you know it’s coming.
You never plan on having a tire blowout when you’re taking a road trip—and you never plan on players suffering season ending injuries. But these things happen. Will you be prepared when they happen to you?