THE FIRST CUT IS THE DEEPEST
After two weeks and lots of tough decisions, we have reduced our roster to 25 players. This is never an easy day for the staff. There is so little time to decide on the future of our players.
There are the obvious selections for our team but as you move down the roster, the decisions become tougher and the emotions run higher. For some, hearing the news that they have been assigned to Bridgeport after already having toiled in the minor leagues for some years, it is heartbreaking. It's not easy hearing the news or dispensing it.
In many ways, it is an unfair process. There are not enough days or games to give the bubble players as thorough an evaluation as we would like. With training camp now at 23 days and shrinking to 20 next year, it becomes even more so.
For players being assigned, this is a dangerous time. Many take the assignment with dignity and a self-awareness that they aren't ready or didn't have a good camp. Generally, these players get back to a working groove in short order.
Others take the news with some bitterness. They might feel that the staff's evaluation is flawed. Some feel they should have had more playing time or should have been matched up with better linemates or defense partners. Worst of all, some feel that their fate was sealed before they even came to camp. These players face a much different and more difficult task than simply moving on and finding success in Bridgeport. These players face the unenviable task of getting past their emotional trauma, of simply getting up in the morning with a happy face to attack the day. The sooner they face reality, the sooner they realize that we are on their side and not out to get them, the quicker they will begin to realize their potential.
Oh, I suppose you could say, get over it. You're playing hockey for a living and should be perfectly content to get on with it. It's not that easy. Players in this position are highly competitive and have always been the best at what they do. Assignment constitutes failure in their eyes. And dealing with that failure, if it were easy, would mean that they probably didn't have the right stuff to make it in the end.
Make no mistake, many players face this task of re-focusing. For some, it will take months. I know. In my second year of professional hockey, coming off what I felt was an excellent training camp, I was assigned to the minor leagues in favor of a high draft pick. It took me more time than it should have to get past the trauma. It was wasted time.
And there are others who never recover. Those are the players that pain me the most. Those are the players that cheat themselves. To all our guys that were assigned today, good luck. We're with you and hoping to see you on Long Island in the near future.
[editor's note: In response to a few inquiries from fans, we would like to make it clear that Mike Milbury's columns, "From the GM's Desk," come directly from Mike himself. They are not ghost-written or based on conversations with the general manager. Mike writes them on his laptop, then emails them to a web manager for a quick proof-read. The columns are posted exactly as Mike has written them.]