The London Model

The task of putting together an NHL roster is very challenging in the salary cap era. We all know that the NHL is not the most forward thinking and is a copycat league. However, they are missing one of the most successful models in hockey history and it is right before their eye. The London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League. Over the last ten years they have a 67% winning percentage in the regular season. The number is astonishing considering the constraints of an OHL roster. Constraints that is similar in nature to an NHL roster. The table below is a suggested breakdown on how to structure a team.

16,17 Year olds(3-5) Rookies ( 2-3) Three years in length ( 18-21 )
18,19 Year Olds (14)  RFA’s      ( 14) Three to Five years in length( 22-27)
Over Age( 3) UFA         (3)    Six to Eight years in length ( 28+)

Most OHL rosters have three to five 16 and 17 year olds. The bulk of their roster (14) is comprised of 18 and 19 years olds. The remaining three positions are comprised of 3 over age players.

National Hockey League General Managers could build their rosters in a very similar fashion. Two or three rookies who would have salary cap friendly salaries up to three years in length. The foundation of the roster would comprise of players who are restricted free agents. Their contracts would be three to five years in length and would number at fourteen in total. This category is the key on how it is structured.  General Managers must realize that they cannot retain all the players. As the rookies move up two or three RFA’s must be moved out. This could be used as a means to keep talent in the pipeline and help to give you cap relief. The RFA’s are very valuable assets and therefore must be developed and managed properly. The remainder of roster could be made up of Unrestricted Free Agents. Two could be players from your current roster whose RFA deals are expiring and one from the Summer Free Agent Market.

Every year an OHL roster has a shift of up to five players. The three twenty year olds move on and two of the 16/17 year old category moves up. In a perfect world three players from the 18/19 year old category moves up to the 20 year old category to cover the voids. The net change would two players based on a 20 man roster.

The Knights have an outstanding Coaching and player development plan. They are always competing for top spot in their division and at the NHL draft in June their players seem to be selected on a regular basis. I call it Hockey University! A question that should be asked is: Why aren’t NHL teams looking at this model? Just because it is junior hockey does not mean that a portion cannot be applied at the professional level.

The New England Patriots have been doing this for years. They know how much each position is worth. If players want to move on, they let them and their Super Bowl ring go and the scouting staffs go out and find replacements. The Coaches develop them and coach them up. Players get introduced to a culture that is based solely on winning and a team first attitude. They understand that second place is the first loser. The Knights and Patriots have a lot of similarities. Both have great coaching, scouting, player development, and culture.

Building a winning team is not easy, but it can be a lot less difficult if you look around and really pay attention to what other successful franchises are doing.

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