Like Our Facebook Page
|Choosing a new home: Questions of a UFA|
|Written by Justin Bourne|
|Wednesday, 29 June 2011 14:33|
When a player going into free agency says 'it's not all about the money,' he's right. Several factors enter into the equation (but guess what makes the top of this list?).
Every year a crop of unrestricted free agents and barely-wanted minor league hockey players head into summer unsure of what city, state and country they'll be calling home next. It's decision time.
There are a number of factors to consider when you make the decision about where you want to live and play. The trouble is, most players can't just choose a city and team and go play for them.
So, once you get your list of teams that may want you, it's time to weigh those factors. Those I consider most important are listed below, from obvious to less obvious:
Yeah, you knew that was coming. The more, the better.
2. Does the team have a legit chance to win?
Everybody wants a guy who's won before. The experience you gain while being a part of a team that clicks is invaluable, and general managers know it. This means that if two players with equal skill sets are available, signing the player who comes from the better team is a no-brainer. That means it's important to find a team that has a chance to win every year.
Being in a losing environment is just miserable. People argue, yell and sulk, and who wants to be around that when it can be all jokes and laughter in the dressing room?
3. Will I have an opportunity to not just excel but shine? (i.e. playing time, linemates)
You need to take a look at who each team has under contract already, and find out if they intend to add more players at your position. Picking a team has a lot to do with keeping your career momentum moving in the right direction, so you want to be sure that you'll be seeing the ice, hopefully the power play, and hopefully playing alongside good players.
(This is the question that lacks a clear answer. All GMs will blatantly lie to your face about your expected ice time and usage to get you to sign, and I can't blame them for that. It all comes down to your play. I'm pretty sure there's never been a case of a team sitting a better player because "we told that guy last summer he'd be on the power play." So basically, you look at the depth chart and give it an honest review.)
4. Is it a good organization with a history of treating their players well?
Plenty of teams have bad reputations. Few can claim first-class status like, for example, the Detroit Red Wings – perennial Cup contenders that by all accounts treat their guys like gold. When it comes to living comfortably, certain teams just know how to run things in a first-class manner. The hockey world is small, and you usually know what you're in for before you get there (which is why teams should be sure to treat their guys right, even after a trade or release).
5. Is it a nice city, somewhere I'd want to spend the winter?
At some point, you have to consider your quality of life in the city you're choosing. When you get away from the rink, it's no fun to have to bundle up, rush to your vehicle, warm it up and all that other cold-weather stuff. It's not the end of the world (I lived in Alaska for four years and enjoyed myself), but if you have the choice to get away from the rink and hit the links in a place like Arizona or Florida, it's an added bonus.
6. Do they have nice facilities?
You spend a lot of time at the rink and the gym. Forty-one games is a decent number, especially when you consider you're there twice on those days, but it's really practice days that matter. Having good facilities can make a huge difference on your ability to take care of your body to be the best you can be. Almost as importantly, who wants to go to work in a dive office if they can be in decent one?
7. Will I mesh with the coach?
When "enigmatic" European players agree to play for the Rangers these days, my mind is blown. How can they possibly think they'll mesh with John Tortorella? If your coach doesn't like you, you simply have no chance at having a good year. Whether it's because of the lower minutes, lesser linemates, or because you just get yelled at every time you do anything other than score, it can beat you down pretty quickly.
8. How's the location for family?
Young guys may want to pick a place near their family or girlfriend. But the older guys with established families have to consider things like schools for their kids and whether their wife can find work there (or whatever it is an NHL wife does these days). Fans rarely remember the family lens – it's a sweet job to have, but most guys in the middle of a 10-plus year career really do consider hockey a job. We want to believe it's all about the Cup, and their legacy and all that, but some guys are more focused on other things. And I'm OK with that.
9. How would a year there set me up for the next year?
This is what most of the questions have been about, haven't they? The progression of everything: money, skill, career and more (one of the many reasons long-term contracts would scare me as a GM). Certain players get to a point where they've made enough and just want to win. Or they've won, and they just want a payday. But most guys are just trying to keep on trucking, keep getting those paychecks and hope the numbers get bigger every year.
UFA season is comparison shopping time, and on Friday, the offers start rolling in.
|Last Updated on Wednesday, 29 June 2011 20:53|