The Reign are in a bit of predicament as it relates to the AHL’s veteran rule.
Let’s dive in.
The basics of what you need to know are the Reign can dress five players classified as veterans under the rule each game. Goalies don’t apply, which is why Peter Budaj was easily able to start nearly every game here last season.
The players that apply for the Reign are Sean Backman, Paul Bissonnette, T.J. Hensick, Rob Scuderi, Brett Sutter and now … Teddy Purcell.
It’s the addition of Purcell that’s made things a bit trickier for head coach Mike Stothers, who said after Purcell scored the overtime game-winner against Tuscon last Wednesday that Purcell was sent to Ontario to “get the offensive side of his game going.” It’s hard to see him out of the lineup for one due to the circumstances and secondly his production. He has a goal and three assists in his first three games.
For the sake of clarity the rule reads as such:
Each Member club must dress for each regularly scheduled or playoff game at least twelve (12) players, other than goalkeepers, who have played in a total of not more than two hundred sixty (260) regular season games in the National Hockey League, American Hockey League or any European Elite League, prior to the start of the season and one (1) player, other than goalkeepers, who has played in a total of not more than Three-Hundred and Twenty (320) regular season games in the National Hockey League, American Hockey League or any European Elite League, prior to the start of the season. Any player that participates in European Elite League games during a hockey season which the player would be eligible to play in the Canadian Hockey League (excluding an over-age year) shall not have such games count in the calculation of the two hundred sixty (260) regular season games. Players on loan from the National Hockey League for a first fourteen day conditioning period shall not be affected by the aforesaid experience requirement. In the event a Club dresses fewer than eighteen (18) skaters the number twelve (12) shall be reduced accordingly. The penalty for violation of this section of By-Law 8 shall be the same as set forth in By-Law 16 (f) concerning the use of an ineligible player.
You might be surprised to learn that Vincent LoVerde is exempt. The rule applies to how many games you having coming into the season, so the number doesn’t change as the current one progresses. LoVerde came in at 259 AHL games, literally just one under the radar. Zach Trotman, like LoVerde, is just under as well and once he returns from injury, will not apply.
Michael Latta can be exempt because he falls under that 320 category.
Think you have a headache? Imagine what’s going on for Stothers, who’s now faced with putting together a competitive lineup while trying to balance a group by keeping all of his veteran players happy and feeling involved.
“We are, at present, with six and you can only dress five,” he said after Saturday’s 5-2 win over Charlotte. “So that does present a bit of a challenge. You look at it, you’re going to have somebody who’s healthy enough to play but can’t play. The crazy part of the rule is you could actually be understaffed. You could have one or two guys under the limit and have a healthy body but you can’t play ’em because you’ve got your maximum amount of veterans.
“When Teddy came down, on one hand it’s a good thing for us because you’re getting a skilled hockey player, but now we’re at that veteran rule. It’s kind of awkward and uncomfortable for everybody. We’ll just deal with it as we go.”
Stothers was then asked if this is the reason for Scuderi being used on sporadic and as-needed basis. His answer turned into a compliment for Bissonnette, who may be perceived by outsiders as the easiest to cross out on the starting lineup.
“It’s hard because on one hand you think it’s easy, you have six veterans and you just go, ‘oh, Biss.’ He’s the easy guy to sit out as your veteran guy but what you’ve got to think about is what does he bring to the team? First of all, he brings energy and he brings grit and toughness. Then you look at it and you take it a step further, he can play forward and defense, so he might be the most valuable one of them all. If you look at pure skill, again, you would say why is he playing or why is he … You have no idea how valuable he is to the dressing room, to the guys, as a teammate, what he brings.”
I liked what Stothers said about Bissonnette there because it reminded of something Jonny Brodzinski told me before the season started about how all the players were so happy that he had re-signed to stay. Bissonnette isn’t just a fan favorite, he’s a team favorite, too.
The Reign are now in the midst of their busiest week in their busiest month of the season. They’ll play Tuesday at San Diego, return home to face Stockton on Wednesday, Bakersfield on Friday and then play on the road Sunday against San Jose. This presents another “awkward” challenge for Stothers, who has to find the right mix of fresh players for the four games in six days before the holiday break.
Keep an eye on Backman as he’s one veteran who Stothers is trying to get going. The right winger has not been scratched this season. After leading the Reign in scoring a season ago with 55 points, he has just two goals this campaign.
Both Adrian Kempe and Michael Mersch busted out of scoring slumps recently and Stothers said this on Saturday: “Now we just gotta get that little ball of hate Backman to score and that would be the icing on the cake. That would be a Christmas present for us all.”