Is there a blueprint to follow when landing key free agents?
Obviously the best offer lands the most impactful free agents, but that isn’t always the case.
Is it best offer or best fit?
An opportunity to win or an opportunity to play?
You see there’s a lot more that goes into landing key free agents than just the allure of the best deal or school packages.
Some free agents just want an opportunity while others need a fresh start due to a plethora of reasons.
Either way it seems like every major junior team across the CHL have a key free agent acquisition on their rosters that leaves everyone asking how did they land that player?
Word of Mouth
Believe it or not word of mouth still travels far in the world of junior hockey.
Contacts and lines of communication always seemed to be open and the hockey executives with the most contacts usually land the best players.
Nevertheless, the best executives usually tap into their own talent pool first.
They ask their own guys.
Their own free agents that have had success in the league already.
You see that builds trust and loyalty amongst player and executive.
In a five to ten minute conversation good hockey executives can target players that they can either invite to the follow years training camp or send scouts to go watch them on their element.
Sure player personnel decisions should be discussed in the board room not with current players, but this is different, the aforementioned player knows these guys better than anyone else because they have either played with or against them.
They know what they can bring they know how to project and what it takes to play in the league.
You would be surprised to see just how many junior hockey executives use this methodology and believe it or not it works.
There’s no secret formula to any type of success, it’s all about hard work.
The countless hours, phone calls and correspondence between player and their parents and between scouts and hockey executives equates to a lot of time and money.
Nonetheless, it’s a risk and an investment that every major junior team has to undertake.
It all comes down to value and seeing potential in a player when no one else does it in some cases both organizations do what’s best for the player.
You see there’s a lot of hard work done by all parties involved.
From the agent, to the parents to the former team to the new team seeking out the player’s services.
The hard work behind the scenes is endless.
The most important element in the complex world of junior hockey free agency should always be centred around what’s best for the player.
You see that should be at the forefront of every internal discussion between all the parties involved.
It should always be about the player.
Late Bloomers and the Numbers Game
Late bloomers always seem to get the shit end of the stick.
Now more than ever late bloomers are finally getting an opportunity which is truly remarkable.
Nevertheless, that opportunity usually comes in way of being a free agent.
More and more major junior teams are plucking other team’s late bloomers or even perceived cast away’s out of the OHL, QMJHL and the WHL at 17 and 18 years of age.
We have seen overagers jump from across the CHL before which is quite common, but more and more free agent are being signed after they get their release from their respective teams.
Obviously when players get caught up in a numbers game things usually don’t go as planned.
The work done by scouts and other contacts across Canada is really extraordinary if you think about it.
With one phone call from a reliable source or contact, teams spring into action and start inquiring about the player and projecting their style of play within their team’s current and future framework.
Sure things don’t always work out with free agents, but the most important aspect of all of this is the opportunity.
Many players across the CHL have found their niche and have excelled with their new teams.
Obviously there’s no clear cut free agent blueprint, each organization and executive have their own unique way of finding their diamonds in the rough.
Hard work, character, dedication, there’s always something special about free agents.
Some of the best stories in the games history revolve around free agents and their success.
As longtime hockey analyst John Shannon said “I don’t cheer for team’s I cheer for people.”
With the start of QMJHL Training Camps only a few months away one should be cheering for every player to have success and reach their full potential.
I will be cheering loudest in a quiet reserved way for the all free agent invitees taking advantage of their opportunity and with something to prove to each and every organization.