In past seasons, a potentially high-scoring forward suddenly quitting early in the season might have been a serious blow for a team such as the Condors.
Tyler Helfrich, who led the Condors as a rookie last year with 42 points in 52 games, quite on Wednesday.
“He said his head and heart wasn’t in it,” Condors coach Matt O’Dette said. “It was surprising but I could tell there was something up with him. He wasn’t playing well.”
Helfrich had two assists in five games and has been suspended by the team, a move which keeps him from joining any other ECHL team.
But a new rule eliminating short-term injured reserve spots and an extra roster spot for the first 30 days has made it much easier for ECHL coaches to juggle their lineups this season.
Or quickly fill a spot when a player like Helfrich departs.
And O’Dette is doing just that.
O’Dette is carrying 13 forwards (12 now with the departer of Helfrich) and eight defensemen (along with the two goaltenders) on his roster and there are only spots during games for 10 forwards and six defensemen.
Forward Tyler Brenner arrived in Bakersfield on Saturday norning after being assigned to the team through the Toronto Marlines in the AHL and played that night.
Forward Alex Hudson, who caught a puck in the face on Friday night, lost a couple of teeth and had a mouthful of stitches, but was still in the lineup come Saturday night.
Fellow forward Robbie Dee, nursing an injury, found himself sitting out for the first time this season on Saturday as did defenseman Justin Pender.
And O’Dette said it was likely Helfrich would be sitting this weekend as he had not been playing well.
“It’s competition to stay in the lineup,” O’Dette said. “You can see just based on the lines we have a lot of good forwards. You can’t take a night of or you’ll find yourself in the stands. That keeps everybody hungry, keeps everybody battling in practice. Guys can’t afford to take night of cause they’ll be out.”
In the past, that type of juggling wasn’t so easy as there were generally only two extra players to choose from. After that, players had to be on IR, either 3, 7 or 21 day versions, and had to remain on IR for the duration.
Teams can have 20 players on their active roster and the rest go on reserve. But players can move from active to reserve status and vice versa on a daily basis.
“There is a lot more flexibility to sit guys,” O’Dette said. “You can pop guys on and off reserve. It keeps the competition going.”