When it comes to the trade deadline, there are several options for the ECHL teams. They could go for it all and trying to wrangle the best players from the teams at the bottom, so long as it works for the salary cap. They can rebuild and bring in some younger players in hopes they’ll re-sign for the next season. Then there are others who will just stand pat because they couldn’t find a deal or didn’t want to mess up the chemistry of the roster they have.
For the Colorado Eagles, they have quite the task at hand when it comes to their deadline decisions. The Eagles currently sit in 7th in the Western Conference with a 31-23-2-1 record and have recorded points in their last seven games. Yet, for GM/Coach Chris Stewart, it’s a fine balance of what he wants to do with his roster.
“If there’s an option to make our team better, we’ll definitely take a look at it,” Stewart said in a phone interview with TheSinBin.net this week, “but the odds of anyone getting an apples to apples deal is very rare in this league.”
The Eagles have come on strong since the calendar flipped to 2016, posting a 16-5-1 record since January 1st. Their start to the season was mired in what Stewart described as bad bounces, injuries, and play that wasn’t up to snuff with the rest of the league. Despite all of that, Stewart believes it’s what built character and the reason why he won’t go out of his way to make any kind of move.
“We’re not going to upset the apple cart when it comes to chemistry,” said Stewart. “The cracks in the facade of this team early in the season has made us battle tested going forward. We still have to get to the playoffs and it’s no guarantee, but the adversity that was thrown at us at the start of the season is something that should help carry us through.”
That is also going to be when it comes to their young players. While the Eagles have put together a mostly veteran team, Stewart doesn’t believe that trading away young players is a viable option, saying that he believes that sometimes there’s a young player on the roster that can be the best player on the team if given the chance to play in big situations.
One of the perks that Stewart and the Eagles have in the ECHL is their independent status. Since coming into the ECHL, the Eagles have had affiliations with the Winnipeg Jets (2011-13) and most recently last season with the Calgary Flames. While an affiliation didn’t materialize this year, Stewart said that there are pros and cons to a move like that.
“When you have an affiliation with a NHL club, there’s a lot of good that can come with it,” explained Stewart, “though you can also come across a time where there are untimely call-ups of your really good players that could mess with the chemistry. Being able to control your own destiny with the roster is something I really enjoy having.”
Stewart has been with the Eagles since their inception in the Central Hockey League in 2003 and the longevity of his tenure has allowed him to build up quite the rapport with his peers in the league. Making sure all the teams are healthy is part of the GM’s job and part of the reason why the league is as healthy as it is.
“We want to be ultra competitive, but also want to give everyone the same opportunity to succeed,” explained Stewart. “Parity is a word that is overused in this sport, but it’s true in the ECHL. This league has the ability for anyone to come out of either conference and have a strong shot at the Kelly Cup. If we (GMs) didn’t carry ourselves in a fair manner, we wouldn’t be able to survive as long as some of us have.”
There’s still time for Stewart and the Eagles to make a deal, but he warns that there’s rarely a blockbuster at the deadline in the cap world, but it doesn’t mean he can’t make his team better with a few missing pieces he may need for Colorado’s playoff push.