When the new NLL Collective Bargaining Agreement was signed over the fall, roster sizes were reduced, shrinking to 20 players from 23, with practice rosters expanding from three to four. Now that we are more than a third of the way through the schedule, it’s time to have a look back and see if the reduced rosters have affected the game.
There are a couple metrics we can look at to see if the reduced rosters are making a difference, all which could indicate that fatigue is starting to set in, with the shorter benches.
Scoring across the board is actually downing 2014 compared to 2013. Teams are scoring 11.5 goals per game so far this year as compared to 12.1 goals per game last year. That might indicate that teams are running out of gas and becoming less effective, however, the quarter-by-quarter evidence doesn’t suggest that—overall, the second-most productive period around the NLL has been the fourth, with 218 goals scored between the four teams so far.
Power play frequency might also indicate a change, as tired players are more prone to sloppy penalties. However, this year’s average of 4.8 power play opportunities per game for each team is actually slightly lower than last year’s average of 4.9 power plays per game.
So by those standards, it would seem that the reduced rosters have made no difference at all.
There is one place where it has seemed to make a difference, though. Teams that have had to play twice in the same weekend this year are a dismal 3-9 in the second game, a .250 winning percentage. Last year, teams actually played better in their second games of the weekend, going 13-8 in those situations for a .619 winning percentage.
So while it would seem that teams aren’t being affected by the shorter rosters in most games, the fatigue is definitely showing when teams have to go back-to-back on a weekend. With a busier, more concentrated schedule this year, that might prove to have a significant impact on the standings when all is said and done.