Every jigsaw enthusiast knows the first step in puzzle-solving is sorting out the pieces.
That fact isn't lost on Danny Maciocia.
It's now up to the rookie Edmonton Eskimos head coach to figure out how to build a 40-piece Green and Gold puzzle out of the 54 pieces left on the table following Thursday's pre-season finale in Winnipeg.
"You've got to address everything," said Maciocia. "You've got to address, 'What happens if this guy gets hurt during the course of the season?'
"If this guy gets hurt, is that guy going to be available and can we call him? What happens if he's being claimed by somebody else, then what are we going to do?"
The clock is ticking because Maciocia only has until 2 p.m. local time today to finish this puzzle.
DON'T AXE ME
Clearly, Maciocia is going to have to wield the axe and there will be casualties. But perhaps not as many as people might think.
Because there's no limit to the number of players a CFL team can consign to its one-game injured list, Maciocia can stash bodies there.
"That would make it easy," Maciocia said of loading up the one-game injured list. "But you've got to pay them."
Another option is stocking the team's practice roster. However, putting players on the practice roster is also a gamble.
After watching Montreal pluck pint-sized return specialist Ezra Landry off the Green and Gold's PR last season before the Esks pilfered offensive lineman Joe McGrath from Calgary's, Maciocia doesn't want to gamble.
Athletes on the PR can be claimed by another CFL team. However, the claiming team must immediately add that player to its active roster.
"If they're out there, they're exposed," said Maciocia, who vows never to have a repeat of the Ezra Landry situation. "The question we're going to have to ask ourselves is, 'Do we want to lose them?' "
It's Maciocia's reluctance to gamble on losing talent that is responsible for all the deliberation surrounding selection of the squad.
"What's important for me is to set the roster in my mind first and then see who we'll want to consider for the practice roster," he said.
"Setting the roster for me is huge. You have to declare your injureds by (today's deadline), but you don't have to set your roster by (the deadline)."
Amid all the video review sessions and soul searching, Maciocia at some point will have to pitch the practice roster to those who won't open the year on the active roster.
That in itself can be tricky.
"Those are conversations that are going to take place and, ultimately, a guy may say, 'Hey listen, I don't want to be on your practice roster,' " Maciocia said. "If he doesn't, life goes on."
Esk veterans Roger Reinson and Robert Grant were sent packing when Maciocia was required to whittle the training camp roster to 50, excluding draft picks and territorial protections.
Other familiar faces could also be among the castoffs in the second round of cuts. Having to agonize over the final cuts may be difficult on a personal level for Maciocia, but it's a dilemma of his own creation.
BUNCH OF CANUCKS
An overabundance of Canadian talent gives the Esks unparalleled flexibilty when it comes to setting the roster. As many as nine non-imports could be pencilled in as starters, which opens a host of possibilities.
"Before you didn't have options," Maciocia said. "You didn't have the luxury of saying we're going to start X number of Canadians.
"Now you do. Now the question is here do you line them up and what do you do with the rest? Now, you've got to put the puzzle together."