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Tuesdays With Hildy: Are Preseason Games Necessary?

Sorry for the delay... 95% of the roads in my county are flooded or washed out, which means no school, which means me sleeping in until 11 and making scrambled eggs. I have priorities.

Anyway, we here at Game Time seem to be in two camps: those who enjoy preseason hockey and think it's important (and flood threads for games we can only hear on the radio), and those who refuse to go. Preseason happens every year for a chance for coaches and GMs to evaluate players and systems, and for the League to randomly hold games in "tester cities" to see how receptive they are to NHL Hockey. But, really, do the pros outweigh the cons?

Yes, Preseason Games Are Useful

Basically this boils down to one major thing: how in the world are teams supposed to judge the ability of the rookies/try-outs to play against other teams' strategies and professionals if not for preseason games? Going up against someone on your own team during practice can be good training, but you can probably figure out what they're thinking of doing, or how their "team" plays the scrimmage. You're running your own system back against yourself, or running one of your systems versus another to see which one plays better. Useful? Very much so.

However, it's different when the guys across from you in the face off circle aren't just wearing different color jerseys than you - they're wearing different crests. You don't know what to expect. You have to adjust on the fly. Sometimes young goalies get to go up against world class talent (usually on teams who are playing home preseason games and they want to give their fans something to see), and they get totally creamed. It's a learning experience. It also gives the coaches a chance to see who needs to develop more. Where do you want to learn this - during a preseason game, or during one of the first games of the season?

All this aside, this is the first hockey we've gotten a chance to see in a very long time. I would take midgets sliding around the ice with newspaper on their shoes by this point. I don't care if we decide to ice the whole Rivermen squad one night. It's hockey.

No, There Are Too Many Risks Involved

Talk to Kyle Okposo about this one. Thanks to Dion Phaneuf's open ice hit on him that was legal but probably very unnecessary for a preseason game against two teams who never see each other, he wound up in the hospital with a nasty concussion. He's one of the Islanders' star players, and he probably won't be out there for opening night. Ron Hainsey and Colby Armstrong both got hurt during a pre-season game. Steve Sullivan's out. Kris Versteeg's out. These aren't the little guys on their teams. These are some of their top players. Can teams risk this every year in the name of seeing who makes the team? Aren't most of the slots assumed to be status quo from last season as long as the players in that position are still around? Sometimes pre-season is about tweaking lines, and that can be done on the fly during a game. Coaches and GMs can't risk losing their big guys for the start of the season - if you fall behind there, it's very difficult to make up that lost ground.