19 September 2009
Thursday's incident during the Flames-Islanders game has once again sparked the age old debate, is preseason really necessary? This is a topic that rolls around each year like the flue, after a big name player for some team goes down in a preseason game with some sort season changing, bone rattling injury. The argument mostly stems from football and hockey due to their intense physical game play and proved no different following the earth rattling hit laid on Kyle Okposo.
So after the game was over and the Flames had one, that same pesky question reemerged, is preseason really necessary? The answer is so simply put, Yes it is.
Preseason is a job interview for prospects to make their mark on a team or make a stab for an open spot. The intent is to pick out the best players and put them on the ice to compete everyday, just like a corporationor business who want to find the best of the best employees. They wouldn't just pick people without seeing how they can handle a real situation they would face out in the field of that profession and the same goes for hockey clubs. preseason is a bonafide interview extended out to several games to see how the 40 plus guys that are invited can handle themselves during a game. A game in which involves all the aspects of a regular season game, skillful play, enthusiastic crowds, fights and hard hits. Those last two are what freak fans out the most, cause those fights or hard hits can detrimentally effect a major player on their team.
The intensity of these hits and fights are what worry many and brings up another aspect for debate, how much is too much in a preseason game? Is all this intensity really necessary durnig games that don't even count.Again I must answer yes, sort of.
To eliminate the hits or the fights in a preseason game would water down the game and would hinder an aspect of judging a lesser known player to see if he has what it takes. Although goonish tom foolery is something should be gone, it does happen throughout the game during the September month between rookies or prospects looking to catch the eye of a coach or GM. Stupid in nature, it does show a players ability to hold his own against an opponent. Or in the case of Morency, who hopped over the boards to take a few shots at Diop Phaneuf following his hit on Okposo and Matt Martin who also fought in retaliation for the Okposo hit showing that a player is willing to stand up for a teammate.
Hits are where the line gets foggy. Physical game play is a part of hockey and prospects need to learn and assimilate to the pysicality of the NHL. But how hard should a player like Dion Phaneuf, well known veteran hit another player andis preseason really the place to show that you still can play the tough pysical game you are known for. Those are answers I simply do not have nor does anyone else.
Even though the physicality is the question that looms in the minds of many, their is one that always gets me. Should players you know will most likely be on the team play in preseason? That to me is a question that could go either way.
Unlike the NFL,NBA, or MLB there are no subs that you have to put in to replace players you will be their come the regular season. Although injuries do happen in theses leagues there is less of the risk of losing that key player when you have other guys who can come in to take his place. Unfortunatly hockey doesnt have that and the risk is higher, forcing teams to keep notable players out there for better or worse.
Looking at it both ways, it has its up side too. For one you give those players a forum to get back into the feel of a real, regular season game, ensuring that by regular season start these key players will be in tip top shape. You also show NHL hopefulls what there up against and the skill that those players who already know they've made it posses.
An alternative would be to refran from including players garanteed to make the team and just include NHL hopefulls. This still gives players a forum to show off their skill and show why they deserve to make the big club. It also minamizes risk of injuring a player that is important to the team (although does not remove the risk of injury itself). The drawbacks though are also present, it fails to show players what it's like to face off against a seasoned NHL pro and loses some aspects of realizm.
Though there are always risks, preseason hockey is a nessecary evil that fans must come terms with. It helps get players back into the swing of NHL hockey and ensures teams get a good look at their young players. Giving coaches and GMs a forum to see who can make it in the pros and who still needs some time to develop, ensuring that they put the best product on the ice come opening night. There always will be a debate on the nessesaity of preseason, that will never go away but for now lets just try and enjoy the rest of it cause it's almost over.
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