by PuckStopsHere on 09/26/08 at 02:47 PM ET
James Mirtle wrote a couple blogposts about the pre-season schedule. It is a rather heavy schedule with 111 pre-season games (7.4 per team). Teams frequently play games on multiple nights on multiple cities with schedules they would never allow in the regular season. While not all players play in all pre-season games, a few do. On most teams, all but a couple roster spots are completely determined due to contract status and past results of the players on their team. Seven or more pre—season games are not needed to determine who makes the team and they certainly are not needed to get the players in shape for the season (as they largely come to training camp in playing shape). The only purpose they seem to hold is an increase in revenue for the owners, especially as season ticket holders are forced to buy tickets for these games that do not count for anything.
Players who play well in the pre.season have no guarantee of even making their given team. One example of this is Brandon Bochenski of the Tampa Bay Lighting. Bochenski has been an NHL player off and on since 2005/06. He has never established himself as an NHL star despite stops in Ottawa, Chicago, Boston, Nashville and Anaheim. He has been a superstar in the AHL at times when he is not in the NHL. For example, in 2006/07 he scored 66 points in 35 games with the Chicago Blackhawk farm team in Norfolk. Bochenski signed in Tampa Bay this summer. Tampa Bay is a team that signed a huge number of potential NHL forwards. They have Vincent LeCavalier, Martin St Louis, Ryan Malone, Vaclav Prospal, Radim Vrbata, Gary Roberts, Jeff Halpern, Jussi Jokinen, Mark Recchi, Michel Ouellet, Chris Gratton, Evgeny Arkyukin, Ryan Craig, Adam Hall, Nick Tarnasky, David Koci, Zenon Konopka, Jason Ward, Steve Stamkos and Bochenski all at training camp. These are 20 forwards that one could reasonably expect to be NHL calibre. Jeff Halpern suffered a knee injury last spring and still out, but that leaves 19 players competing for forward spots who can reasonably be called NHL players. Obviously, some NHL calibre forwards are not going to make the team because you cannot carry 19 forwards on a 23 man roster. Tampa Bay should be one team that has competition for its final forward spots.
Bochenski played in Tampa’s first pre-season game. It was a 5-4 shootout win against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Bochenski played very well. He had two goals and one assist and was named first star of the contest. Yesterday, Tampa Bay placed him on waivers. They intend to cut him and send him to the minors. What more must Bochenski have done to make the team? Tampa Bay has now played four pre-season games (in the seven nights since the pre-season opened) and played Bochenski again last night against the New York Rangers. Bochenski did not score any points in that game but was a +1. All told, Bochenski got 3 points in 2 pre-season games and was +3. What more is needed for him to make the team? It seems clear from his results that Tampa had decided Bochenski would not make the team and it didn’t matter how he performed in pre-season. Not all teams behave like Tampa Bay does, but if it is possible to be an NHL calibre player who plays well in pre-season and still does not make the team, it is strong evidence that the pre-season games have little value. Positive results in pre-season did not help Bochenski make the team. The games were not necessary to determine his roster spot. He didn’t make it and a strong performance in those games (which he offered) was not going to change anything.
The pre-season hockey schedule has extra games in it to increase teams revenue. These games are unnecessary and have little impact in working out who makes the various teams. Tonight, there are eight more of them to be played. Given the long season that can extend into June, is it really necessary to have this many pre-season games?
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