There has been a long-standing debate in the NHL on how long the preseason should be, and how many games need to be played before starting the regular season. Now, more than ever, the question needs to be raised on how important these games really are.
Yes, the games bring in more money to both the teams involved and the league as a whole; they also give cities without a team the opportunity to host an actual NHL game. And finally, they give coaches a final look at the young players who are on the bubble to make the team.
The preseason does have its positives to be sure, but the argument can also be made that selling half the seats in a small arena for a cheap price brings the league peanuts in comparison to what they would make in a regular season game.
The fact that games are held in smaller towns is great for those communities, but there still is no need for each team to play so many games. And as for the young players getting one last look—if the coaches still aren't sure about a player by the end of the preseason, they're not doing their job anyway.
So you can see, this is a debate that can go either way, but if you're a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs this season, you're probably on the side that's calling for fewer games played. Here's why.
The preseason for the Leafs starts on Sept. 21, 2010 with back-to-back games against the rival Ottawa Senators in Toronto. Then they immediately fly to Philadelphia for back-to-back games against the Flyers, before one more game hosting the Buffalo Sabres.
Yes, you heard me correctly. The Leafs start this year's preseason with five games in five nights. Talk about jumping right into things.
But the busy schedule doesn't end there. After one day of rest, they play their final four games over the next seven days. So if you're keeping score, that's nine games in 12 nights.
Nine games in 12 nights.
If that isn't crazy then Sean Avery will be the front runner for the Lady Byng Trophy this season.
With the tough 82-game marathon that the players and coaches have ahead of them already, with endless travel and weeks of living in hotel rooms out of suitcases, is it really necessary to drag them through the mud of nine pointless games in such a short time?
Someone should be fired for this decision.
Obviously the veteran players who have spots locked up already won't be participating in many of the games, but that's not the point because someone is going to have to play all these games. There are only so many young guys you can throw into the mix to fill a roster.
And calling on your young guys to play a ton in the preseason, in a league they may never have played in before, is a great way to tire them out before things even get started.
Not to mention that coaches will be working overtime to come up with lineups and avoid tiring out players, especially in the five-day stretch where every night is a game night. Ron Wilson, godspeed.
You can argue until you're blue in the face that these overpaid athletes can't complain about a few more games before the season begins, but what's the point of paying them all that money if by the time the real season starts, they just want a break?
The Leafs preseason mercifully ends on Oct. 2, after back-to-back games with the Detroit Red Wings. It gives them four days off before the regular season kicks off on Oct. 7 at home to the Montreal Canadiens.
It really is a no-brainer. The preseason in the NHL is far to long with far too many games packed into a small time period. It's ridiculous.
What they need to do is drop the number of games down to three or four at the most and not force these players into a terrible schedule for a bunch of games that essentially mean nothing to the majority of players on each team. You think Phil Kessel wants to play five nights in a row in a bunch of half-filled arenas against a bevy of young players he'll never see again? No sir.
Scrap the crammed schedule, put an easy three-games-over-seven-nights type schedule in, and get the pointless season over with quickly.
As Leaf Nation itches to get the regular season started, with a team that has playoff potential written all over them, they better first pray that their team makes it through the dreadful preseason they'll be forced to jog through.
Let's just hope they don't get too used to playing in meaningless games, we were put through enough at the beginning of last season in Toronto.
Preseason. It's time to end the debate, and start giving teams a break.
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