September 26, 2010

Pucks On The Net: Pre-Season Edition

It is great to see nightly hockey highlights again, even if it is only pre-season action.

Which leads me to my first Pucks On The Net of the season. Why are there so many pre-season games? Why do people pay so much money to watch them? And do good pre-seasons for players and for teams translate into good regular seasons or at least regular season starts? More after the jump . . .

Too Many Pre-Season Games

Why do teams play 10 or more pre-season games? Sure it is a chance to learn about prospects and what not, but let's face it - at least 75% of the roster is set before camp starts anyways. Let the coaches and prospects have their own camp and mini-tournaments, but let's cap the veterans pre-season games at 5 per team.

The vets don't need more than 5 games to be ready to go for the season. Not in this day and age where they train right through the summer. The players (and most certainly the fans) would benefit from more focussed pre-season competition, where systems and roles are set and players can work out the kinks in their actual roles.

And that would also allow the NHL season to start by mid September, and end by May 31st. Why the NHL has not done this long ago is beyond me. I guess they don't want to get lost in baseball penant races and NFL action.

Pre-Season Robbery

It is not often that I have said this, but completely agree with what Vancouver Province columnist Tony Gallagher had to say about pre-season hockey.

He talked about how fans are charged top dollar for a minor league experience. $65 nosebleed seats to watch an AHL team? We all want to see our prized prospect playing, but most of these games are now on TV. I know where I'll be watching, thank you very much.

Even worse, season ticket holders are saddled with these games, increasing their costs. That means most of the seats aren't even directly available to the average guy, the guy who can't get into regular season games because they are sold out.

Going to a game can easily cost anywhere from $200-$500, depending on seats, parking costs, food and, heaven forbid, little Johnny wanting t-shirt and foam finger. In my personal case it would cost me at least $1000 when I factor in flights and hotels.

For that kind of money I expect a true NHL experience, something you do not get in a pre-season game. Why anyone pays that kind of money to go is also beyond me.

Historical Analysis

Has anyone ever computed some sort of pre-season success analysis? I'd be curious to know if a good pre-season record translates into a fast start, both for teams and individuals. Are good pre-season teams more likely to make the playoffs?

Or, as I suspect, does it have little effect? Last season Toronto had the best pre-season record in the East, second best overall. They finished second last in the league in the regular season. The only team that was worse was Edmonton. The Oilers had the 4th best pre-season record in the West.

Oh, and the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks? They were dead last.

Mike Comrie led the NHL in pre-season scoring with 10 points in 5 games. He had just 21 in the regular season. Mind you Anze Kopitar turned his strong pre-season into an amazing regular season start.

Looking only at last season is a pretty small sample size, but if my assumption is true, that is one more reason to truncate pre-season hockey.

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