How Important is Preseason Hockey?


Feb 8, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Connor Murphy (5) watches his team take on the Dallas Stars during the game at the American Airlines Center. The Stars defeated the Coyotes 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

These games are almost never televised. They can’t be seen with your ESPN GameCenter subscription, and they’re full of players you might never see again.

Preseason games are, in every sport, always fun to read about on Twitter. When your team wins, it’s “telling of how great the season will be”. When your team loses, “it doesn’t matter- it’s only preseason”.

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(For those who haven’t noticed, these oxymoronic statements are made about… well, just about everything to do with professional sports.)

It’s true. Preseason games are messy, halting, and- oftentimes- extremely uneven. While a team’s traditional first liners may get fifteen minutes of ice time, the second line may only ten- and the left wing may be played by a guy you’ve never seen outside of the farm system. You may have even forgotten that this kid got drafted altogether. What’s he doing on the ice, and why did he just turn the puck over so quickly?

Even players who are looking to make their first appearances on the team’s roster look less than stellar sometimes. I remember last year, when I was watching Anthony Camara of the Providence Bruins. He looked like he’d been called straight up from the QJMHL- apart from being well over six feet tall. He looked all over the place. It only happened in one game, but it was painful to watch.

These not-so-perfect plays made during the preseason- whether due to nerves or unpreparedness for the big leagues- are what makes these September games so important.

Max Domi has nine games to prove to Don Maloney- and Head Coach Dave Tippett- that he’s matured enough to play in Arizona this coming season. Brendan Perlini needs to show how close he is to being the saving grace the Coyotes front office is banking on him becoming. Connor Murphy and Michael Stone will battle it out to see who clicks into that final top-four defenseman role. Brandon Gormley needs to prove that he’s got something to bring to Gila River Arena, and Sam Gagner needs to renew hope with fans that he’s not going to be the same Sam Gagner that got ousted from Edmonton.

Max Domi has nine games to prove to Don Maloney- and Head Coach Dave Tippett- that he’s matured enough to play in Arizona this coming season.”

The season is made up of eighty-two bloody battles, particularly in the Western Conference. Coaches don’t have the luxury of trying out lines and players in the midst of the race to the playoffs, and players aren’t afforded time to grow accustomed to playing with the Patrick Kanes and Dustin Browns of the league. Game One needs to have players hitting the ice skating, and skating fast.

Preseason may not have the games that fans want to go to, or the goals that people want to see. These games don’t even count, guys. 

They do, though. These games may not count towards the playoffs, but these games are the time for spots to be filled, players to be evaluated, and- most of all- chemistry to be developed.

Whether you watch these games or not, you’d best believe they’re the most important games of some people’s years.