In deference to Earth, Wind, and Fire, the ninth month of calendar year 2012 will be a September for all the wrong reasons as it pertains to the National Hockey League.
Less than a week after the league officially locked out its players following the expiration of the Collective Bargaining Agreement with the NHL Players Association, the NHL announced Wednesday that all preseason games scheduled to be played in September have been cancelled.
For the Nashville Predators, that announcement meant that five of the team’s seven scheduled preseason contests will not take place. The team’s two other preseason games are still scheduled to be played October 2nd and 5th, and the likelihood of them being played are in serious doubt.
The Predators are scheduled to open their training camp this Friday, but on the heels of Wednesday’s announcement from the league, it is safe to assume that word of that event’s postponement is only a matter of hours away from being delivered.
When training camp does begin, and at this point there is no guarantee that it will happen anytime soon if at all, Predators head coach Barry Trotz and his staff will have to assemble this season’s team in a shorter timeframe than in previous years. This could prove to be bad news for fringe players who had hoped to crack the NHL roster in training camp.
Trotz enters the training camp with a general idea of how many preseason games each player will participate in, but that number is subject to change.
“I’ve got a game plan where I want to see this guy at least four times, this guy three times at least,” Trotz said in 2009. “You go in with an absolute battle plan if you will, and then you have to adjust to the battle. If a guy falls off in his quest to make our hockey team and is not performing as well, that might bump him down and add another game to someone else.”
Perhaps the most notable beneficiary of this system was former Predators forward Joel Ward. When Nashville signed Ward in the summer of 2008, it was with the thinking that he would provide the organization with a depth forward. To that point, Ward had played in just 11 NHL games.
With an impressive preseason performance, Ward showed the coaching staff enough to make the team out of training camp. Ward played three seasons in Nashville before signing with the Washington Capitals prior to last season.
Looking ahead to this season, an abbreviated training camp and shortened preseason game schedule will likely give the younger and untested players little to no opportunity to make the roster that starts the season. The team’s regulars will likely need most of the reps in the preseason games, leaving little opportunities for others to prove themselves against NHL competition.