Fewer Exhibition Games - Good or Bad?

The Carolina Hurricanes only scheduled four exhibition games this pre-season, which raised a couple of eyebrows around the Caniac Nation.  Would four games be enough to prepare the team for the tough home opener against the Flyers on October 2?

When head coach Paul Maurice was asked the question, he told the media to ask him again four or five games into the regular season.  GM Jim Rutherford said that he was hoping to schedule five games, but teams usually like to schedule two at a time, (home and away) so they were unable to add the extra contest.

Interestingly enough, Ken Campbell of The Hockey News noticed what the Hurricanes were doing and wrote an article about it last night on the THN Blog.

Campbell makes note that the Canes have scheduled the fewest pre-season games in the NHL. 

While most teams treat the pre-season like nothing more than a cash cow, the Hurricanes and their progressive-thinking GM Jim Rutherford have taken a rather novel approach to training camp and the exhibition schedule. That’s why they’ve scheduled only four pre-season games this fall, which is the fewest in the league and three fewer than the average of the other 29 teams in the NHL.

Remember the injuries from last year's training camp, (and prior to)?  Justin Williams, Rod Brind`Amour, and Scott Walker all suffered substantial injuries.  Walker was hurt during an exhibition game.  

Apparently, Jim Rutherford remembered.

When Rutherford looked at how fatigued his players have been and how susceptible they have been to injuries in the past, combined with an Olympic break and a compacted season in 2009-10, he realized what almost everyone in hockey has known for years – the pre-season is too long and contains too many meaningless games.

"We’re hoping it will keep our players more rested and healthier," Rutherford said. "I thought about this for a while and we’ll probably have a few guys on Olympic teams. Our veteran players really like it."

But while the players might be rested and healthier, will they be game ready?

The Hurricanes are blessed with a veteran lineup this year with very few, if any positions open for rookies.  For instance, Brandon Sutter is having a great training camp, but the question remains, where do they put him?  It seems hard to believe at this point that the team will trade an established player to make room for a rookie, whom would benefit from playing some in the AHL anyway. 

So it does not make much sense to have a long, drawn out process in camp when the lineup is already set.

Another factor is that the players have already come to camp in great condition.  Aaron Ward recently said that "honestly, this team is in the best condition of any that I have played on".  So conditioning should not be an issue. There are no Keith Tkachuk's to whip into shape in Carolina. 

It all comes down to timing.  Can the players get their timing down in just a few practice games?

As Paul Maurice said, we will find out four or five games into the regular season.

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