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Friday Funbag: The guidelines for watching NHL training camp
This will help if you are headed to the rink this weekend.
I’ll do more of a proper season prediction post closer to the season.
But for today, in the Friday Funbag, I want to speak briefly about the rules of following NHL training camp.
If you are reading Shap Shots (and thank you), you are probably paying attention to some form on NHL training camp this weekend. Either in person, or passively watching on social media and, like many of us, over reacting to line combinations on Day 1 of training camp.
To better watch training camp, and this goes for any team, here are some rules that can help your comprehension of what’s happening in front of you.
Remember, most of the job are already determined. This makes the “anyone can make it,” narrative feel hollow, but in most cases NHL training camp is simply a formality when it comes to roster building. GMs and coaches build their roster in the summer, that’s the reality of a salary cap world, and while there may be position battles for some roles, there are rarely actual battles for roster spots, at least for opening night.
Enjoy the new first-round pick while they are here. First-round picks are fun, prospects are the future, and they create some fun storylines in camp. But NHL teams also need first-round picks to fill out the roster during the preseason. There is an NHL “veteran” rule in place for preseason, where each team must dress eight veterans. The rules are as follows:
15.4 Exhibition Games.
(c) A Club shall be permitted to dress a minimum of eight (8) veterans for any Exhibition Game. For purposes of this Section 15.4(c), a veteran shall constitute either:
(1) a forward or defenseman who played in thirty (30) NHL Games during the previous season,
(2) a goaltender who either dressed in fifty (50) or more NHL Games or played in thirty (30) or more NHL Games in the previous season,
(3) a first round draft choice from the most recent year's Entry Draft, or
(4) any Player who has played one-hundred (100) or more career NHL Games.
So while it might look like that first rounder from the 2023 NHL Draft is being given a fair shake at an NHL spot, in many cases it’s simply to fill a preseason roster spot so many actual veterans don’t have to take road trips.
Don’t read too much into line combinations. This is tough, because it’s preaching against what the coaches are actually doing. Coaches are using training camp to figure out what works and what doesn’t. While they may come across a combination they’ll love, they’ll also come across many they don’t. I always use this philosophy with lines — treat lines like stray animals, don’t give them a nickname if you aren’t 100 percent sure it won’t still be there next week.
Embrace the hockey nerdiness. This is the most important one for me. When it comes to training camp, and watching NHL practices in general, I love watching for the minutia and small details that come out in practice that have helped these athletes become some of the finest in the world. Maybe it’s the skating stride, maybe it’s the way a player flexes their stick before a pass. Honestly, the small little things, the small details you can observe amongst the chaos of a training camp help me learn more about the game every season.
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Hope that helps. Let’s get to some of your questions.
How's Bischel's knee? Think he'll be ready for Thursday and then game time Saturday against the Yotes? How long do you think he stays up in preseason? (From Max Redd)
Lian Bichsel’s knee is good to go. He tweaked it in Traverse City, but it was also one of those knocks that kept him out of a prospect tournament game, but wouldn’t keep him out of a real hockey game that matters.
He was on a pairing with Joel Hanley in practice on Thursday, which to me, means he’s in the mind of the Stars coaches as an NHL option and will play at least a handful of the preseason games this season.
As I covered on Thursday, Bichsel could be a sneaky bet to play NHL games this season. You should check out that piece here if you want some more on the big Swiss defender.
(Side note, the comment section on the Funbag is a great place to leave future ideas for film you want studied.)
Good morning Sean, and happy Tuesday. What goes into the selection for neutral site preseason games? I’d imagine an nhl team picks an area they want to grow their footprint in. (From Alexander Posani)
Most neutral site games, aside from the big one in Australia this weekend, are typically driven by the venue themselves.
NHL teams don’t really care much about the business of preseason games, they usually lose money on them, and aside from making them part of season-ticket holder packages, they don’t provide much financial value.
So most NHL teams are open and willing to listen to any neutral site venue that wants to host a game. For example, the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma has frequently pushed for and hosted NHL neutral site games before.
This has been completely driven by the BOK Center. They want to bring a product in for their area, they believe they can make some money on concessions, and NHL teams are more than willing to make it work since it’s one less preseason home game they have to worry about.
There are the occasional times a preseason game has a greater purpose, like the Kraft Hockeyville games, but most neutral site preseason games are simply teams getting paid to be there and at the same time saving some money by not having to run a home preseason game.
I feel like prospect tournament brought my overall excitement level of our depth down a couple notches. Is this warranted, or do you still think we have some difference makers in the mix? (From Taylor Garrison)
I wouldn’t let a prospect tournament paint that type of picture of organizational depth.
Sure, it can lead to some concerns about specific players, and I outlined some of those concerns on Monday. But a prospect tournament doesn’t really measure the depth of an organization for this season.
NHL teams, and their AHL rosters, have a bevy of 4A players, many whom could play in the NHL with the right opportunity. Some shortcomings in a prospect tournament won't change that.
When it comes to difference makers, if talking about Dallas, yes, the Stars do have future potential difference makers in the prospect pool in Logan Stankoven, Mavrik Bourque, and Lian Bichsel.
I also have a high standard for “difference maker,” in the NHL now. To me, there are three types of players in the NHL — average ones, good ones, and difference makers. There are no bad NHL players, but average ones are those that could easily be in the AHL for another organization. Good ones fill out the middle of the roster and the number of difference makers you have determine if you’ll ever win a Stanley Cup.
Going to repeat myself, probably.....Jim Nill stated that players sitting in the press box while eating (whatever)...are NOT making improvements to their game and thusly NOT contributing to the team effort, but I hear nothing about Lundqvist........what are you hearing, please.......(From D.Y.)
What am I hearing on Nils Lundkvist?
Well I spoke to members of the Dallas brass last week in Traverse City about Lundkvist the belief here is that he’ll be a full-time NHLer this season.
The Stars essentially punted on Lundkvist at the end of last season because they felt he needed at least 45 more games of seasoning, and there weren’t 45 games left in the regular season to acquire that seasoning.
Headed into this season, the Stars believe there is enough runway to get Lundkvist that seasoning, and the player also took the end of the regular season demotion seriously. More importantly, his agent also did, instead leaning into encouraging his training rather than looking for a trade out, like he requested with the New York Rangers.
Hockey Down Under
I’m not sure if I’ll watch it live, it’s a midnight start for me, but I’m intrigued to see what happens in the preseason game at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Australia between the Arizona Coyotes and Los Angeles Kings.
I’m worried about the ice, hopefully it holds up, but also happier for Australian hockey fans who get to see games in person, in their time zone this weekend.
Australia is an interesting hockey market. Climate wise, obviously, it’s not a hotbed for the sport. But it has picked up a bit of a cult following, in many ways the hockey fan and the Australian rules football fan are similar — side note, you should watch Australian rules football if you get the chance.
If I stay up to watch the game live, instead of watching on replay, I’ll drop a three things observation post here for paid subscribers.
Either way, have a great weekend everyone.