Friday, September 30, 2011

Preseason Annoyances & Impressions

After a long and arduous off season, it's finally here. Hockey is back in our lives, and I couldn't be happier to immerse myself in everything it has to offer. I subscribed to a few additional sports channels, and I'm hoping to break my record year of watching 124 NHL hockey games (including regular season & playoffs). It does, after all, only equate to about 15 days of 365, which is NOT ENOUGH!

Anyway, due to suffering from MAJOR hockey withdrawals, I was more than a little eager when training camp opened, and exhibition games began. I forgot about something I always seem to forget, every year - preseason annoys the heck out of me.

Why, you ask? Because the "casual hockey fan" sees the Habs tattoo on my forearm, decides to strike up a conversation about the Canadiens despite their limited knowledge on the subject, and says, "geez, they really suck this year, haven't they only won one game?" This is the moment when I loathe preseason. If I had a nickel for every time I explained the fact that the majority of the people wearing the CH in preseason games won't be a member of the squad come regular season, I'd be a millionaire. And that isn't even the most infuriating part! Even after I explain this, they look at me as though I've grown a Brad Marchand nose on my cheek.

All annoyances aside, one thing that I ACTUALLY enjoy about September is training camp. I managed to make it out to Brossard for two scrimmages, and was thoroughly impressed by the youngsters skating out there. The Canadiens have a tendency to trade away depth for washed up veterans, so it's encouraging to see that we still have prospects worth getting excited about.

For example, Brendan Gallagher. Perhaps the most pleasant surprise from camp, this 5'8" Edmonton, AB native was compared to Brian Gionta after only a few days; high praise for a fifth round draft pick! It was at the Sunday scrimmage on the 18th that he really burst onto the scene, surprising everyone in attendance. Surviving every round of cuts until today, there was speculation he may even make the team for at least nine games before returning to his WHL team. The fact that he didn't make the team shouldn't be cause for concern; allowing him time to develop his skills and build up his strength and maturity will only make him a better, more well-rounded hockey player. You can expect to see great things from him in the future.

Next on the list would have to be the Canadiens 2010 and 2011 first round picks, Jarred Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu. Beaulieu, a 19 year old defenseman, proved he will be a force to be reckoned with in a few short years. Last year he racked up 12 goals and 33 assists for 45 points in 65 games, to go with his 52 PIM with the Saint John Sea Dogs. Young, exciting defensive talent is something that this organization desperately needs if they intend to continue playing Jacques Martin's system, and it's guys like Beaulieu and Tinordi that will be a huge part of that in future years.

Lastly, I would put seeing Max Pacioretty and Josh Gorges back on the ice, cleared for contact as something that got me all hot and bothered as well. Patches isn't only back to his regular self, I'd dare say he has improved, gaining weight and muscle, not to mention speed. After an impressive preseason performance, I can only look forward to the regular season, and continue to be thankful that he is not only alive in the game, but is alive, period. I, along with Pacioretty, want to move on from the awful Chara hit that still makes me cringe. Let's hope this season gives everyone a reason to remember him for something other than the terrible sound his head made when it hit the stanchion.

The Canadiens play their final preseason game against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Pepsi Colisée in Quebec City this Saturday, before heading off for some R&R before their regular season opener in Toronto on Thursday. The wait is over, my friends. Hockey's back!

Go Habs Go!

Photos Credits: Robyn Flynn