Generally, the exhibition season is one to passively keep an eye on. Maybe there’s a prospect or two to get a look at and a battle or two to watch for but all in all, it’s not worth getting excited about and the outcomes don’t matter. And yet, I’m actually looking forward to these next couple of weeks.
From a prospect perspective, there aren’t just one or two players to watch for. Can Juraj Slafkovsky earn a spot to start the season or would he be better off in Laval? Which rookie defencemen (yes, plural) are going to break camp with the team? Does Emil Heineman force their hand to keep him up since they can’t send him to Laval until December? Is there anyone from Laval that can get themselves into the mix? Realistically, there are seven or eight prospects to keep an eye on over the next couple of weeks. That’s something to watch for.
In terms of the roster battle perspective, there are too many veterans up front. I don’t want to sit here and say that how things go over the next couple of weeks will impact who makes or breaks camp but barring a trade, it kind of feels like how the veterans perform actually could go a long way towards determining who’s the odd one out. That’s not normal. It’s not as if a lot of those players are at risk of being claimed either with so many teams capped out (expect some decent veterans on waivers in the coming weeks as a result) but it’s a notable step to take. The preseason is probably going to play a big role in what happens there. That’s also something to watch for.
Then, there’s the factor that feels weird even just typing out: Guilt-free victories. There are no standings that matter in the preseason, no need to check the out-of-town scoreboard to see if Arizona and other bottom-feeders won or not. Victories at this juncture don’t affect waiver priority and they most certainly don’t affect the draft order. For tankers and ones who begrudgingly accept the losing, there is no need to root against the Habs; there is nothing to gain from a loss. They can win to their heart’s content and it won’t cost them anything in the long run. That’s a guilt-free victory. As someone who certainly doesn’t enjoy the losing during the season, having a couple of weeks of guilt-free games is absolutely something to watch for.
Meaningless games or not (and let’s face it, they pretty much are meaningless), I actually feel like there are compelling reasons to watch this exhibition season. Strange as it may seem, bring it on.