Hextall makes the right call

Hextall makes the right call

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It’s tempting to criticize the Pittsburgh Penguins for failing to fully engage in what has been a staple of the franchise’s preseason program for more than a decade.

Those events served as an annual reminder that hockey season is approaching and an early opportunity to assess the progress — and potential — of young players on the organizational depth chart.

They gave prospects a chance to make a good impression on management — some of whom had never seen a game in person — and free agents a chance to earn a training camp invite, the first step toward landing a kid in the minors. – League contract.

With several such tournaments contested across the continent, there are obviously many franchises looking to participate.

But that doesn’t mean GMS, incl Ron HextallThey don’t have valid reasons to try to skip them. If it happens in San Jose, Traverse City, Mich., Buffalo, or any other area, they may be more convincing than those involved.

It should be noted that the Pittsburgh Penguins will be one of six clubs represented at the event, which will be held at the LECOM Harborcenter in Buffalo from September 15-19, although they are the only team from the group that will not be participating in full.

From the time the story first broke, it was clear to a person familiar with the situation that Hextall was willing to join the competition — which included prospects from Buffalo, Boston, Ottawa, Montreal and New Jersey — but only to a limited extent. basis.

Such an unusual situation seems difficult to handle, assuming the other clubs involved are willing to make a full commitment (unexpectedly or forced), but an apparent (and unexplained) scheduling problem caused the Penguins’ game against Brainerd. May be on September 17.

(The Buffalo trip falls in the middle of the Penguins’ rookie camp, which runs Sept. 15-20 at UPMC’s Lemieux Sports Complex and is a prelude to regular training camp.)

The Penguins get the low-level participation they were looking for, while the other five teams can get a full complement of three games.

At least two factors contribute to Hextall’s reluctance to send a full tournament team.

Young players have long felt that they are better served by participating in supervised practice sessions that allow them to learn on the ice rather than competitive games.

Hextall is also believed to be concerned about players getting hurt in meaningless games, which has been the case for Pittsburgh Penguins prospects for the past few years.

In the year One of the most serious and tragic injuries during the 2010 tournament at the John Labatt Center in London, Ontario was during a defensive tackle. Alex Grant Ottawa’s David Dziurzynski suffered a broken wrist after being hit hard.

Grant, who also suffered a concussion and was hospitalized overnight, missed most of the rest of the season.

He remained with the organization until 2013, when he was traded to Anaheim for Harry Zolnierczyk, but never played a game with the parent club and appeared in just two NHL games with the Ducks.

Grant went on to five more with Arizona, where he signed as a free agent in 2015.

Of course, there’s no way to know for sure how that wrist injury changed his career, but there’s no doubt that he never came close to living up to his pre-injury potential.

However, it’s safe to assume that the impact of the injury lingers long after what his teammates did during that tournament is forgotten.

Injuries are obviously part of the game. But subjecting players to them when it’s not necessary doesn’t seem like a good business plan.

Especially for a franchise with high shelf prospects, including a 2022 first-round draft pick Owen Pickeringhe might be able to travel to a race on a flat bike.

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