Do the Canucks and Canadiens owe it to their fans to ice more veteran-laden rosters during preseason?

Over the past week there’s been some grumbling by the Vancouver and Montreal media over the Canucks and Canadiens not icing many of their veterans for most of their preseason games this month.

It’s apparent the respective coaches of these teams wish to devote most of that preseason playing time toward evaluating their prospects and “bubble player”. They also wish to allow many of their veterans (especially those who are recovering from off-ice surgeries) more time to rest, rather than risk reinjuring themselves in meaningless games.

These moves, however, haven’t sat well with some pundits in those cities, accusing the Canucks and Canadiens of “gouging” their fans,  charging expensive ticket prices to attend the preseason games but icing inferior rosters. They believe it’s more important for those two teams to give their fans more value for their money.

Most who purchased season tickets also have preseason tickets as part of their package, so they had no choice over paying for the latter. It certainly doesn’t seem right, but it’s part of the business of hockey.

Those individual fans who are fortunate enough to afford season tickets in this day and age, especially for Canucks and Canadiens games, who are among the league leaders in ticket prices, will just have to accept that as a necessary evil. If they don’t wish to attend preseason games, they could give away those tickets to family and/or friends who otherwise wouldn’t get a chance to watch those teams live. They probably would love the chance to see their favorite teams, even if it is just a preseason game.

Some of those season ticket packages were likely purchased by businesses, which they distribute to employees or clients. They can afford it, so no harm, no foul, just part of doing business.

As for folks who don’t have season ticket packages and plunk down big bucks to watch meaningless preseason games, nobody’s forcing them to do it, and those fans should know they’re probably going to see an inferior product if they go to those games.

Many die-hard fans probably don’t care about the quality of the preseason product. For them, it’s an opportunity to check out prospects and farm system players they might otherwise not see during the season. It’s a chance to see for themselves just how good these supposedly promising players really are, in a setting closely resembling NHL game action.

Most of those fans understand preseason is not a time for teams to worry about “entertaining” them, but rather for coaches evaluate their rosters, identify their strengths and weaknesses, and assess their prospects in NHL-game day situations, even if most of their opponents are doing pretty much the same thing as they are.

They’re not doing this to be jerks. They’re doing it so that they can ice a team worthy of the fans’ dollars during the regular season, when the games count. Especially those in the second half of the season, when the jockeying for playoff berths begins in earnest.

It simply makes more sense not to risk your best players, especially those who may be still recovering from  injuries, or in the case of the Canucks, coming off a shorter-than-usual off-season, to potentially serious injuries in nothing games, especially against young, hungry talent on opposing teams looking to make names for themselves.

Even if Canucks and Canadiens fans saw more veteran-laden rosters in preseason, there’s no guarantees their fans would’ve seen a better product.

That doesn’t mean the veteran players aren’t going to see playing time in preseason. Many of them do, often at their own behest, as they wish to use this time to tune up for the start of the season.

Yet there are also those who usually treat those games for what they are, meaningless contests, and won’t go all out in those games, saving their energies for the regular season.

During last year’s preseason, Canadiens goalie Carey Price played poorly in two games, earning boos from the fans and criticism from the local media.

Price was both bemused and annoyed, reminded fans it was merely preseason, and offered two words of advice: “Chill out”.

He went on to the best season of his career to date,  carrying the Habs to the playoffs, and within an overtime period of upsetting the eventual Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins in the first round.

Price’s advice remains relevant today.

If resting their veterans helps the Canucks and Canadiens have a stronger regular season, no one will remember in April that they spent good money on expensive tickets in September to watch a crappy preseason product.