It's not just pre-season

ERIN NICKS -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 12:12 PM ET

Have you ever tried to hold your tongue about something and the strain of keeping your thoughts to yourself was almost too much to bear?

That's how I feel about the NHL around this time of year. You can't say a word, because the perpetual rebuttal will always be, "it's just the preseason." You may as well banish any verbal thoughts or writing implements, and replace them with the contents of Marcel Marceau's makeup drawer. Say nothing, do nothing. Just observe.

Why can't I have an opinion on a player's performance in the pre-season? Why am I constantly subjected to the incessant claims that nothing of significance is taking place? If that were the case, wouldn't the pre-season cease to exist?

A perfect example of this occurred at last Sunday's Senators Fan Fest out at Scotiabank Place. I watched; I took notes -- I sat amongst fans in paper helmets, and ironically, felt strangely silly because I was the only one who appeared sane.

The thing was, once I got settled in with the paper helmet posse, I heard the same serve-and-volley comments for nearly two hours. Fans would make an observation, and attribute it to the insignificant pre-season.

Naturally, I kept my mouth shut the entire time -- I didn't want to be subjected to this. I remained silent for more than two hours, during the walk through the concourse, out the building and into the parking lot. It wasn't until I hit the safety of my own car that I felt the freedom to let loose. I did -- and then some.

Boyfriend: "Well? What did you think?"

(pause)

Me: "Oh my God did you see Joe Corvo that guy scared me to death with the way he s kated up the right side boards with Redden I'm not sure they should be on the same line and Kaigorodov likes to reach with his stick so much I want him to s kate more I want to see better pickup and I hope Gerber's just having a bad da y and McGrattan looks like he came to play and Nick Foligno didn't look out of place..."

(Finally, I ran out of breath.)

Boyfriend: "Well, it's only the pre-season."

(And at this point, my head wanted to explode.)

So basically, if a Senator does anything memorable in September, does it make a sound?

That's the thing -- a negative comment will automatically be stifled by claims of a long season ahead. And you can negate any positive observation (particularly of a forward) by dropping one name: Brandon Bochenski.

Does it really make that big of a difference right now? Can't someone make an observation, and change their opinion later on? The last time I checked, the players we're attempting to discuss are highly paid professionals. I'm sure they're used to everyone commenting on their play.

Besides, there are plenty of expectations that come with wearing the black, red and gold.

We know, for the most part, what to expect from the core members of this team.

We have an idea of who needs to step up, to bring their game to the next level.

However, what about the newest members of Ottawa's team? It's difficult not to make immediate assumptions regarding their play, when the coaching staff chooses to place them in positions of importance. Joe Corvo was playing with the $6.5-million man -- better known as Wade Redden -- before breaking his foot during Friday's game vs. Buffalo. Rookie Alexei Kaigorodov is getting a legitimate shot at the coveted No. 2 centre position.

Are they ready for it? There's only one way to get an idea -- the pre-season -- where first impressions are made.

A lot will change between now and April, and one of the biggest modifications will involve any opinions regarding these players. But that doesn't mean that any contemplation concerning their play and practices thus far are completely irrelevant.

It's all right to have an opinion about pre-season play. You can bet that behind closed doors at Scotiabank Place, there are plenty.

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