With the World Championships just starting, we continue to hear about NHLers that are invited to play for their country on the national teams. As NHL teams get eliminated from playoffs, more players are added to rosters for the international competition. Every year, this seems to spark up a debate amongst fans as to the value of having their players compete in what some view as "unnecessary" games.
The international competitions (World Championships, World Juniors, Olympics, etc.) present players the opportunity to play for their country. It is considered a high honor by most to sport their countries' colors in these competitions. Fans are left wondering whether their NHL team benefits from these additional games played by their stars.
After the jump, we look at some of the pros and cons of international competition.
Experience. Competing in international competitions means you are competing in high pressure situations against some of the top players the world has to offer. It may not be the exact physicality and intensity level of the Stanley Cup playoffs, but it comes as close as possible. When your team is going to the playoffs, would you rather have guys that have had experience playing in those situations or guys that have never experienced it? I like the experienced ones myself. They're more composed and more aware of what to expect and are able to better handle situations they are put in.
Conditioning. By continuing the players' season, their game-ready conditioning is kept longer into the offseason. In turn, it can help reduce the ramp-up time needed at the start of the next NHL season to get back into similar conditioning.
Insider information. Imagine having the opportunity to learn how to deke like Datsuyk. Or how to defend like Lidstrom does. By playing with that caliber of player, there is a certain amount of knowledge that gets shared. If you see how someone plays, and their style, you can use that information when they are playing against you as well. (Of course, this knowledge sharing goes both ways, so Loui doesn't need to be teaching everyone how he is so good at scoring goals.)
Injuries. Anytime you are playing a physical sport, you risk getting injured. By going to compete in these international contests, you're opening yourself up to further injury on top of the injuries you sustain in an 82+ game NHL season. If the injury is serious enough (think torn ACL or the like) it may affect a player's ability to be ready to go at training camp or even into the start of the next NHL season. Some people see this as an unacceptable risk, because the player is responsible to the team they work for to be ready to go at the beginning of the season. I think we often forget that injuries can be accrued during training in the offseason sometimes just as easily as playing in a game situation in these competitions. It's part of hockey, and all of the players accept that risk.
Exhaustion. There is a such thing as "too much of a good thing." By extending the season out and competing in international competitions, players lose out on valuable time needed to rest sore bodies and fatigued minds. It delays this needed down time by several weeks, essentially eliminating part of the players' offseason. One wonders if that lack of rest may do some of the players more harm than good in the long-term scheme of the coming season.
Bad habits. International competitions have several things different about them: the rink sizes being different from hockey in North America and no trapezoid behind the net are two of the main ones that come to mind. For forwards and defensemen, the rink size changes the angles that you have to play with - the same situation you've been in before in North America looks different from one on international ice. Players have to 'recalibrate' their angles they play pucks at to account for the different ice size. For goalies in the NHL, they are used to the trapezoid behind their net where puck handling is forbidden. International competitions do not have this in place, so goalies can pick up the bad habit of handling the puck behind their net which is not something that you can do when you return to the NHL to play.
So tell us...what do you think? Are you pro-international competition or con-international competition? Why or why not? Tell us in the comments.