OTTAWA, ON - JANUARY 29: Team Alfredsson Jason Spezza #19 of the Ottawa Senators and Steven Stamkos #91 of the Tampa Bay Lightning pose prior to the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game against Team Chara at Scotiabank Place on January 29, 2012 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Ah, the NHL All-Star Game. It's a tradition that spans decades, and one that many fans look forward to all year long. It's when the players can let their hair down and not just showcase their skills, but also their personalities.
And it's an event that many would like to do away with altogether.
As with just about everything in the NHL, the All-Star Game is controversial. Not many have complaints about the Skills Competition, just about the game itself. The goalies get shelled, since there's no defense to speak of, the defensemen are just additional forwards on the ice, and in reality, the game showcases goal scoring and not much else.
On top of that, many of the older All-Stars may not want to be there at all. Nicklas Lidstrom and Teemu Selanne both declined the honor in order for younger guys to get a chance. But we all know that altruism isn't entirely without selfishness.
Who wouldn't want a mid-season five-day vacation in the NHL? If, for no other reason, just to heal up a bit? It's not necessarily the big injuries that wear a player down, but the little ones that never entirely heal over the course of the season. Those add up - fast.
My opinion on the All-Star Weekend festivities is that, something needs to be done to help out the goalies. I've always felt bad for them, actually. They should have a more positive role in the festivities, instead of just being a moving target and getting five or so goals scored on them in one period. Perhaps adding a couple of events to the Skills Competition, just for them?
Speaking of the Skills Competition, I've also been saying for years that it ought to be opened up to the entire NHL and not just to those guys chosen for the All-Star Game. Each team ought to run their own Skills Competition, and submit the results to the NHL. I think the top three or four league wide from each event ought to be invited to the All-Star Weekend festivities to compete against each other.
So then we'd get to find out who truly has the hardest shot or who is the fastest skater in the NHL. And, who knows? Maybe some 3rd liner somewhere has an even harder shot than Zdeno Chara does.
I'd keep the game and the draft, but maybe it ought to be 3-on-3 shinny instead of trying to perpetuate this farce that real hockey is being played. And instead of making it a popularity contest with the fans voting, perhaps they ought to take the top players in the major statistical categories thru January 15th or something instead. I'm so tired of the ballot stuffing and the names getting the air time instead of the truly best players in the league making it on to the teams. I have no problem with not all 30 teams being represented so long as the truly best players are invited.
So the question of the week is this: Now that the NHL's All-Star Weekend is over, what would you keep and what would you change about it?
Clark Brooks - Staff Writer / Ridiculously Inconsistent Trickle of Consciousness
I think maybe it's time for All-Star games in all sports to become a thing of the past. Sure, it's still fun to see the greats of the game in one place, but once the game begins, the play is so subpar that it barely resembles the sport itself. It's like getting the greatest golfers in the world together to see who can successfully putt into a clown's mouth. As such, I still tune in but change the channel after the introductions are finished. Factor in the availability of any number of video games and other computer simulations that allow fans to replicate fantasy line-ups squaring off plus the fact that many players who would actually benefit more from an extended period of rest don't even want to participate and the appeal is significantly diminished.
That said, I'd hate to see All-Star weekend eliminated. I do think there's value in a mid-season break with some sort of event for the fans that celebrates the NHL's best players as the centerpiece. I just think that playing a game is a concept whose time has passed.
Clare Austin - Staff Writer
I'd make little changes, nothing major.
First thing, WEAR YOUR HELMETS. Even if it's not a game, ice is hard, pucks go fast, and skate blades are sharp. Just do it boys.
Second, fix the broadcast. Figure out how to actually show the weekend better to an audience that's watching on television. Fire McGuire. Stop acting like it's serious, and let the players be the center of the show.
Third, figure out how to reward the goalies. They didn't even get a chance to get voted on in the Breakaway Challenge, and lots of people thought Carey Price was great in that.
Fourth, invite Pekka Rinne, dammit.
I like what the ASG has evolved to become. I only caught bits and pieces of this weekend's ASG (the TV at my gym had the draft on and I flipped to the skills competition in between the UFC fight), so I can only comment on the things I managed to see.
But I like the drafting teams by captains and through that seeing a bit more personality from the individual players. Can we get Scott Hartnell and Joffrey Lupul at this every year? I also liked having the players tweet during the weekend.
For me, the ASG is about kids watching their favorite players come together for a hockey star filled weekend. I haven't watched the actual All-Star Game in a few years, but I remember being younger watching it and finding it thrilling. So although I may not be super interested in it, I have to remember that I am not necessarily the target market.
In the end, I haven't answered the second half to this question at all. Maybe that's because I think the NHL has done a good job at putting together this years event and don't really see any glaring changes needing to be done.
John Fontana - Managing Editor / Raw Charge
Let me start with the basic basis of an All-Star event for any sport: It's a pure celebration of the league/sport and the talent that within. I like the relatively new concept of drafting the teams (instead of a forced Conference vs. Conference alignment) as it stays true to sports in general (drafts are universal in all leagues) and doesn't have a gimmicky feel (a la "North America versus the World").
The major events of the weekend? Well, I could do without the Red Carpet routine, but I realize that there are others that have a love for that... The Skills Competition is a keeper, and the game itself is... well, it will always be marginalized (much like every other All-Star game in every other sport).
The two things that I feel have GOT to be changed are the actual fan voting for All-Stars and the telecasts.
The fan voting -- fans deserve a say, that can't be argued. At the same time, there need to be standards / some type of firewall put into place that prevents ballot stuffing (fans voting for one player - without merrit). Also, just because the players play for the host city doesn't mean a ballot stuffing campaign should be allowed. The game is supposed to showcase the league's best, not the city's best. That's not trying to say members of the Senators shouldn't have made the All-Star team (or the Carolina Hurricanes last year, or the Montreal Canadiens the year before)... That is saying the players all getting voted in is an odd convenience that should be stopped for the sake of legitimacy to the whole fan-voting concept.
The broadcast... oh, the broadcast. If there's anything I want banned, outright, from the All-Star festivities, it's the trailing-camera angle during the skills competition. How am I supposed to follow a players stick work when I'm watching his back? How, as a viewer, am I supposed to enjoy the competition when I'm watching it from an angle that I never see during hockey games?
Like I said, the entire weekend is supposed to be a celebration of the sport. Do that -- celebrate it, celebrate these players as the very best of hockey this season. Let the fans (both in attendance and at home) enjoy them all in one place. And you know what? Let the media have a good time too. The first half of the season is done and over with, reflect on that, revel in the triumphs and failings of all 30 franchies (key word: ALL. Not just Comcast network regions, or Canadian teams) leading up to the game.
Matt Amos - Staff Writer / Don't Trade Vinny
The change I'd make? Letting the All-Star weekend dictate who the superstars are. Not who the league wants them to be.
This year's events were arguably the best ever, and without question a ROUSING success. And ya know who wasn't there? Sid and Alex.
Carey Price was an absolute nutcase all weekend and it was incredible. Patrick Kane pretty much made everyone forget about that cab incident. Corey Perry busted out a ministick. AND SCORED. Brian Elliot danced around in his crease like a little kid.
AND IT WAS ALL EPIC.
The league has PLENTY of marketable stars and personalities, and they really shine when they're allowed to. Come on NHL, let the players decide who the stars are, not politics.
If you missed it, check out last week's question, What would you change about Guy Boucher?