Bob McKenzie has announced that the NHL All-Star Game is finally changing a very tired format. Notice the use of the word "game" in that sentence. The All-Star weekend has been a lot of fun in recent years, until Sunday hits and players put on the laziest display of hockey ever in a game that ends 19-16 or something like that. I don't know anyone who's sat through the full game in years.
The NHL has tried revamping the game with a variety of moves. The switch to North America vs. the World in the late 90s was interesting for a year or two. Same with the fantasy draft, in which players selected other players, a change brought in four seasons ago. Even that format got tired though. The first year, there was excitement over the Sedins being split up, over Phil Kessel going last. By the one in Ottawa, the draft was predictable. Zdeno Chara picked every Bruins player, Daniel Alfredsson picked every Senators player, Chara avoided Canucks, and Alfie avoided Maple Leafs. Last year, the most exciting part was Kessel being traded for Tyler Seguin.
So once again, the NHL changes up the format. This year, they're introducing a 3-on-3 mini-game format. The idea is that each division gets an 11-player team -- nine skaters (presumably 6 F, 3 D) and two goalies. There would be a 20-minute 3-on-3 game between the two divisions in each conference, with the winners going on to play in the finals. The winning team would get $1-million split between them, which would be a lot for someone like me, but might not be as interesting to all-star calibre NHLers.
So will it work? McKenzie points out a couple things: first, that 20 minutes of 3-on-3 could be a lot. It's a lot of fun for five minutes, but will quadrupling it make the novelty wear out quickly? The other question is if players will actually try. I know we won't be seeing shot blocks or big hits (we rarely see them in 3-on-3 OT anyway to be honest), but will we see anyone skating in top gear? This format got the approval of the NHLPA, but as McKenzie pointed out, don't mistake that for the players loving the idea. The ASG isn't supposed to wear them out, and 3-on-3 has already been called a bag skate by a notable Sens captain. One thing is for certain though: lots of people will tune in to this year's game to see how it turns out. For the NHL, getting people to tune in to Sunday's game will be a big win.
For now though, the fun lies in selecting the teams. Who would your picks be for the Atlantic, given that there are six forwards, three defencemen, and two goalies? Here are my picks:
Goalies: Carey Price is a given. Most years, Tuukka Rask would also be, but he's off to an uncharacteristically bad start (which is sinking my fantasy team). That opens up a spot for someone else. Petr Mrazek has shone in Detroit, but he's still splitting games with Jimmy Howard. No, my pick is the impressive start from James Reimer. He's declared himself Toronto's #1 goalie, and a .930 save percentage through 12 starts on a team as untalented as the Leafs is impressive. Plus, if every team gets a rep, he's easily the best one Toronto can provide. Verdict: Carey Price, James Reimer
Defencemen: This one's pretty easy in my mind. Erik Karlsson is second in the division in points among all skaters, P.K. Subban is one off Karlsson's pace, and Victor Hedman isn't far behind them. Andrei Markov also deserves some love, but you gotta spread out the team reps. Montreal's already got a goalie, and (spoiler alert) will have a forward too. I'd like to see whoever's coaching this team troll the league by sending out Karlsson-Subban-Hedman as a unit at some point too. Verdict: , P.K. Subban, Victor Hedman
Forwards: David Krejci gets in because he leads the division in points right now. Plus, he's pretty good at hockey. Max Pacioretty and Steven Stamkos lead the division in goals, so they're also locks. i'd love to put in Bobby Ryan or Mark Stone (both T-6th in points), or Kyle Turris (T-3rd in goals), but there are three spots left on this team and three teams without a rep. The Sabres send Ryan O'Reilly, their points leader and a player who likely won't be injured when the game happens unlike Evander Kane. (Though O'Reilly could get slammed for his drunk driving offence by then, in which case Tyler Ennis or Jack Eichel could fill in admirably). The Red Wings send Henrik Zetterberg, their points leader, though I'd love to see Dylan Larkin go on a tear and claim that spot for himself. Lastly, the Panthers send the only guy they can - the ageless Jaromir Jagr, who somehow has 14 points in 16 games at 43 years old. Verdict: David Krejci, Max Pacioretty, Steven Stamkos, Ryan O'Reilly, Henrik Zetterberg, Jaromir Jagr
So here's how I'd break it down:
Looks pretty good to me. Have a better lineup? Let us know in the comments!