The Converse All-Stars are all the rage with the kids nowadays, and I can see why when they have super cool designs like a cast of video game all-stars sewn on them. Mario and Luigi automatically up the cool factor of any sneaker. But can the NHL connect the dots and up the cool factor of their All-Star game?
The biggest story to come out of the general managers meetings this week was that the NHL is looking to revamp the All-Star game. I’m not sure if we should be happy or mad that the only thing they think needs tweaking is the All-Star game, but I digress.
Let’s get something clear right off the top. The All-Star game will never be meaningful, it will never be must-see TV, and from my vantage point that is just fine. The game is about schmoozing the corporate sponsors and allowing fans in the host city a chance to meet the stars of the game. The fans and sponsors are the two most important customers for the NHL, so why not try to make the weekend more exciting.
TSN’s Darren Dreger reported the league was looking at a complete overhaul in player selection possibly as early as this year.
"If the changes are approved, the East vs. West format would no longer exist. Fan voting would still be utilized to determine the game’s starters, while the remaining 36 players will be selected by NHL’s hockey operations department.The captains of each team will be voted on by the participating players, and those captains and alternate captains will draft their teams as part of a live event in Raleigh during All Star weekend."
The game will never be intense and those who think that dangling home-ice advantage in the Stanley Cup finals in front of the players will make it better are dreaming. It will never be intense, nor should it. But this new format could add a lot more intrigue.
When you think of rivalries in the NHL we think of Montreal/Boston, Vancouver/Calgary, Ottawa/Montreal or Ovechkin/Crosby. All of the best rivalries are within the same division or conference, so with this new format at least we’ll see rivals against one another.
The idea of a draft will be interesting to watch. It sounds like they will hold the draft on Friday night have the skills competition on Saturday and play the game Sunday. The intrigue about the draft won’t be who goes first, but rather who gets picked last.
PICK UP GAME
When you played sandlot baseball or soccer or pickup hockey, you always dreaded being the last pick. I always felt for the kid who got picked last. The final kids stood there, looking down at the ground silently talking to themselves hoping they’d hear their name called. It was even worse when one of the kids looked directly at the Captains, their face filled with fear and desperation while their eyes fought back tears and their entire body pleaded not to be the final pick.
Imagine if they show the draft on TV as it comes down to the final few guys, and you can see them getting antsy reliving the horror of those playground days? Now that’s reality TV.
The idea of a draft and having Western and Eastern conference players playing together is a good move. It will garner some interest, but don’t expect the game to be much better. The best part about the proposed changes is that it will give fan’s a chance to wonder how Steven Stamkos would look alongside Pavel Datsyuk.
The biggest draw could be the "fantasy" aspect of the draft. Most fans are in some sort of fantasy league, and I’m sure they’d love to see how the Captains pick their teams, and if it matches to their own. This new formula makes the weekend more interactive for fans across the league, not just in the host city, and if it garners more attention from the fans it will be a success.
If the players had any sense of humour they would choose Daniel and Henrik Sedin as the captains so they wouldn’t play together.
The big question is: Do the fans really care and it will it pique their interest?
Only you can answer that, so let me know.
- It sounds like ESPN wants to partner up with the NHL again. The Versus deal is up at the end of season, and the league is looking at possibly a 50% increase from the $72.5 million/season of the current deal. ESPN could easily match $110 million/year, and they would do a much better job promoting the game. Versus has a window to negotiate solely with the NHL, but I don’t see Bettman agreeing to a deal until he talks with ESPN.
- Scott Arniel and Guy Boucher haven’t shown any rookie coaching jitters so far. Boucher has the Bolts sitting in 4th in the East with 18 points, while Arniel’s Jackets are rolling along at 9-5 and two points out of first in the West. People expected the Lightning to be improved, but few thought the Jackets would be this good. Nice to see new coaches having success.
- Is Davis Payne this year’s Dave Tippett? Payne replaced Andy Murray midway through last season, so he is more aware of the Blues than Tippett was with the Coyotes, but the Blues early start is eerily similar to the Coyotes. The Coyotes were 9-4 out of the gate last year and then rode a hot Ilya Bryzgalov and a Tippett’s system to a 107 point season. The Blues are 9-2-2 through 13 games on the back of Jaroslav Halak and Davis’ aggressive, uptempo style. I’m not sure the Blues can reach 107 points, but expect to see them in the playoffs. The loss of T.J Oshie last night will hurt the Blues.
- How long before Brian Burke makes a move to try and improve his offence? He has said on many occasions Ron Wilson isn’t the problem, but it is clear the Leafs have no offence after Phil Kessel, and even Kessel can’t score right now. Burke can’t afford to give up another top-five pick. He has to do something to try and get someone with some offence.
- Andrew Cogliano is a Toronto guy who can’t crack the top-six in Edmonton on a regular basis, but is he better than Tyler Bozak or Mikhail Grabovski? I would argue he is. The Oilers need some grit up front, would Burke trade Colby Armstrong for Cogliano and JF Jacques? Would Oiler or Leaf fans make that trade?
- Jarome Iginla has been a slow starter before, but he doesn’t look confident, happy or comfortable this season. It is very early and the Flames are only two points out of 8th place, but if both and he the team continue to struggle I wonder if Darryl Sutter would move him. He has two more years after this one at $7 million/year and his trade value will only decrease from now on. Who lasts longer in Calgary, Iginla and Sutter?
- Steven Stamkos has 13 goals in 14 games. We will ever see another player come close to 50 goals in 50 games?
- Nicklas Lidstrom doesn’t seem to age. His level of play has barely slipped as he enters his 40s. Should he be considered the 2nd greatest D-man of all-time behind Bobby Orr? He makes a strong case.
13: Steven Stamkos
10: Chris Stewart, Patrick Sharp, Sidney Crosby and Brandon Dubinsky
9: Daniel Sedin, Loui Eriksson and Alex Semin
8: Alex Ovechkin and Derek Roy
7: Ten players tied including the ageless wonder Teemu Selanne and the biggest surprise has to be Brian Boyle from the
Rangers. His career high prior to this season was four.
14: Henrik Sedin
13: Nicklas Lidstrom and Mike Ribeiro
12: Brad Richards, Ryan Getzlaf, Alex Ovechkin, Kris Letang and Crosby
11: Henrik Zetterberg, Lubomir Visnovsky, Mikko Koivu, Duncan Keith, Ryan Whitney, Jean-Micheal Liles, Selanne and
18: Getzlaf, Selanne and Brad Richards
17: Sharp, Stewart and Roy
16: D. Sedin, Eriksson, H.Sedin, Semin and Corey Perry
+13: Brooks Laich and Rostislav Klesla
+10: Mike Cammalleri, Steve Montador, Marc Methot and Stephane Robidas
+9: Tony Lydman and Brad Richards
+8: Eight players tied including three LA Kings, Jarret Stoll, Ryan Smyth and Justin Williams.
John Tavares has the early lead for the green jacket sitting at -13 despite only playing twelve games. Patrick Sharp has ten goals and 17 points, but is an awful -11..
5: Stewart and Crosby
4: Sharp, D.Sedin, Daniel Alfredsson, Brent Burns, Tavares and Selanne.
62: Cal Clutterbuck
56: Ryan Callahan and Tuomo Ruutu
55: Luke Schenn
54: Troy Brouwer
52: Dustin Brown, Matt Cooke and Ovechkin
48: Ryan Getzlaf and Brent Seabrook
67: Evgeni Malkin
61: Eric Staal
60: Joe Pavelski
59: Bobby Ryan
58: Brian Gionta and Martin St. Louis
57: Evander Kane and Rick Nash
The three worst, or unluckiest, shooters are P.K Subban (40 shots, no goals), Jack Skille (39 shots, no goals) and Dion Phaneuf (37 shots, no goals).
One of the "this doesn’t fit" stat I’ve seen involves Oiler D-man Tom Gilbert. The Oilers PK is a league worst 69%. There are many reasons why they stink on the PK, but a lot of people have thought it’s because they don’t block many shots.
Gilbert, who might be the least physical player on the team is tied for 8th in blocked shots with 35. He has at least one game in hand, and in some cases two or three on the seven guys in front of him. No one would mix Gilbert up with former Oiler and Leaf, Jason Smith, who blocked shots without fear for years, or Anton Volchenkov, a great shot blocker, but somehow Gilbert is three blocked shots away from being 3rd in the league.
His style of game doesn’t seem to match with shot blocker.