The NHL’s All-Star format is changing once again. Whereas the past few years we’ve had the pure concentrated delight that is star players drafting one another for real-life fantasy teams, now, we have three-on-three tournaments.
As Flames fans, we’re well accustomed to the three-on-three format by now. Not only have the Flames ended up in overtime in five of their 20 games so far this season, but it’s where four of their wins have come from. They have yet to lose when playing three-on-three.
Three-on-three overtime is awesome, and on Jan. 31, 2016, we’ll get to see the best players in the sport playing it. Which should be pure chaos, pure hell for all goalies involved, and pretty dang awesome.
But how many Flames will we get to cheer for?
First, a moment of silence
While having a three-on-three tournament sounds really cool, it also marks the death of the All-Star Draft, which was easily, by far, the best part of the entire weekend. What’s not to love about watching your hockey heroes get wasted while waiting to be picked?
Remember Alex Ovechkin’s bid for a new car last year? Remember him sitting in a very drunk Mark Giordano’s lap?
I will miss this. We are all the worse off for having lost it.
The new format
The Skills competition is still there, and will be on Jan. 30, with the Western and Eastern Conferences facing off against one another. The following day, it’ll be tournament time, pitting division against division.
The Pacific and Central will play one another in one 20-minute game, and the Metropolitan and Atlantic will have their own contest. Following that, it’ll be the third and final game of the tournament to determine the champion: the winners of the West vs. the winners of the East.
Each team will be made up of six forwards, three defencemen, and two goalies, so there isn’t a lot of room for selections. Each NHL team will be represented, so of the 11 players on Team Pacific, at least one of them is guaranteed to be a Flame.
Which Flames are going to be All-Stars?
The Flames kicked off their season with literally the worst goaltending in the entire NHL, so… no. No goalies are going to represent the Flames, probably. Think of guys who are already pretty big names around the hockey world who have been having actual (personal) success this season, like Jonathan Quick or Frederik Andersen.
Remember back when the Flames traded for Dougie Hamilton, and suddenly, it looked like they were going to have one of the best defence cores in the NHL? With a 22-year-old top four defender added to a group that boasted arguably the best pairing in the league between Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie, they would be unstoppable.
That hasn’t exactly been the case. Hamilton has taken some time to adjust to his new team. Giordano, another year older (and this time coming off of injury), seems to have fallen a step behind. And Brodie… No, actually, Brodie’s been pretty much as close to perfect as one can get and absolutely deserves to go.
There are two problems with sending Brodie to the All-Star Game. First, only three defencemen are going per division, so it’ll already be difficult to fit him in. Second, and this ties in with the first problem: while the rest of the league seems to be becoming aware of him, he may not have quite the level of name recognition he’d need to make it.
Giordano still gets a great deal of the credit for the pairing, even if Brodie may actually be the one in the driver’s seat. And even then, he still has to contend with big names from other teams: Drew Doughty, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and… I dunno. Alex Edler? Brent Burns?
Okay, so there’s really no reason Brodie shouldn’t be going. Though even if he isn’t an All-Star this season, he will, in all likelihood, become one sooner rather than later. People are going to take notice of him eventually – it’d just be nice to see that recognition a little earlier!
This one is easy: everybody loves Johnny Gaudreau. Even those who don’t love Gaudreau at the very least respect him and his offensive prowess. He can make opposing players completely forget how to defend, he routinely dekes them out, and the clincher: of the Flames’ four overtime wins, he’s been directly involved in three of the four goals.
(Is this where I note Brodie was crucial in that fourth goal? I’m going to note that anyway, even though this is a section about forwards. Seriously, send Brodie to the All-Star Game.)
Gaudreau was made for wide open ice. He’s also currently one of the top scorers in the Pacific Division, and really, the entire NHL, so to exclude him would be madness. He’s basically a lock.
So there we have it: one Flame who there’s pretty much no way he gets left out of the festivities, and another who really, really should be there, and it would be easy to make any argument testifying to such. That’s not bad representation considering the limitations this format brings: two players crucial to the Flames’ future.