But I do have a few suggestions for how we should tweak this format for next year's All-Star Game, and they primarily focus on encouraging the players to try. I will acknowledge that the effort was present from start to finish last night, with just one minor exception:
Overall, this year seemed to have something that most All-Star games across every sport lack: actual competition.Subban needs a nap pic.twitter.com/ZB2qL5Ebaj— Feitelberg (@FeitsBarstool) January 31, 2016
Here's my theory on why the Pacific Division won the whole thing: they were playing for John Scott. No other team had something quite as significant driving them to win. So their defense was a little tighter, one of their goalies almost tore open his scrotum, and the Burns/Pavelski/Scott trio finished a combined +13 Corsi (yes, I am aware that combined Corsi is not a real stat) in the first game and a combined +12 Corsi in the second game.
So let's get some more effort in here.
Home Team Captain
One of the only problems I had with this year's edition in Nashville was the fact that Shea Weber wasn't the captain of the "home" team. That honor went to Patrick Kane, who was booed loudly all night.
If the league is going to adopt a policy where the host city gets to put more players in the game than everyone else, that's totally fine. It creates a rowdier atmosphere, and that's never a bad thing.John Scott loved every second of Patrick Kane getting booed (via @EvgeniMaikinEgo): https://t.co/ubtsYJAkCP https://t.co/B70mwCBnMP— SB Nation (@SBNation) January 31, 2016
But if we're going to do that, let's go all out and make the captain of that team a player from the home team. This year, it probably would have been Shea Weber.
Next year, your options will be Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, and Jonathan Quick. Maybe someone else could jump into the mix in the next 11 months, but the captain of the first team should be a King.
(Excuse me for a second, I just threw up all over my desk and I need to grab some Clorox wipes.)
Watching Dylan Larkin this weekend was an absolute joy. He just celebrated his 19-and-a-half-th birthday, and he was sharing one of the biggest spotlights in the NHL with some of the best players in the world. And #OhByTheWay he also broke the record for fastest skater in NHL history, which may or may not be kind of a big deal.
We need more of this.
So the second fan vote will be for the best rookie - this year, that vote would have included Larkin, Artemi Panarin, Shayne Gostisbehere, Jack Eichel, and Max Domi.
One reason to watch the entire All-Star Weekend every year is to see new faces mix in with the stars that we all know and love (or hate). With a focus on mixing in rookies, the on-ice product should improve as the young guns try to prove themselves (and their teammates follow their lead).
I think we can all agree that more effort in this game is a good thing, and I think a rookie captain is a good way to accomplish that.
The Two Other Captains
I like the idea of the Host City captain and the idea of the Rookie Captain. And then we come to the issue of how to divide the rest of the league into two teams.
I'm stuck on the idea of encouraging as much effort from the players as possible. Having a bunch of players from the home city helps. Having a bunch of rookies helps.
Last night, having Patrice Bergeron on the ice helped. He was almost as sound defensively as he is during games that matter, and it drove the whole tournament to be much more than just the typical All-Star snoozefest. The Metropolitan team responded to him aggressively, his Atlantic team responded accordingly, and the second game seemed to take that intensity as a guide for their matchup.
So here's what I'm thinking: the third and fourth fan votes will be mid-season ballots for the Norris and Selke trophies. It's a little bizarre to focus on defense, but with the talent that will be selected to fill out the teams, offense will obviously not be an issue. I think using the mid-season Hart/Ross/Richard favorites would be too hotly contested anyway.
Obviously, the one change that everyone should be in favor of is narrowing down the player selection ballots from "The Entire NHL" to "Players That Actually Deserve It."
This year, the captains of these teams would have probably been Erik Karlsson (who scored last night) and Bergeron (see above). But if fan contingents decided to push someone like Ryan Kesler (barf) or Sean Couturier (swoon) into the mix, then that's not a bad thing.
The Rest Of The Rosters
This is the easy part - bring back the god damn fantasy draft on Friday night. We can have music mixed in, or Cirque Du Soleil performers, or whatever. Just give us the chance to see our favorite athletes in the most fun event in sports.
Just like this year, the fans will select the captains and the league will fill in the player pool. The Host City Captain selects first, and the draft will snake on until all the teams are completed. I'm going to probably get bored at work and write about what that draft would have looked like this year later today.
And, of course, there should be unlimited beer and shots before and during the broadcast. And if Alex Ovechkin decides to "sit out" or "be injured" again, then we should banish the Capitals from the NHL forever.
The Actual Tournament
There's not a whole lot has to change, because I thought the actual games were really entertaining. The only difference - and sorry to keep harping on this - is they prize money should go to the winning captain's charity of choice.
We should also slightly modify the rules to accommodate the occasion. Goalies should be able to play the puck from wherever, and interference/hooking should be called tighter than they were last night. I don't need the refs to make ticky-tack calls, but opening up the game a little more makes it more fun to watch, and so does 4-on-3 powerplay action.
Also, Evgeni Malkin should be banned because he's a dirtbag.
Hey NHL, maybe find someone who is better than whoever was in charge this weekend. I mean, Christ, could they have handled the John Scott thing worse from start to finish? Let's break it down bullets-style:
- Allowed Scott to be on the ballot in the first place
- Didn't remove him or tweak the system when they saw him getting votes
- Shadily forced him to make a statement telling fans not to vote for him
- Still allowed him to win the goddamn vote
- Shadily tried to force him to back out of the game
- Shadily forced his being traded to Montreal and buried in the minors
- "Do you think this is something your kids would be proud of?"
- Left him off the fan-vote MVP ballot, then had to eat crow when nobody votes for anyone but him