I don’t want to say he saved the All-Star game, but he certainly didn’t hurt it. More on that later, but by in large, I thought the All-Star weekend was great. Granted, I’m not one who has ever really hated the All-Star game, but I will admit that I don’t recall a better All-Star weekend than this year’s offering in Nashville.
First of all, we have to accept the All-Star game for what it is. I mean, if you want lots of goals, then inherently, the players can’t try that hard; if you want the players to try hard, you’re not going to see a lot of goals. So people need to come to grips with the fact that you can’t have it both ways. In saying that, I thought we got as close to having our cake and eating it too this past weekend. Two games, fairly high scoring; a third, a 1-0 game when the money was on the line.
I’m guessing that was the exact scenario the NHL was hoping for when they decided to change the format. And all-in-all, I think the new format was great. Not specifically that it was 3v3; just that it was a tournament type thing consisting of short games.
I think the short games make the format. It could be 5v5, 4v4, or 3v3, as long as the game is short.
Typical All-Star games, full length games, they’re just too long to keep both the players and the fans interested when the effort isn’t at 100%. A short game with less-than-perfect effort though, is very tolerable. And, when the money is actually on the line, in the championship game, the short game allows for a little more intensity. The players don’t want to expend themselves for an exhibition game, so a full 60 isn’t realistic. But in the 20 minute span? Sure, they can give it a little extra effort, especially for $100,000 each.
All that said; even though I think the NHL and the fans are very happy with the first rendition of the new format, you should definitely expect changes to the All-Star game next go-round.
John Scott’s presence ended up being terrific, but there’s no way the NHL is going to poke the bear again. They are definitely going to make changes to the voting process going forward. How they will change it, I’m not sure; but there will be changes.
Hey, John Scott made the most this chance, so good on him, but let’s not kid ourselves and forget why Scott was voted into the game in the first place. It’s not because he’s a true All-Star talent and it’s not because he’s a fan favorite. The people who voted John Scott were laughing at John Scott, not with, and it made a mockery of the NHL. In the end, it ended up being a blessing for the NHL, but they will not be made a mockery of again, so the voting will change.
However, though I believe the NHL will make a change due to the John Scott debacle, I honestly think they should embrace how it happened when they do make the change. I mean, John Scott really did make the All-Star game better. Not because he was the best player out there and not even because the fans got behind him; John Scott made the All-Star game better because the other players did not want to make him feel embarrassed out there.
Hockey players are a brethren and our first instinct is to always protect our own. So when the rumors came out that the NHL didn’t want John Scott at the game, and the very fact that the players aren’t stupid—they know people were voting, trying to have some fun at John Scott’s expense—made the players care a little bit more about the game. You could see it in their faces; they were a little more excited about this year’s game. They weren’t going to let John Scott be a laughing stock. They protected a member of the brethren.
So, somehow, the NHL has to capture that in the next iteration of the voting process. I understand that they don’t want the fans voting in a guy with 2 games played and zero career points, but if the NHL can somehow make the players care about the people voted in, I think you’ll see more emotion in your NHL All-Star games.
So here’s my idea.
The Winter Classic regular season game is always on a Sunday and is always the defending Stanley Cup Champion versus whoever is hosting the game. Put the game wherever you want, NHL, but the game is always Stanley Cup Champ versus Host. Those two teams’ players are excluded from the All-Star game (the NFL guys playing in the Super Bowl don’t play in the Pro Bowl, so there is precedent for this in All-Star games).
The day before the Winter Classic game, the Saturday, is the All-Star game. Have it whatever format you want; 3v3, 4v4, 5v5, shootouts, whatever. But it’s the day before the Winter Classic and it’s in tournament format. Personally, I really enjoyed the 3v3 this year, so let’s work off of that premise going forward.
So, for instance, let’s say that this format was in the works for this season. Boston was the host of the Winter Classic and Chicago is the defending Champs, so the Winter Classic would have been the Blackhawks versus the Bruins. Knowing that before the season excludes any member from playing in the All-Star game (and remember the actual All-Star teams are announced at the end of the season, so players on those teams could still be named actual All-Stars) and as such, they cannot be included in the voting for team Captain.
Voting for the four division team Captains could happen one of three ways:
1) Just take the write-in vote away. Give a list of players the fans can vote for and that’s that.
2) Eliminate the fan vote entirely and give it to the players. They players vote for the Ted Lindsay Award; let them vote for the All-Star game Captains. This way, you know you’re going to get the four most deserving players as the team captain; players won’t vote for guys who don’t belong.
Or—and this is my favorite idea—3) All-Star Captain Campaigns.
You want to be the All-Star Team Captain? You have to run for it.
Think about where we’re at with Social Media and how we want to see more characters in the NHL, and you’ll agree how great this idea is.
Imagine if PK Subban and Brent Burns wanted to be the Captains of the All-Star team and they had to created promo videos, campaign aids, posters, billboards, etc., just to gain the vote of the fans. Imagine the campaign material that would come out of that.
Players would have to announce their running for Captaincy by a certain date of the season and you let the fans vote on whoever is running. I’d imagine that the runners would end up being younger guys in the NHL—vets won’t want to be bothered—but that’s a perfect scenario. Let the new guys on the scene express their personality so the fans get to know them better. And if a wily vet wants to throw his hat in the ring, God bless him.
From there, however the Captains are decided, I think you let them pick their team. They can only pick from players in their division, but they can pick anyone they think will help them win. This is where you’ll see the competitiveness pick up.
If the NHL puts the $1,000,000 on the line for the winning team, and you have the players picking their own team, you’re not going to see anyone come out with lackluster efforts. First, the Captain won’t pick a player for his team that doesn’t want to go—NHL players talk; they’d all know who wants to participate and who doesn’t–and because he’s only picking players who’d want to be there and want to win, the games would be more competitive. Let alone the fact that bragging rights are still a gigantic currency in sports, so the Captains will want to pick the best team possible just to be able to say they know how to pick teams better than anyone else. Plus, I think you’d have NHLers campaigning to be on their division’s Captain’s team, so you’d have two campaign seasons, essentially.
This would turn the All-Star game into a gigantic spectacle, which is exactly what the NHL wants. All-Star Captain Campaigns, All-Star player Campaigns, All-Star Team selections. All-Star game on Winter Classic Ice on the Saturday for $1,000,000 and bragging rights, and finally the Winter Classic with the defending Stanley Cup Champions involved.
This would give the NHL the big ticket weekend it so desperately wants, and in a climate where people are starting to get bored with the NHL’s outdoor games and the NHL All-Star game still needs refining, I really think someone from the NHL should give me a call about this idea.
I’m definitely willing to take all the credit for it.