Why not put the NHL All-Star game in the preseason?

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kovalevallstar.jpgThinking up cockamamie ideas about improving the NHL is a hobby for hockey nerds such as myself. So when I heard that the league plans to unveil the 2011 All-Star Game logo, I couldn’t help but think of ways to improve that glorified exhibition game. During the GM meetings, I brought up the fascinating if unlikely idea of “Team Ovechkin vs. Team Crosby” but I’d like to discuss another way to jazz up the proceedings.

Why not play the game in the preseason, when people are dying for hockey?

It’s really a concept that I think just about every sport should consider. Just look at the NFL. People are obsessed with the sport like no other in the United States yet the Pro Bowl receives a nationwide yawn. Why? Because it’s anticlimactic, whether you place the event in the week between the conference championships and the Super Bowl or a week after the big game.

But what if the NFL placed the Pro Bowl right around training camp? Now is the time when football fans are jonesing for some pigskin at a near-junkie level. I mean, seriously, if people are willing to watch exhibition games then wouldn’t they clamor for a bout between the league’s best? I think so.

The same logic can apply to hockey. Why have the All-Star Game in the middle of a brutal, 82-game season? Of course older players like Nicklas Lidstrom would prefer rest; what does he have to prove in such a meaningless game? By switching gears and putting it either right before the beginning of a new season or sometime before/during training camp, it could take advantage of how much people miss the NHL and give players a chance to tune up for the next season.

After the jump, I’ll talk about a few more pros and give you a chance to vote on whether this is a good idea or not.


Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for nicklaslidstrom800.jpgBetter representation

One added advantage of doing a preseason game is that you could celebrate an entire season instead of relying on fan voting from just a portion of that year. With that in mind, you would have a better representation of which players were dominant during the previous season. Also, as I mentioned before, injuries would also be less of a concern.

Creative formats, such as “Beat the Defending Champions”

What if the league celebrated its Stanley Cup champions by having them play against an All-Star team? It could even be a great way to send-off that team; have them raise the Cup banner in their own barn, reunite the players who were on the ice for the Cup victory one last time before they depart due to free agency and maybe even raise the level of competition since that title-winning team will have built-in chemistry. Wouldn’t it be great to see Dustin Byfuglien in a Blackhawks uniform one last time?

Hyping the upcoming season

Some reasonably state that the All-Star Game exists to appease sponsors, but shouldn’t it be a way of promoting the sport itself? By holding it before the season, you can get people pumped to see hockey again. Let’s not forget that if you were to run the game on, say, a weekday to avoid football in September you’d also gain an opportunity to be the “only show in town.” (Yes, baseball will be going on but at least it won’t be the playoffs just yet.) Hockey will always get overshadowed by something, yet the NHL could at least give the event a fighting chance.

So, now that I’ve made the case for a preseason All-Star Game, what do you think? Would it be better that way or is a mid-season version a better idea? Vote in the poll below.


The Ducks look pretty mighty right now after six consecutive wins

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In what should be a disturbing trend for every other team in the Pacific Division, the Anaheim Ducks have now won six consecutive games, and eight of their last 10.

After dominating the shot clock for pretty much all of Friday’s game against the Arizona Coyotes, the Ducks completely took over on the scoreboard in the third period. It seemed like only a matter of time before a breakthrough would occur.

Just 24 hours after beating the L.A. Kings, the Ducks earned a 5-2 victory over the Coyotes.

Ryan Kesler has eight points in his last six games. Corey Perry has seven points in his last six games. Patrick Maroon, who had only eight points all season prior to Friday, had a three-point night versus Arizona.

Again. Bad news for every other team in the Pacific.

The Ducks now have a three-point lead over the Coyotes for third place in the division. They’re one point back of second-place San Jose and eight back of division-leading L.A.

As for everyone else, more specifically the Canucks, Flames and Oilers, well it might be time to start focusing more on the upcoming trade deadline and, beyond that, the draft.

The Ducks had a terrible start to this season, one that started with so much hype about a team seen as an immediate Stanley Cup contender for 2015-16.

Count Corey Perry as one who believes those early season struggles could pay off at playoff time.

And remember all of that talk in October about Bruce Boudreau perhaps at the end of his days as coach of the Ducks?

At the end of October, GM Bob Murray vowed to be patient despite such a poor start just a few months after being one win away from the Stanley Cup Final last June.

There is still plenty of hockey remaining in the regular season. The Ducks have 32 games remaining on their schedule. But it appears that patience Murray showed in October is paying off.

Jets can’t complete the comeback after miserable start against Hurricanes

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WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP) Phillip Di Giuseppe, Andrej Nestrasil, Jordan Staal and Justin Faulk scored in the first period, and the Carolina Hurricanes held on for a 5-3 victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Friday night.

The Hurricanes scored four times on their first nine shots, taking a 4-0 lead just 10:04 into the game. Nestrasil added another goal in the third period, and Cam Ward made 33 saves. Staal and Joakim Nordstrom each had a pair of assists.

Alexander Burmistrov, Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler scored for Winnipeg.

Jets rookie Connor Hellebuyck allowed three goals while facing only six shots before being replaced by Michael Hutchinson after Staal’s power-play goal just 4:33 in. Hutchinson, who hadn’t played since a 4-1 loss in Anaheim on Jan. 3, finished with 21 saves.

The loss wrapped up Winnipeg’s season-high six-game homestand, which included just one victory.

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Carolina’s first goal came after the Jets turned over the puck and Di Giuseppe scored on a sharp-angled shot at 1:43.

Hellebuyck then kicked out a bad rebound and Nestrasil tallied his 16th goal of the season in his 100th NHL game from almost the same angle at 3:05.

With Byfuglien in the penalty box for delay of game, Staal’s shot beat Hellebuyck, ending the young goalie’s night.

Faulk made it 4-0 when his team’s third shot at Hutchinson went between his pads at 10:04.

The Jets came out at a faster, more aggressive pace to start the second period and it paid off with 1:25 remaining.

Andrew Copp and Chris Thorburn were battling a pair of Hurricanes behind the net when Thorburn poked the puck out front as he was falling and Burmistrov got his sixth goal of the season.

Ladd, who hit the post late in the second period, banged home a rebound with Hurricanes winger Jeff Skinner off for hooking at 9:07 of the third.

Byfuglien one-timed a pass from Nikolaj Ehlers that Wheeler deflected to make it 4-3 with 6:12 remaining.

Nestrasil sealed the win with his second goal at 18:40.

NOTES: Ehlers’ assist extended his point streak to six games, with four goals and four assists. … Winnipeg heads out for a two-game road trip starting in Colorado on Saturday. Carolina visits Montreal on Sunday.

Video: Zatkoff robs Condra with sprawling paddle save

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All Erik Condra had to do was lift the puck off the ice.

He didn’t, and as a result, he was robbed by sprawled out Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Jeff Zatkoff, who made a spectacular desperation save with the paddle of his stick on the Lightning forward.

The save occurred just past the midway point of the third period. That kept the Penguins in the game, down by a goal at the time.

However, the Penguins couldn’t get the equalizer. The result was a 6-3 loss for Pittsburgh, as Tampa Bay scored twice later in the period.

Defending Eastern Conference champion Bolts continue hot streak

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Remember those distractions the Tampa Bay Lightning had to endure?

— The future of captain Steven Stamkos, who is a pending unrestricted free agent and whose contract situation has been an ongoing discussion point for months now.

Jonathan Drouin‘s camp publicly requesting a trade, then having the 20-year-old forward sent to the minors and then suspended by Tampa Bay, etc.

Well, through it all, the defending Eastern Conference champions have emerged and are now one of the hottest teams in the National Hockey League . Since the start of January, the Bolts have lost twice. In 13 games.

They continued their hot streak Friday, defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins — another of those teams on an impressive streak — by a final score of 6-3, with Tyler Johnson leading the way with three points. He was one of six Tampa Bay players to record a multi-point night.

Penguins’ goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was pulled in the second period after allowing four goals on 14 shots.

Tampa Bay is now five points behind the Florida Panthers for first in the Atlantic Division.

For the Penguins, the loss keeps them on the outside of the playoff bubble for now. They remain one point back of New Jersey for the final Wild Card spot in the East.

Sidney Crosby extended his point streak to nine games. He also has goals in five straight and is one point shy of 900 for his career.