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.


Streaking Blues get Stastny back tonight

UNIONDALE, NY - DECEMBER 06:  Paul Stastny #26 of the St. Louis Blues skates against the New York Islanders at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on December 6, 2014 in Uniondale, New York. The Blues defeated the Islanders 6-4.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Saturday’s loss to Buffalo notwithstanding, St. Louis has been on fire lately under new head coach Mike Yeo. The Blues are 7-2 in their last nine, and will get a big piece of the lineup back this evening when they host Florida at Scottrade.

Paul Statsny, who’s missed the last four games with a lower-body injury, will draw in for the first time since Feb. 9, per NHL.com’s Lou Korac.

What’s more, Stastny will be immediately reunited on the club’s top line between Alex Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko.

Stastny had been on fire since the dismissal of former head coach Ken Hitchcock, racking up six points over his last five games played (in which the Blues went 4-1-0).

The 31-year-old currently sits fourth on the team in assists and points, while averaging 19:25 TOI per night, so he’s clearly a big part of the St. Louis attack. And based on his form prior to getting hurt, it was clear things were clicking with Steen and Tarasenko — which should make for an exciting test tonight against the red-hot Panthers.

Sens recall pair of forwards in wake of multiple injuries

Ottawa Senators' Mark Stone (61) lies injured on the ice after being hit hard by Winnipeg Jets' Jacob Trouba (not shown) during third period NHL hockey action in Ottawa, Sunday Feb. 19, 2017. (Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press via AP)
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The Ottawa Senators have called up some reinforcements from the AHL.

Forwards Casey Bailey and Max McCormick are on their way to the big club, in the wake of Sunday’s 3-2 loss to the Jets that saw Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone and Tommy Wingels all leave with injuries.

The Sens also went into yesterday’s game without winger Bobby Ryan, who’s out indefinitely with a hand injury.

No word yet on the status of Hoffman, Stone, or Wingels, but head coach Guy Boucher wasn’t all that optimistic yesterday.

“It doesn’t look good,” Boucher told reporters. “We have to wait until tomorrow to be clear and precise but right now we could be losing quite a few guys.”

The Sens kick off a four-game road trip tomorrow in New Jersey. They currently sit second in the Atlantic Division, but not that far ahead of Boston, Toronto, and Florida.

Related: Jacob Trouba will have a hearing for head shot on Mark Stone

Kings’ Robitaille named chairman of German League club (Updated)

2012 NHL Stanley Cup Final – Game Six
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Kings legend and Hockey Hall of Famer Luc Robitaille has added a new role to his front office portfolio.

Robitaille, currently serving as L.A.’s president of business operations, has been named as the chairman of Eisbaren Berlin, one of the most storied clubs in Germany’s top league, the Deutsche Eishockey Liga.

Berlin is owned by the Anschutz Entertainment Group, the same outfit that owns the Kings. The two clubs have a fairly long history with each other, though this Robitaille appointment is part of what sounds like the biggest cooperative initiative to date.

UPDATE: The Kings have confirmed the development, with added information…

The Los Angeles Kings will now oversee all operations of Berlin Eisbaren Hockey, it was announced today at a news conference at Mercedes-Benz Arena.

Eisbaren Berlin of the German Ice Hockey League and the Los Angeles Kings of the National Hockey League are owned and operated by AEG Sports, a division of the Anschutz Entertainment Group. The LA Kings will now begin leading all hockey operations and administrative matters, directing the day-to-day leadership of Managing Director Peter John Lee.

“The results the last few years in Berlin have not been the championship standards that we all expect,” said Robitaille.  “It became clear that our relationship needs to go beyond collaboration and move to a complete connection to ensure the team and organization has what it needs to return this club to the type of team our fans expect and have demonstrated passionate support for.”

From the Eisbaren Berlin website (translated):

“This is an important day for the polar bears Berlin,” said Eisbären CEO Peter John Lee. We have been interacting with Luc Robitaille and LA Kings for a long time. In the new constellation we have the leadership of the LA Kings directly on board the polar bears, so we can work even more intensively to turn the polar bears Berlin into a championship team again.”

(At this time, probably worth noting the team’s nickname translates to polar bears.)

Former Kings farmhand Alex Roach currently plays for Berlin, and the team is coached by Robitaille’s former teammate in Detroit, Uwe Krupp.

Who has the best and worst special teams in the NHL?

Toronto Maple Leafs centre Auston Matthews (34) celebrates with teammates after scoring a power play goal against the New York Islanders during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
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If the Toronto Maple Leafs make the playoffs, special teams will be one of the big reasons why.

Three quarters of the way through the season, the Leafs boast the NHL’s top power play, and their ninth-ranked penalty killing isn’t too bad either.

When the PP and PK are combined, Toronto has the best special teams in the league, followed closely by the Bruins, Blues, and Capitals.

Here’s how all 30 teams rank (best and worst PP and PK in bold):

special

As you can see, the bottom of the list is full of teams who will miss the playoffs. The Stars’ penalty killing has been particularly dreadful. In fact, Dallas is on pace to have the worst PK of the salary-cap era.