Changes coming for the NHL All-Star Game; team captains to pick sides now

If you’ve found yourself bored to tears over the NHL All-Star Game over the years, chances are you’re not alone. After all, the game itself is basically everything that the NHL isn’t about these days. No one throws a body check, guys don’t really play defense, and it’s essentially shooters versus goalies with a couple of defensemen out there to keep up appearances.

With the GM meetings  going on in Toronto today, former NHL star-turned-league executive Brendan Shanahan says that changes are coming for the mid-season exhibition game and they’re going to be a bit on the radical side as Craig Custance of The Sporting News shares with us.

According to Shanahan, the changes won’t be as drastic as giving the winning team home-ice advantage, like what baseball did with leagues competing in the World Series.

Instead, he’s hoping to tap into the competitive side of the All-Stars more than the exhibition game does now. One idea that has been the subject of speculation would be to have team captains choose sides before the game—like a pickup game. Shanahan declined to confirm that idea when asked by Sporting News.

His biggest hope, he said, is to find a fun way that brings out the competitive side of players seen in every regular-season game.

It’s good to see that they’re staying away from the bogus thing Major League Baseball did with their All-Star Game in “making it count” for home field in the World Series. Trying to force players to care about a game that doesn’t count for anything aside from fan entertainment comes off as phony as it sounds. Also, making home ice in the Stanley Cup finals, for instance, as something to be put up for grabs in an All-Star Game would virtually devalue the regular season.

As for the apparent proposal itself, it’s a fascinating suggestion to do something pond hockey-like to have captains pick their sides for the game. Putting the pressure on the big guns that are voted on by the fans to then have to pick who they want in the game provides some honest intrigue for fans and players alike. Wouldn’t you like to know who Sidney Crosby or Nicklas Lidstrom (if he wasn’t avoiding the game) would pick for their teams? I sure would be interested to see who they’d choose.

(Update: Chris Johnston gets confirmation from the NHL that yes, indeed, captains will be picking sides for the game and it will go into effect starting with this year’s game in Raleigh, North Carolina. Fantastic.)

What they decide to do to make guys want to bust their humps a bit more for the game itself will be fascinating to see. Again, it’s just one exhibition game with no real stakes on the line at all. One suggestion from us to spice things up: Winner take all regarding All-Star bonuses/payouts.

There’s less than zero possibility that this would ever be a possibility, but we know these guys get paid and pulling the curtain off that fact and putting the All-Star Game payouts on the line so winners take home all the cash would at least put something on the line for the guys in the game. Making it something that doesn’t have anything at all to do with screwing with standings or home-ice advantage or the general integrity of the regular season standings would put some life into the game. Besides, what player wouldn’t mind taking home a few extra bucks in the end from their buddies on the opposing team?

Not only would it be bragging rights but it’d give them a chance to dangle something over their heads for a full year. You’d get the best out of the guys on the ice and while it’s still an exhibition you’d at least, ideally, get them to try a bit harder to win the game rather than putz around for two-and-a-half periods then spending the final ten minutes actually trying.

Yeo more surprised than anyone to learn of Stastny injury

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For the second time since taking over as head coach, Mike Yeo has lost the services Paul Stastny.

This time, though, Yeo was caught off guard.

“It may sound misleading, but it was a completely separate injury that kept him out of (Tuesday’s) game and one that we believed would have him possibly in the lineup for us tonight,” Yeo told the Post-Dispatch of Stastny’s lower-body ailment, which will keep him out week-to-week. “We were surprised to hear that this came about yesterday.

“Believe me, I was probably more surprised than all the fans out there. So it’s a difficult one, but one that we’ll have to overcome.”

Stastny was limited to less than four minutes of ice time during Tuesday’s 4-2 win against the Colorado Avalanche. Initially, Yeo indicated that the issue wasn’t serious — and it very well may not haven been — but that’s irrelevant now, as an entirely new issue could potentially sideline Stastny for the remainder of the regular season.

The Blues are in good shape for a playoff spot, up eight points on L.A., but are jockeying with Nashville for third spot in the Central Division (both head into tonight’s action with 83 points). St. Louis also has 10 games left.

There’s no denying Stastny’s absence will be felt. Back when he missed four games in early February, Yeo noted how integral he was to the club.

“He’s usually the first guy over the boards for a power-play faceoff or the first guy over the boards for a penalty-kill faceoff, and those are key,” Yeo said, per the Blues website. “He’s a very important player for us. You don’t take out a top-line center from too many lineups where they don’t feel that.”

Limited to just 66 games this season, Stastny has still managed to score 18 goals — third-most on the team — and 40 points. He also averages a healthy 19:08 TOI per night.

Kings give another kid a look, recall AHL All-Star Brodzinski

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Last summer, Kings head coach Darryl Sutter stressed that some of the club’s young prospects needed to make an impact at the NHL level.

And now it’s happening.

Following the recalls and NHL debuts of Adrian Kempe and Paul LaDue, the Kings have brought up Jonny Brodzinski from AHL Ontario, the club announced on Thursday.

Brodzinski, 23, made the AHL All-Star team this year and leads the Reign in goals, with 25 through 56 games. The former St. Could State sniper left school early two years ago to join the Kings organization, after L.A. took him in the fifth round of the ’13 draft.

As mentioned above, this recall is in lockstep with what’s developed throughout the year. Kempe, 20, was the club’s first-round pick (29th overall) in ’14 and has fared well since joining the big club, with six points in 16 games.

LaDue, 24, was a sixth-round pick in ’12 that — like Kempe and Brodzinski — fared well in the American League before getting recalled in February. LaDue has appeared in 15 games for the Kings, scoring five points while averaging 16:25 TOI per night.

Los Angeles is still technically in the playoff race, but sits eight points back of Nashville for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference — with just 10 games to play. As such, the focus might now shift to giving some youngsters NHL experience.

Brodzinski will have to wait for his, however. Per LA Kings Insider, it doesn’t look like he’ll play tonight, when the Kings host the Jets at Staples.

 

 

Polak gets two games for boarding Bjorkstrand

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Roman Polak‘s hit on Oliver Bjorkstrand has drawn more than the ire of Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella.

Today, the NHL announced that Polak, a defenseman for the Toronto Maple Leafs, has been suspended two games for boarding Bjorkstrand Wednesday in Columbus.

In making the ruling, the league’s Department of Player Safety determined that Polak sent Bjorkstrand “violently” into the boards from behind, causing an injury. The DoPS also noted that the hit was avoidable, with the onus on Polak to “ensure that he avoids this hit entirely, or at the very least, minimizes the force of the impact.”

You can watch the full ruling below:

Wild prospect Kunin leaves Wisconsin, turns pro

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Minnesota is getting one of its prized youngsters in the mix.

Luke Kunin, the club’s first-round pick (15th overall) at last year’s draft, is leaving the University of Wisconsin following his sophomore campaign, per the Star-Tribune. Kunin will reportedly join Minnesota’s AHL affiliate in Iowa on an amateur tryout.

Kunin, 19, is coming off a pretty successful campaign. He was the first soph to captain the Badgers in over 40 years, and led the team in goals (22) and points (38). That came after he captained the U.S. to gold at the world juniors, scoring four points in seven games.

Per TSN’s Bob McKenzie, Kunin will play out this year in the minors, and his entry-level deal will kick in next season. That means he won’t be with the Wild at all this year — regular season or playoffs.

As mentioned, Kunin is just one of the many talented prospects Minnesota has in the fold. Russian Kirill Kaprizov, Sweden’s Joel Eriksson-Ek and Kunin’s U.S. junior teammate, Jordan Greenway, all showed extremely well at the worlds.