The NHL Skills Competition is always the highlight of All-Star Weekend. A John Scott type winning All-Star Game MVP isn’t going to happen again, and the Saturday night event has always been a great way for to players to show a little personality and a lot of skill.
The NHL has tweaked a few of the Skills Competition events for this year in Tampa, but let’s go a little further with the upgrades. Let’s make this a real best-on-best event showcasing the top players in some of the categories.
There’s no reason — other than injury or one of them retires — that we as hockey fans should not be able to witness Zdeno Chara and Shea Weber firing 100-plus mile rockets every year at the Hardest Shot competition. We’ve been fortunate enough to see it happen a few times over the last couple of years, but they should be there every year.
The current format where only actual All-Stars voted in or chosen to represent their respective divisions robs us of an even higher level of competition. Why can’t we have Dylan Larkin, Connor McDavid, Michael Grabner, Andreas Athanasiou and Carl Hagelin zip around the ice to determine the league’s fastest skater? Bring back the trick shot competition and let guys with the best hands and creative moves show them off? (Just think of what Rob Schremp or Linus Omark could have done?)
This year, Chara and Weber are at home for different reasons. Weber has been out injured since December and while the Boston Bruins defenseman is having a fine season, the divisional roster format and getting one player from every NHL team makes it difficult to ensure the every spot is taken by a worthy representative.
A bonus for NHL teams would be allowing them to trumpet having another guy involved in the weekend and trying to get their fans engaged in event.
Now, the nay side of this argument would likely say that some players would not want to fly to wherever the event is being held just for a couple of hours to participate in one or two of the competitions. They’d certainly prefer the extra few days of rest and recuperation over signing autographs, taking media questions for half an hour and then stick-handling around some oversized Powerade bottles before heading back home. But maybe there are some incentives that could be built into such an invite to make it worthwhile for the player and their family.
If you really want get crazy, why not bring back some old timers as my old pal Greg Wyshynski brought up this week? Al MacInnis and his Sher-Wood back in the Hardest Shot? A 57-year-old Ray Bourque trying to go 4-for-4 again in the Accuracy Shooting? Paul Kariya back dominating the Puck Control Relay?
The Tampa Bay Lightning, who are celebrating their 25th season, and the city of Tampa will host the 2018 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend. The League’s midseason showcase will take place at AMALIE Arena and will include the 2018 GEICO NHL All-Star Skills Competition on Saturday, Jan. 27 (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS) and 2018 Honda NHL All-Star Game on Sunday, Jan. 28 (3:30 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).
More NHL All-Star Game coverage:
• NHL announces details of 2018 All-Star Skills Competition
• NHL reveals 2018 All-Star Game rosters; who missed out?
Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.