Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Jon Jordan on 01/29/11 at 01:33 PM ET
The intent of altering the format for the NHL All-Star Game was to generate more interest in a mid-season exhibition that most would agree had become a bit blasé. With the rosters of Team Lidstrom and Team Staal now filled via last night’s Fantasy Draft and the SuperSkills competition on tap for tonight, whether or not the game itself will have any added spice remains to be seen but, so far as that added interest goes, the vibe here in Raleigh and the pageantry surrounding the selection process itself both suggest the achievement of just that.
The All-Star Game and its surrounding events should be about fun – for the fans, first and foremost, but also for the players involved and the captains and alternates for both sides as well as the draftees played things up effectively and had a good time throughout the process, which was evident in the broadcast.
“It looked good on TV, right?” Tampa Bay Lightning forward Martin St. Louis asked after the event and his question was met with immediate assent. That was the point, of course, and St. Louis and his All-Star contingents got it, doing the event well by playing things up to the best of their ability.
Again, whether or not the selection process does anything to increase the quality of the game itself is still up in the air. But at least the forthcoming tilt won’t be lacking in storylines created via the draft:
-Sedin vs. Sedin pits Vancouver’s superstar twins against each other for the first time ever and Team Lidstrom’s answer of Henrik to Team Staal’s Daniel was part of the draft strategy according to St. Louis.
“They’re so good together,” he said before adding, with a laugh indicative of the ‘fun’ aspect of it all, “It was a defensive pick.”
-Team Staal is very much Team Staal, what with captain Eric adding brother Marc of the New York Rangers to his roster, as well as Carolina Hurricane teammates Cam Ward and Jeff Skinner. (Staal family crises were avoided, with Marc having joked of withholding future birthday and Christmas presents if his brother were to pass him over.)
-St. Louis will be reunited with a former teammate in Dallas’ Brad Richards, who, he joked, agreed to move to wing for the game before being drafted to Team Lidstrom. If that comes to pass, perhaps Lightning fans will be treated to a one-time dream trio of St. Louis, Richards and Steven Stamkos.
-There will be a strong presence of teammates on opposing benches, with Ryan Kesler joining Daniel Sedin opposite brother Henrik and Team Staal’s Patrick Sharp facing three Chicago Blackhawk teammates in Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Jonathan Toews. Zdeno Chara and Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins, Philadelphia’s Danny Briere and Claude Giroux, Vancouver’s Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang and Marc-Andre Fleury, Anaheim’s Corey Perry and Jonas Hiller and Colorado’s Paul Stastny and Matt Duchene all also face that “hardship”.
-Toronto’s Phil Kessel has the dubious distinction of being the first All-Star “Mr. Irrelevant”, as the final selection of the draft, maybe providing him with a slight uptick in the motivation department for Sunday’s game.
-Finally, while Kessel’s consolation prizes included a car, every player has the opportunity to take home a ride of their own come Sunday, with the All-Star MVP traditionally driving away on new rubber. (And wouldn’t it be something if Kessel landed two cars in one weekend?)
While the fantasy draft is a gimmicky twist to the annual All-Star game, the inaugural event was well-received by all and stands as a simple reminder that All-Star Weekend is all about having a little fun.
More of that in short order, with SuperSkills set for tonight.
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About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
Email Paul anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org