So, let's face it, the All-Star game is a joke. How did it get this way? Can it be fixed? I'd like to offer some suggestions and then open the floor to hear from all of you.
First, I'd like to start by addressing the format, the fantasy draft. The only reason I found the first fantasy draft interesting was because Nick Lidstrom, my team's Captain and one of the greatest players of all time was one of the team captains. Not only that, the team was literally called "Team Lidstrom." But did that really matter to other teams' fans? Probably not. I don't care about this year's teams, and not just because I have no Red Wing to root for. Fantasy drafts are great for video games, but this is the All-Star game. This used to be about bragging rights, and the only bragging rights that matter are East vs. West. So how about starting with returning to East vs. West, back to basics, back to my conference is better than yours.
Okay, with the format out of the way, how about the giant elephant in the room, the fan voting? Ballot stuffing has destroyed any legitimacy of the All-Star game. Not only that, it used to guarantee the starting lineup of both teams. Add to that the fact that every team needs a representative and every year there were some major snubs. I have a solution to this problem: The fans vote for the starting lineups from the list of players already selected to the All-Star teams.
Of course, this leads to the question of how the players are selected? My solution: Allow each team to select its representative--sort of. How about every player on each team gets a ballot on which he writes the top three teammates he would like to give the honor of being the team's All-Star representative. These ballots then go to the league, and based on a combination of votes and position needs the first 16 representatives of the East and 14 of the West are selected by their peers.
As each team needs 12 forwards, 6 defensemen, and 3 goalies, the league would then fill out the remainder of each roster. I would suggest the league have the conference champion teams from the previous season heavily represented in the remaining spots as a reward for making it to the Stanley Cup final, but that's just how I feel, others may not like that level of representation for two teams.
Currently, there are more extra spots for the league to fill in the West because it has two fewer teams, but that may well be remedied in a few years, and it's not that big of a deal to me.
The NHL should release the All-Star team rosters at the Winter Classic. Then voting should open for fans to select the starting players for each team. Once the teams are selected, do we really care who takes the first shift? In all likelyhood those lines will change the next time those players hit the ice, but at least it keeps the fans involved is some way without making a joke of the team itself.
For the skills competition, I'd like to see players not selected to the All-Star team who deserve to participate in certain competitions. For example, the players with the hardest shots should compete against each other because that's what we want to see. Baseball invites big time sluggers to the home run derby who are not All-Stars that year because that's what the fans want to see. Same concept. So Chara and Weber face off even if neither makes their team. And Pavel Datyuk is guaranteed to wow us in the shootout completion along with other masters of the skill like Oshie even if they are not selected to play in the game. The NHL gets its most exciting players for the skills competition, and the teams themselves are primarily created by the players, with the fans voting who starts after the teams are announced. Everybody wins!
Finally, I have to address the jersey. That thing is a monstrosity. Like the Winter Classic and the Stadium series, I think the All-Star jersey should take on a look that represents the history of the game. Maybe that means going back to the star sweater. Or maybe the jersey is patterned after the host city's jersey? That could be interesting. Imagine if the game is in Philadelphia. The jersey could take on the pattern of a classic Flyers' jersey, with the host team in orange and the visitors in white. Perhaps this is something that can be turned over to the fans in the same way Grand Rapids held a jersey contest this year. I would not mind experimenting with that, either.
So that's my list of ideas. What do you think? How would you change the All-Star game for the better? Please chime in. Together we can make this game mean something again. On paper. In this forum. Okay, maybe it's all for naught, but let's have some fun anyway, be it to let off some steam or just have some good conversation. The floor is yours.