The NHL All Star weekend concluded with a fairly-ish entertaining game that saw Team Lidstrom spoil all of the
racing hockey fan’s weekend in Raleigh.
Prior to that however, were some creative and relatively successful changes that Brendan Shanahan is either completely or partially responsible for.
Let us start with the Fantasy Draft. It ran a wee bit long but I would shoulder most of that blame on the idea that TSN decided they needed to analyze a roster of the 36 “best” players in the league this season. Yes Pierre, we understand they played together in Kamloops but it doesn’t matter when every guy is skating half speed unless they have a breakaway.
My biggest issue with the draft is the fact that each player had their game jersey handed to them as they were selected. Call me crazy but for a league to make 100 different unis (don’t forget the rookies) to hold a live draft seems like a reach to me. Of course, the rookies did have two sets of unis when they took the stage. Still, I had some misgivings trying to believe that was a live draft. It seemed as if the teams had been selected earlier in the week and the players had the ability to freelance as they saw fit as the draft went on.
However, I would have put the balance of my student loans on the fact that Phil Kessel would be taken last. Add to that the highlight of the weekend, Alex Ovechkin snapping a photo of Kessel sitting alone prior to his selection.
From what I saw of the skills competition, it was more of the same from previous years. I will stand by my idea of eliminating the game and just having an expanded skills competition. There were a couple of cool moments, including Matt Duchene’s second mic’d up gem of the weekend, “…too much vodka last night.” Of course his first was during the draft when workers started condensing the player pool seats, “Just folding up shop, eh!?”
What I took away from the skills competition were the first two major gaffes of the weekend. First, Darren Dreger somehow missed Patrick Sharp getting traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets (image below) and Tyler Ennis was introduced as a Florida Panther, contrary to the smoke screen and his jersey.
Besides that, the introductions played very well on TV and looked outstanding. It was a very cool addition and I applaud whoever came up with it.
The game itself wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad. There were a million goals and a handful were cool to see. The draft played out very well, especially Team Staal being the clear-cut home team as the crowd was genuinely behind them. I particularly enjoyed hearing Marc-Andre Fleury receive catcalls after doing his best Patty Lalime impression through the first 10 minutes.
Most of the game resembled my Sunday night beer league team in terms of team defense. The play-by-play could have gone like this:
“Giveaway to (insert forward name) and he breaks in three-on-none from the circle. Pass, another pass, a third pass and the play is broken up and it comes back the other way.”
Here is a thought, play four-on-four with three forwards. It would open up more ice, create some opportunities and negate the need to watch Erik Karlsson and Kris Letang fumble around with the puck in their zone. In his defense, Letang was on fire offensively.
Last and certainly least was the horrendous premier of the Guardian Project. For the last few weeks, as the Guardians have been unveiled, everyone has lamented them. Save for the fact that they are virtual copy-cats of former cartoons, they just don’t fit with the NHL demo. I understand hockey is light in fans in the USA, but we don’t need the dungeons and dragons crews skipping to their local arenas in shirts like this. But of course the Hurricane was the one to save the other 29 Guardians from their…..capture, if you will. Just adding to the fact that Carolina got ridiculous preferential treatment at this event. Good think Jeff Skinner played over, say, Joe Thornton.
Overall I think it was a success. Most of the text above likely reads to the contrary, but I actually sat and watched the whole game. I was predisposed for the skills competition, but NHL.com caught me up to anything I would have needed to see and the draft went as I thought it would, minus the fact that it truly appeared that the rosters were set earlier in the week. I’m looking forward to the 2012 edition and I am praying that the NHL just sticks to quality hockey cities from now on.