NHL All Star weekend has come and gone again here in 2017. Is it boring? Does it adequately promote the game? Is it worth it for the players? Here’s four quick thoughts.
1)The 4 line challenge has to go. Good for the NHL for trying something new. I give them credit for mixing it up and testing new ideas. But if it weren’t for Brent Burns hitting a top corner and Mike Smith making a full ice miracle shot to the five hole it would have been the most boring thing on television since the last Atlanta Thrashers game. Even with those two shots, the other 476 misses weren’t worth it.
2)Reinvent the breakaway challenge. I hated a lot about the breakaway challenge simply because I think it’s just hard to come up with unique and clever ideas for what to do. It left me with too many awkward moments to be a keeper as it was and I’m glad the NHL dropped it. But noticeably missing this year was the opportunity for the personality of the players to be showcased. This was mentioned by Elliotte Friedman during the Skills Competition broadcast, but also by everyone who watched it. The best examples I saw of this were actually during the games the next day, such as when PK Subban put an exaggerated hold on Connor McDavid, or when Alexander Ovechkin helped him teammates take a drink during a timeout in the finals. I don’t have an answer to how, but if they could find some way to let the players be themselves without putting them on the spot it would keep people tuned in.
3)I still love the three on three and the 4 team format. I know you can still say it’s not the same because they aren’t trying, but it’s a chance to see some players do things they might not normally get a chance to do as often, and for an audience that may not be able to see them on a regular basis. I had no idea what a great stick handler John Tavares is. I knew he was good at everything and could pass, but I’m not watching too many Islanders games and all you hear about is his sniping ability. I have a greater appreciation for him as an overall hockey player now. He was unbelievable. The four team three on three format also means you can focus on fewer players and see them more often for a specific stretch of time.
4) The protection of superstar images is alive and well. Auston Matthews did a lot of things this weekend. He scored a really nice wrist shot goal from the slot, which we’ve seen featured in Sportsnet and all over YouTube. He also bungled the puck twice during the stick handling portion of the Skills Competition team relay. Then in the game he got a breakaway and performed what could be referred to as an involuntary delay. We see these highlights nowhere. I’m not saying I think any less of him. This could happen to anyone. I don’t think its worth splashing these replays all around. I only mention it to ask what would have happened if it had been John Scott? If on his breakaway he’d done this:
…instead of this:
I’m sure we’d have heard more about it.