As well all must know by now, the NHL All-Star Game this season is a mini-tournament of 3v3 play. The rosters for these games are made up six forwards, three defencemen, and two goaltenders. To an extent, this makes sense, a typical 3v3 lineup consists of two forwards and a blueliner, and the goaltenders can split the games' 20 minutes evenly. I've got one gripe though. Why so small? I get that these are only 20 minute games, but it's three units splitting up those 20 minutes. Players have complained about five-minute overtime being exhausting, and that's five minutes divided up between two units. A third of 20 minutes will still be a larger workload. I would add three additional units to the game, each comprised of two forwards and a defenceman. Here are my proposed additions, sorted by division, then by position, and then alphabetically. I'll also explain why each player on the list should be in the game. Note that this doesn't reflect any changes made to the actual roster because of injury or "injury". All possession numbers from stats.hockeyanalysis.com.
For those who haven't been following, these are the rosters that were originally unveiled.
Johnny Gaudreau (L-13-Calgary)
Taylor Hall (L-4-Edmonton)
Joe Pavelski (C-8-San Jose)
Corey Perry (R-10-Anaheim)
John Scott (L*) - Captain
Daniel Sedin (L-22-Vancouver)
Brent Burns (D-88-San Jose)
Drew Doughty (D-8-Los Angeles)
Mark Giordano (D-5-Calgary)
John Gibson (G-36-Anaheim)
Jonathan Quick (G-32-Los Angeles)
*Scott has voted in as a representative of the Arizona Coyotes, but was traded to the Montreal Canadiens. He isn't representing Montreal here, as he is still in the Pacific Division, not Atlantic, and since he is in the minors, isn't considered to be representing a specific team.
Jamie Benn (L-14-Dallas)
Matt Duchene (C-9-Colorado)
Patrick Kane (R-88-Chicago) - Captain
Tyler Seguin (C-91-Dallas)
Vladimir Tarasenko (R-91-St. Louis)
Jonathan Toews (C-19-Chicago)
Dustin Byfuglien (D-33-Winnipeg)
Roman Josi (D-59-Nashville)
Shea Weber (D-6-Nashville)
Devan Dubnyk (G-40-Minnesota)
Pekka Rinne (G-35-Nashville)
Patrice Bergeron (C-37-Boston)
Jaromir Jagr (R-68-Florida) - Captain
Leo Komarov (L-47-Toronto)
Dylan Larkin (C-71-Detroit)
Ryan O'Reilly (C-90-Buffalo)
Steven Stamkos (C-91-Tampa Bay)
Aaron Ekblad (D-5-Florida)
Erik Karlsson (D-65-Ottawa)
PK Subban (D-76-Montreal)
Ben Bishop (G-30-Tampa Bay)
Roberto Luongo (G-1-Florida)
Nicklas Backstrom (C-19-Washington
Claude Giroux (C-28-Philadelphia)
Evgeni Malkin (C-71-Pittsburgh)
Alex Ovechkin (L-8-Washington) - Captain
Brandon Saad (L-20-Columbus)
John Tavares (C-91-NY Islanders)
Justin Faulk (D-27-Carolina)
Kris Letang (D-58-Pittsburgh)
Ryan McDonagh (D-27-NY Rangers)
Braden Holtby (G-70-Washington)
Cory Schneider (G-35-New Jersey)
Shane Doan (R-19-Arizona): Doan has scored 27 points (17G, 10A) and posted a 46.5 Corsi% in 40 games. In what may very well be his final season, he has exceeded expectations for his offensive performance, including a 31-goal pace.
Leon Draisaitl (C-29-Edmonton): Draisaitl has scored 37 points (12G, 25A) and posted a 53.4 Corsi% in 40 games. It took him a while to get his current shot at the NHL, a whole month in fact, but since getting that shot, he has absolutely lit it up. His strong performance has been a major reason why Edmonton hasn't been a complete shambles with Connor McDavid injured.
Anze Kopitar (C-11-Los Angeles): Kopitar has scored 42 points (13G, 29A) and posted a 57.5 Corsi% in 49 games. On pace for his best season in four years, he recently cashed in on a career contract extension. While not the biggest scorer, Kopitar is arguably the team's best player overall.
Sean Monahan (C-23-Calgary): Monahan has scored 29 points (14G, 15A) and posted a 47.2 Corsi% in 48 games. While he's slumping a bit this season, it's more the whole team regressing than an individual thing as it is with teammate Jiri Hudler. He scored 31 goals and 62 points last season.
Henrik Sedin (C-33-Vancouver): Sedin has scored 37 points (9G, 28A) and posted a 48.9 Corsi% in 44 games. He isn't having nearly as good a season as his brother Daniel, but Daniel is in the All-Star Game, and it's just plain weird having only one of the Sedins. Think back to that 2011 All-Star Game and you'll know what I mean.
Tyler Toffoli (C-73-Los Angeles): Toffoli has scored 37 points (22G, 15A) and posted a 58.2 Corsi% in 49 games. Emerging as a top young sniper, and on a defence-oriented team no less, Toffoli belongs in an All-Star Game.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson (D-23-Arizona): Ekman-Larsson has scored 34 points (14G, 20A) and posted a 50.7 Corsi% in 49 games. While his 23 goals last were impressive, it would be more impressive if he repeated or exceeded the mark, especially considering he's on pace to crack 50 points for the first time in his career and feels that he won't reach a similar goal-scoring plateau.
Sami Vatanen (D-45-Anaheim): Vatanen has scored 23 points (6G, 17A) and posted a 52.1 Corsi% in 47 games. If he keeps up his current season-long pace or increases that clip, then he'll have cracked 40 points for a second straight season. He's also on pace for a second consecutive 10+ goal season.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic (D-44-San Jose): Vlasic has scored 25 points (7G, 18A) and posted a 50.6 Corsi% in 45 games. Vlasic has been an underrated defenceman, so much better as a puck-mover than his offensive output suggested. Now, he's on pace for 12 goals and 44 points.
Gabriel Landeskog (L-92-Colorado): Landeskog has scored 35 points (13G, 22A) and posted a 44.0 Corsi% in 48 games. Currently, the Avs captain is scoring at a pace for 60 points over an 82-game schedule.
James Neal (R-18-Nashville): Neal has scored 30 points (18G, 12A) and posted a 56.4 Corsi% in 50 games. Neal is enjoying a rebound season. At this rate, Neal is leading the Preds in goals and could finish with 30 for the first time since 2012.
Artemi Panarin (L-72-Chicago): Panarin has scored 46 points (17G, 29A) and posted a 53.1 Corsi% in 53 games. Panarin, an undrafted rookie winger, has led this season's rookies in scoring for much of the year, and has helped Patrick Kane in his unusually productive season.
Zach Parise (L-11-Minnesota): Parise has scored 28 points (17G, 11A) and posted a 50.0 Corsi% in 40 games. Parise is on pace for a second straight 30-goal season, and that's after missing nine games with injury.
Patrick Sharp (L-10-Dallas): Sharp has scored 40 points (16G, 24A) and posted a 55.8 Corsi% in 50 games. After a weak year to end his stint with Chicago, Sharp has maintained a firm hold on the third-fourth place range in team scoring.
Blake Wheeler (R-26-Winnipeg): Wheeler has scored 48 points (13G, 35A) and posted a 55.3 Corsi% in 49 games. Wheeler is arguably the most surprising omission from the actual All-Star roster, being the highest-scoring player under the point-per-game mark, currently at 0.98 PPG.
John Klingberg (D-3-Dallas): Klingberg has scored 40 points (6G, 34A) and posted a 55.8 Corsi% in 50 games. Only Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns, both All-Stars, have scored more than him, and PK Subban and Roman Josi, the first two behind him, are in the Game as well.
Kevin Shattenkirk (D-22-St. Louis): Shattenkirk has scored 46 points (15G, 31A) and posted a 53.4 Corsi% in 42 games. Shattenkirk's pace would be for 52 points if not for injuries, and while that's off from last year's performance, it's still good for a defenceman, especially considering he's averaging a half-minute less than last season.
Ryan Suter (D-20-Minnesota): Suter has scored 31 points (6G, 25A) and posted a 51.1 Corsi% in 49 games. Still averaging a half an hour a game, Suter is on pace for his first career 10-goal 50-point season.
Aleksander Barkov (C-16-Florida): Barkov has scored 31 points (13G, 18A) and posted a 47.3 Corsi% in 39 games. While at first glance, his offensive numbers aren't that impressive, he'd be leading his team in scoring and be on pace for 65 points had he not missed 10 games earlier this season.
Loui Eriksson (L-21-Boston): Eriksson has scored 39 points (15G, 24A) and posted a 54.9 Corsi% in 49 games. This is Eriksson's best season since he played with the Stars. He's at his fastest scoring clip since 2012, and deserves an All-Star nod for that.
Mike Hoffman (L-68-Ottawa): Hoffman has scored 39 points (22G, 17A) and posted a 48.3 Corsi% in 46 games. Hoffman is a particularly surprising snub, as he led all rookies last season with 27 goals and is on pace for 37 this season.
Nikita Kucherov (R-86-Tampa Bay): Kucherov has scored 41 points (20G, 21A) and posted a 53.3 Corsi% in 49 games. Steven Stamkos may be the bigger brand name in Tampa, but Kucherov is right up there in terms of actual performance. If both continue their current clip for the remainder of the season with no injuries, then Kucherov would finish with 33 goals and 68 points, two fewer goals and three more points than Stamkos would finish with. Kucherov is the only Lightning player doing better than he did last season.
Max Pacioretty (L-67-Montreal): Pacioretty has scored 36 points (19G, 17A) and posted a 57.2 Corsi% in 50 games. While Pacioretty has shared in the Habs struggles this season, he is still on track for his fourth 30+ goal season in as many non-lockout years.
Henrik Zetterberg (L-40-Detroit): Zetterberg has scored 33 points (9G, 24A) and posted a 49.6 Corsi% in 49 games. Zetterberg is currently leading the Red Wings in scoring and hasn't missed a game yet this season. Considering he's the Red Wings' captain and a former Calder winner, it's surprising he hasn't yet participated in an All-Star Game.
Victor Hedman (D-77-Tampa Bay): Hedman has scored 28 points (4G, 24A) and posted a 56.6 Corsi% in 48 games. This is a down season for Hedman, but he's still in the top 20 in defenceman scoring and at an elite level defensively. He's only one season and a half removed from a 55-point season.
Morgan Rielly (D-44-Toronto): Rielly has scored 22 points (5G, 17A) and posted a 47.7 Corsi% in 48 games. While his scoring pace has dropped off significantly since a strong start to the season, but the 38 points he's on pace for now would still be good, especially for a young defenceman on a team as bad as Toronto.
Rasmus Ristolainen (D-55-Buffalo): Ristolainen has scored 31 points (8G, 23A) and posted a 45.2 Corsi% in 50 games. While last season was okay for him, Ristolainen has completely exceeded expectations, exploding offensively.
Mike Cammalleri (L-13-New Jersey): Cammalleri has scored 38 points (14G, 24A) and posted a 48.7 Corsi% in 42 games. Though he's missed eight games this season, it's the fewest he's missed in a single season, the lockout season notwithstanding. While that seems to be the cause for his solid numbers so far, he's scoring at the fastest rate he has in his whole career, 0.90 PPG, the highest since 2008/09.
Phil Kessel (R-81-Pittsburgh): Kessel has scored 31 points (15G, 16A) and posted a 52.8 Corsi% in 48 games. While he has struggled this season, even more so than last season, his speed and finishing talent is what the All-Star Game is designed for.
Evgeny Kuznetsov (C-92-Washington): Kuznetsov has scored 49 points (15G, 34A) and posted a 50.5 Corsi% in 47 games. It was really surprising to not see Kuznetsov on the list. He is currently fifth in league scoring, seven points and 15 spots ahead of Alex Ovechkin, who was named to participate.
Brock Nelson (L-29-NY Islanders): Nelson has scored 29 points (19G, 10A) and posted a 49.2 Corsi% in 47 games. Nelson finished last season topping the 20-goal and 40-point marks. Leading the team in goals and fourth in points, Nelson is on pace for his first 30-goal 50-point season.
Kris Versteeg (R-32-Carolina): Versteeg has scored 31 points (10G, 21A) and posted a 56.8 Corsi% in 50 games. While his offensive numbers this season, or for that matter his whole career, aren't as great as most of the other names on this list, Versteeg is the only Canes forward on pace for at least 50 points and is 28th in Corsi% among position players with at least 50 total minutes of icetime.
Mats Zuccarello (R-36-NY Rangers): Zuccarello has scored 35 points (18G, 17A) and posted a 48.7 Corsi% in 49 games. The 5'7" winger finished with 59 points in 2013/14, and this season is on pace for 30 goals and 58 points.
John Carlson (D-74-Washington): Carlson has scored 27 points (6G, 21A) and posted a 48.0 Corsi% in 70 games. Had he not missed 12 games this season, he'd be on pace for 63 points. Still, the 54 points he's on pace for is only one assist fewer than last season's output.
Shayne Gostisbehere (D-53-Philadelphia): Gostisbehre has scored 22 points (8G, 14A) and posted a 52.0 Corsi% in 29 games. The latest in a string of rookie defencemen having hot streaks, Gostisbehere's raw point totals this season are hurt by having not been recalled until mid-November. Had he made the team out of training camp and not missed the two games that he did with injury, he'd be on pace for 62 points. Taking into account the games he did miss, he's still on pace for a solid 49 points. 18 of those points would be goals.
Keith Yandle (D-93-NY Rangers): Yandle has scored 26 points (3G, 23A) and posted a 52.1 Corsi% in 49 games. While he hasn't been the best fit on the Rangers blueline, I find it impressive, even considering his heavy sheltering, that he's on a 43-point pace while averaging 19:15 of icetime.
Assuming icetime is split evenly between each three-man unit, a player would play roughly 6.7 minutes in a single game at this All-Star Game, significantly more than a player gets in 3v3 overtime. That becomes a more manageable 3.3 minutes per unit when the number of units is doubled as I'm suggesting. That's more in line with an overtime workload. Considering how a typical two-team All-Star Game leaves so many deserving representatives out, I think it's an avenue worth considering. It would make it more likely that a team has representatives left to participate if one goes down with an injury. Additionally, it would allow a player not necessarily considered "All-Star" calibre, but being rewarded for hard work, recognized for an accomplished career in its twilight years, or added in because of the fan vote, to get in without taking a spot from someone considered more worthy.
While we're here, why make some more changes to the All-Star Game and Skills Competition?
Changing the date
Currently, the All-Star weekend takes place towards the end of January, right smack dab in the middle of the season. As it's only a month before the Trade Deadline, we have a really good idea of which teams are going to compete for playoff spots. Every year, one or two players, usually from potential playoff contenders, sit out the game with a "lower-body injury" and wind up not competing. The penalty for skipping the All-Star Game is a paltry one-game suspension, so it's not exactly encouraging players to participate anyway. What I'd suggest doing is moving the date of the All-Star Game to the end of the season, after the Stanley Cup is awarded. Treat the All-Star Game like a post-season party or celebration or something like that. Once the All-Star festivities are over, the players can begin/resume their summer vacations.
Ideally, the fact that there wouldn't be between two-and-a-half and five months of hockey left to play after the All-Star Game would give players less reason to skip the game. I wouldn't move the All-Star Game to the start of the following season like was done in the pre-expansion days, as this is an NHL of frequent roster turnover. Who would a player represent in this case? The team he earned his All-Star spot playing for? Or the team he was traded to or signed with after the fact? But having it the weekend after the Stanley Cup Final means it takes place before free agency and after the trade deadline, so nobody gets traded out of their conference or division, screwing up roster sizes and team representation.
"Abolish the game"
It's no secret that a big reason players skip the All-Star Game is so they can take advantage of the time off to go on family vacations, so I'd suggest mandating that all players be made available to their organizations during the All-Star weekend, regardless of whether they've been named to participate. This would disincentivize players from skipping the game, and it would also ensure that if a player named to participate does go down with an injury, there is no shortage of suitable players to replace him. It's not like they're away on vacation. Of course, this wouldn't exactly sit well with the players, especially the ones not selected to play in the All-Star Game, which is why the week after the All-Star Game would be a long mid-season break.
"Seriously, how about abolishing it?"
Seriously, how about no?
This is a bit of a weak one. The All-Star Game does have a cash prize divided among the members of the winning team, but player salaries have ballooned so much over the years that it's barely a blip compared to an All-Star's salary. Unless the player is on an entry-level contract or a role player who got in with the fan vote, chances are he is making so much that his cut of the All-Star prize offers no additional incentive to participate. I'd suggest making it a little more substantial. As an alternative idea, how about competing for charity? Hockey players generally seem to be pretty charitable guys, so perhaps it would be a good idea to have teams competing for prize money to be divided and to given charities handpicked by the captain and alternate captains.
One solution many have come up with is to do what Major League Baseball does with their All-Star Game, make the reward home-field advantage for the World Series. Of course this is just begging for a heated debate. In Major League Baseball, home-field advantage alternated between the American and National Leagues each season. In the NHL, home-ice advantage goes to the highest-seeded team in the Final. The argument boils down to whether it's worth it to reduce competition in the regular season for higher seeds in order to foster competition in a glorified exhibition. Personally, I'd argue not.
"Or just abol-"
There are many who believe the NHL All-Star Game should go back to any of its past formats, from the VS Cup Champion format, the First-vs-Second team format, the East-West format, the North America-World format, or the Fantasy Draft, instead of the current Divisional mini-tournament format. Others would like to see a single All-Star Team go up against an elite European team. I'd stay with a tried-and-true format, East vs West. That format would would provide the best balance of All-Stars for each side. Perhaps a drafting element could be added in. It would be an East and West All-Star Game, and a pool of voteable players would be set up. Fans would vote for a captain (and two alternates and maybe a goalie if we want to open things up) for each side, and the voted players would select the rest of their teams from whoever's left of that same bunch of players.
"Instead, just abol-"
Fix fan voting
No I don't mean that kind of fix. I mean change the fan voting system. Not just to avoid another John Scott or Zemgus Girgensons thing. That's been the least egregious problem with this system. It's that fans can vote so many times and vote in all players from the same team. A single team doesn't need five representatives in any sport. And if the NHL only wants the players they want in the game, they should limit the voting options to just those players. Think the expanded ballot I published back in December when fan voting started.
Get out of here!
What do the players and GMs think?
At the end of the day, there's one wrinkle fans, writers, podcasters, and TV analysts can't account for. They don't know what the players themselves and their teams' GMs believe would improve the All-Star Game. As much as the NHL front office thinks it's perfect, judging by their standing behind TV ratings and trying to cheat John Scott out of a spot to serve their interests, it's obvious that players aren't the most interested in participating, and player participation runs directly counter to GMs and coaches' desire to have a healthy and well-rested roster for the highly important late stages of a season. It's a wonder that nobody has thought of surveying NHL players, coaches, and general managers to figure out what would get them interested in participating. At the end of the day, all the changes and gimmicks in the world don't matter when the core problem when the players don't care. Hockey is entertaining when the players are giving it their all, and considerably less so when they aren't. We need to find what would put the magic back in an All-Star Game for the people playing, otherwise the magic will never be restored for the fans.
Abolishing the All-Star Game
*Sigh* I guess there's an obvious elephant in the room. Do we need an All-Star Game? If you asked a fan or a TV host about it, chances are you'd get told no. In a world where Gamecentre allows us to watch the team of our choice, or even where we can see opposing teams' stars play against our favourite teams on TV, do we need to assemble the NHL's biggest stars? In a world where we have a bajillion outdoor games and international competitions, do we need a weekend in an otherwise completely unimportant part of the year to have an event? Still, I'd argue the All-Star Game is something we can simply get rid of. Even if we can see other stars on cable/satellite TV or with subscription services, is there any point where we can see over 40 of them playing with or against each other at the same time? That's the point of this whole thing. The process or result of the All-Star Game isn't the point of the event, it's the fact that all these upper-echelon players are in the same place, playing hockey on the same rink. Even if it is unwatchable, doesn't it make more sense to make it watchable than to get rid of a unique event?
So there's my take on how to improve the All-Star Game. Oh wait, one more thing, where's the standalone accuracy passing event in the Skills Competition?