I can't say I was a huge fan of Jordan Eberle
and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
being left off of the NHL All Star team. The NHL told the Oilers that they both would have been named to the team had it not been for their current injuries, following which they contradicted their own logic by naming Nugent-Hopkins to the rookie team.
In a situation like Nicklas Lidstrom's in Detroit, where he makes a personal decision to reach out to the league and asks not to be selected because he'd rather have the time off, I've got no issue if they don't name him. But with Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins, I feel like they should have been named to the team if the league felt them deserving of the honour, and then replaced at a later date if injuries held them out. Especially in the case of Eberle, who is hopeful to be back and able to play prior to the All Star Weekend.
Maybe it's an Edmonton-centric point of view, but I feel that both players and the team were robbed of some deserved recognition here. I'd also be keenly interested to know, particularly with the bonus-heavy entry-level contract of Nugent-Hopkins, if either player lost out on any money because of the league's refusal to name them to the team.
I did speak briefly to some of the players about it, and they were all shocked. None of them had heard of anything like this happening before. If you're an All Star, shouldn't you be named to the team? I've got no issue with the fan voting because I think a few spots reserved for who the fans, especially the ones in the host market, want to see is reasonable. The rest of the team, though, should be selected on merit independent of availability.
Tom Renney did make a good point when we talked about it, suggesting that perhaps the players who would be named as "replacements" would feel a bit slighted by having to go in that capacity. He suggested it was just easier for the mechanics of the whole situation to name a few dozen guys who the league knows can play and avoid a bunch of tinkering leading up to the game.
As far as the game itself is concerned, I can't say I've been interested in watching for years. I'll give the league credit for spicing it up with the newly instituted draft system whereby two designated captains pick their rosters one by one, adding some humour and faux drama to the weekend. If it were up to me, though, I'd go the NFL route and hold the game during a few day lull late in the playoff schedule or after the season entirely. The current schedule is far too compressed as it is and taking 6 days at the end of January just doesn't make much sense to me. As a broadcaster in the league, I'll definitely take the break, and I'd guess that the players absolutely feel the same way, so I doubt we'll ever see that change.
Should they go the MLB route and make the game worth home ice advantage in the playoffs? It's an intriguing concept, but I'm not sure NHL General Managers would go for it, especially given the dramatic rise (or seemingly so, anyways) of serious injuries around the league. The last thing the GM of a non-playoff team would want is his player competing all out in what would literally amount to a nothing game for his club team.
Perhaps the compromise could eventually come in the form of the Winter Classic weekend. I wouldn't mind seeing multiple games in multiple cities, with alumni included, over a period of 2 or 3 days. To me, that's as good a celebration as any of the great game of hockey and the league. Celebrate with great pomp and circumstance just after New Year's and then, at the end of the year, come out with a list of NHL All Stars for the sake of tradition.You can listen to Dan on Inside Sports weeknights from 6 to 9 on 630 CHED.