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New All-Star Format Finds Game's True Intentions

by Evan Sporer / Minnesota Wild

Over the past five years, the NHL All-Star Game has been tweaked and manipulated to help reenergize and bring life to an event and weekend that is meant to celebrate the League's biggest stars. 

The traditional Eastern vs. Western Conference iteration was replaced by two teams drafted and captained by an all-star. This year that will make way for a four-team, three-on-three divisional tournament.

Much like introducing three-on-three to regular season games that are tied after three periods, adding it to the All-Star Game was meant to take something too far gone and re-write its expiration date.

"It should be exciting for fans to watch. I think the game just got real stale," Ryan Suter, the Wild's 2015 all-star representative, said. "It's tough to create an actual hockey game when you have a situation like that."

Last year, a record 29 goals were scored in the All-Star Game. To work under the same five-on-five parameters and then have a goal scored nearly every two minutes takes on the appearance more of an NHL 16 game in your friend's basement than a traditional hockey game. 

But to view the All-Star Game through a traditional lens misses the mark. 

"You want to get fans to watch the game, and it's a different approach, it's a fun approach, and it also brings more competition as far as having a little incentive for the team to win," Devan Dubnyk said. "It's a trial period, and we'll see how it goes."

All-Star Games will always be, at their best, an event. Decries of diluting the game and a product that "isn't real hockey" conveniently ignores what the All-Star Game is at its most effective.

Given where it falls in the season and what is (not) on the line, the competiveness will never be at the level of a Western Conference Final. So working off that, creating something that best showcases the talents of the NHL's most talented is the objective.

The one pitfall—and this has long been the case in a league so flush with talent—is the players who will be left out.

With the new format—one team from each division consisting of six forwards, three defensemen, and two goalies—and broken down by division, the snubbed-stars will read something like another all-star team.

"The perfect argument is the Central Division," Dubnyk said. "There's going to be guys left off that team that there's no way not to shake your head at. It's like if you take him, but you don't take him … you can't win.

"That's the only part that makes it difficult, but at the same time, it's a positive that they're trying something new."

But as Dubnyk said, all in all, this is a format that's trending in a direction more conducive of appeasing the fan-appetite to watch their favorite players in a situation where they can shine brightest.

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