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Monday, February 21, 2011

Ottawa 2012 - All Stars for Different Reasons

This post may seem a little out of season (since I started writing it a while ago), but nevertheless it remains an important league issue that needs to be addressed quickly. With the success of the Winter and Heritage Classic and the fantasy-themed All Star Game, the NHL is hard-pressed to keep its publicity stunts current and fresh. The future of the almost always lame All Star Game remains of particular interest to both the hockey media and the general fan base.

This year the league lathered on a little gimmick sauce to help the festivities all go down smoother. Don’t get me wrong, I’m appreciative, but in the end the theme registers only a 3 out of 10 on the “Gets My Blood Going Faster than Michael Grabner O’Meter”. Essentially, this little fantasy roster scheme gave two professional athletes the opportunity to do something they’ve worked their entire lives to avoid – play fantasy hockey.

This first run of a much needed revision did get me thinking of new ideas, however. There’s a lot the league can do to make this annual event (except for the Olympic years, God bless them) more of a novelty. My first idea – All Stars for Different Reasons. Give the Crosbys of the world a rest; let’s see some players who are the best the league has to offer at something other than hockey. Hey Brendan Shanahan, check out my proposed starting roster for next year’s game in Ottawa.

Eastern Conference

Goalie – Dan Ellis.
How predictable… Over the past couple years, Dan has shown hockey fans that he is a top of the table twitter tweeter, despite being a mediocre goalie on his best day. He’s also the only NHL player that Reggie Bush can identify by name, which is bound to be the high point of Mr. Ellis’ life and career.
*Note: Fans will most certainly cry “snub” at the fact that the most efficient fighter in league history, Penguins back up Brent Johnson, didn’t make the roster.

Left Defense - Sergei Gonchar.
Only a couple seasons ago, Gonchar was an injured-but-playing, cup-winning bad-ass who helped bring the hated Penguins their 3rd Stanley Cup. Now, Sergei is Ottawa’s richest and least productive citizen. In a town full of politicians, that is truly an accomplishment.

Right Defense – Michael Sauer.

The +10, rock solid, rookie defensive defenseman has done an impeccable job avoiding praise, recognition and attention from the every member of the hockey media. Does Taylor Hall have the Stanley Cup tattooed on his ass or something? It seems like everyone with a microphone is hell bent on kissing it.

Left Wing – Matt Moulson.
When he recently signed a three year contract extension with the New York Islanders, Matt Moulson revealed himself to be the league’s most deranged and delusional player. “I won’t be satisfied until we bring home the Stanley Cup championship”. And you think this dinky three year contract is going make it happen? Sorry Matt, but the NHL doesn’t let you sign 20 year contracts, just ask Ilya Kovalchuk.

Center – Jeff Skinner.
Nine out of ten times Jeff Skinner is mentioned during a TV broadcast, the discussion is accompanied by file footage of young Jeffery twirling around proficiently in a pair of white figure skates. My girlfriend asked if that particular skating skill would give you a better chance at making it into the NHL. I said, “It might. Most people wouldn’t even bother for fear of looking like this prepubescent twirly bird every time they were featured on air”.

Right Wing – Ryan Shannon.
Ryan gets into this game simply because he was born and raised in Darien, Connecticut (hometown shout out!). Another Darien native, maybe you’ve heard of him, MOBY? Yeah, he called Darien “The Most Racially Homogenous Place on the Planet”. Nice try Moby, but have you ever checked out the NHL? 20% of the league’s diversity (which is only 4 people) plays in Atlanta. That fact is either a product of fate or a very misguided marketing effort…

Western Conference

Goalie – Nikolai Khabibulin.
The Bulin Wall may be known in some parts of the world for his Stanley Cup ring and his Olympic medals, but the honorable police force of Scottsdale, Arizona know Nikolai best for his excessive speeding while under the influence of alcohol charges.

Left Defense – Ruslan Salei.

According to reliable sources, the veteran Belarusian defenseman is the league’s most feared and respected Call of Duty player. I guess to a guy that watched the Soviet Union collapse in their back yard while growing up, Nazi Zombies are a piece of cake.

Right Defense – Jack Johnson.
When you think about it, simultaneously selling 15 million albums worldwide and playing professional hockey for the Los Angeles Kings is a pretty impressive feat. I loved his work on the Curious George soundtrack too.

Left Wing – Drew Miller.

Out of all the NHL players with more successful siblings in the league, Drew Miller - winger for the Detroit Red Wings and younger brother of Sabres goalie Ryan - is the least well known. Despite being a professional hockey player himself, Drew’s best pick up line is still “My brother’s Ryan Miller”.
*Those who were looking for a Joel Lundqvist shoutout should know that Henrik’s less fortunate twin now plays back home in the Swedish Elite League.

Center – Alexander Steen.
The young St. Louis Blues forward was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba (his father Thomas actually played for the Jets), but decided to play for Sweden in international competitions. The decision to trade allegiances baffled the Canadian hockey community; they thought he must be the only player in the sport who doesn’t prefer to win gold over bronze.

Right Wing - Marian Hossa.

It takes a special breed of winner picker to shameless hop from contending team to contending team in the hopes of winning a Stanley Cup. Before being traded away from Atlanta to Pittsburgh in early ’08, he famously stated “Screw the specific city, Imma get mine!”

There you have it, league executives. Next year’s All Star Game format, all packaged up and ready to go. No need to thank me; a cushy job with a six figure income will do just fine.

Get ready for the playoff push Ranger fans. Judging by this past month’s play, we’ll be lucky to slip in at #8. All joking aside, if we lose out on the playoffs on the last day of the season I’m going to check myself into a mental hospital for the entire summer. To celebrate these moments where will still are mathematically capable of winning the Stanley Cup, I give you this haiku entitled “Scoring More Goals May Help Our Offense, Just Saying”.

If I liked watching
Teams that score one goal a game
I’d turn to soccer.

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