Kudos to Darryl Sutter. The Los Angeles Kings bench boss got the gears turning in our collective head at the THN office.
In a recent interview after being named one of the coaches for the All-Star Game, which arrives in Columbus later this month, Sutter openly pined for an old-school format. He believed his Kings, having won two of the three Cups since we last saw an All-Star Game, should all get a chance to play in it. Sutter would like a return to the format last used in 1968, in which the prior season's Cup champ battles one All-Star squad.
Pretty badass suggestion from Mr. Sutter. It's a welcome one considering we see more ingenuity at a typical Bakersfield Condors game than we do in five Mid-Season Classics. What other ideas might spruce up the All-Star Game? How about some brand new ones? Here are the best THN's staff could muster up, complete with arbitrary assessments of their probability.
As web writer Jared Clinton puts it, "open the sucker up all the way. NHL '94 action." it would certainly lead to a fast-paced game (if guys took short enough shifts) with some serious stretch passes and, hopefully, breakaways galore. We'd need some manufactured TV timeouts if play went on too long without whistles. Probability: 20%
PLAY FOR HOME ICE IN THE STANLEY CUP FINAL – OR PLAY FOR CHARITY
Switch back to East vs. West and mine the MLB All-Star Game format, in which the winner gets the higher seed in the league championship/World Series/Stanley Cup. And with none of the stress over pitcher usage! It's valid to debate whether such high stakes would be fair. There's no denying it would create a far more intense ASG, however. Probability: 25%
If the Cup isn't the league's cup of tea, how about each team captain picks a charity to play for? If his team wins, the NHL makes a donation. Nothing but good comes from that. Probability: 50%
THROW EVERYONE'S STICKS IN THE MIDDLE
Tired of the fantasy draft pageantry? How about eschewing the entire production and choosing the teams road-hockey style? Sticks in the middle, and the captains pick back and forth on the ice. Doing so would raise the cost of jersey production, though, as each player would need a sweater for either side. The benefit of that? We could allow player trades. Let's say...any team trailing after a given period can trade any of its players for any of the other team's players at the intermission. Then we might even see a team pull its goalie in hopes of getting scored on. "If we let ourselves go down 1-0, we can trade Patrik Elias for Sidney Crosby." Probability: 15%
ELIMINATE (UNOFFICIAL) REPRESENTATION OF ALL 30 TEAMS
Congratulations to Elias on reaching 1,000 points for his career. He's a class act and one of the best players the Czech Republic has ever produced. But, sheesh, the man is not an all-star. He has six goals and 18 points in 34 games. The biggest critic of Patrik Elias' selection to the All-Star Game is Patrik Elias, who told Rich Chere, "I obviously don't deserve to go. There a lot of guys in the NHL that should be there."
You said it, Patrik. Class act to the end. So how about it? The league doesn't mandate representation of all 30 teams but seems to unofficially enforce it. We'd see a slight increase in the talent pool and, say, a 64.7% decrease in complaints over snubs. Probability: 30%
ADD A VETERAN HERO TO EACH TEAM
The NHL wouldn't have to get carried away with a truly geriatric player who would slow down the pace of the game. But how about seeing Patrick Roy or Dominik Hasek for a period? Wayne Gretzky? Mario Lemieux? Hard not to imagine them making a few slick plays. And you know Roy would bring the intensity. Probably a little too much. And that's great TV. Probability: 30%
4-ON-4, 3-ON-3, 2-ON-2, 1-ON-1
Have teams play 4-on-4 in the first period, 3-on-3 in the second, 2-on-2 in the third, and 1-on-1 in overtime. Imagine Crosby and Evgeni Malkin versus Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane late in the third period with the game tied. Are you kidding me? And guys would get tired enough that playing time wouldn't be a problem. The shifts would be short as can be. Probability: 2%, but come on. Please?
EXPERIMENT WITH EVERY NHL RULE UP FOR DEBATE IN ANY GIVEN YEAR
Wider nets? In. No more trapezoid? Sure. The AHL works nicely as a de facto testing ground for potential NHL rules (extended overtime, anyone?). Why not use the All-Star Game as a similar guinea pig? Probability: 35%
DRESS ONE GOALIE AS A FORWARD ON EACH TEAM
You tellin' me you don't want to see Sergei Bobrovsky dangle Jonathan Quick to score the winning breakaway goal in overtime? And/or fall down and fail miserably trying to do so? Instant GIF Hall of Fame material. Probability: 0.1%
BLADES OF STEEL FIGHTING RULES
Each All-Star squad recruits one soon-to-be extinct enforcer. Any time he wins a fight, he escapes the penalty box while the losing tough guy serves five minutes. The John Scotts of the world would finally serve a purpose in a hockey game, generating power plays galore. Probability: 0.01%
HAVE PLAY-BY-PLAY DELIVERED FROM THE ICE
An emphatic "Great saaaave Rinne!" from Jim Hughson would become a positively epic "GREAT SAAAVE RINNE, TRUST ME!" If Hughson were allowed to wear skates and patrol the ice like a referee, calling the action from mere inches away. His mic would probably absorb enough foul language to make viewer discretion advised, though. Probability: 0.0000001%
Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin