What changes would our experts make to All-Star weekend? Which players are currently worthy of a ticket to Ottawa on Jan. 29? Our experts weigh in with their plans and preseason teams (26 forwards, 16 defensemen and six goaltenders):
As we noted last season in Raleigh, N.C., it really doesn’t matter that most hockey writers believe the All-Star Game is a giant waste of time. Fans love it, and that’s great.
To that end, we think fans should have a bigger role in the event. Yes, they vote for the starters, but what if there was a contest that involved charity or good deeds, and the winners get to coach a period during the game? Six fans coaching one period each -- how cool would that be?
We also love the player draft. There was some hand-wringing at the end when Phil Kessel turned out to be the last player selected, but he received some money to give to charity, plus a new car. We would also make it a rule that brothers can’t play on the same team (unless all three Staal brothers are there and then we’ll make a new Staal rule).
Since the All-Star Game is in Ottawa this season, how about making it a Canada versus the world affair? The league could do the same when the game is in the U.S., with an all-American squad facing the rest of the NHL stars.
So, that’s my plan. Here are my preseason picks:
Forwards: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin, Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, Ryan Kesler, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Matt Duchene, Claude Giroux, Phil Kessel, Eric Staal, Jeff Skinner, David Backes, Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos, Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Bobby Ryan, Loui Eriksson, Jason Spezza, John Tavares, Michael Grabner, Zach Parise, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg.
Defensemen: Nicklas Lidstrom, Kris Letang, Kevin Bieksa, Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, P.K. Subban, Duncan Keith, Chris Pronger, Zdeno Chara, Tyler Myers, Drew Doughty, Dustin Byfuglien, Lubomir Visnovsky, Keith Yandle, Dan Boyle, Brian Campbell.
Goaltenders: Henrik Lundqvist, Tim Thomas, Roberto Luongo, Carey Price, Pekka Rinne, Dwayne Roloson.
The building rivalry between major junior hockey in Canada and college hockey in the U.S. presents the perfect way to breathe life into the All-Star Game as soon as Brendan Shanahan’s fantasy draft gets stale.
We’d form three teams -- one made up of former college stars such as Tim Thomas, Zach Parise and Jonathan Toews, the second of junior standouts such as Sidney Crosby, Taylor Hall and Steven Stamkos and the third team consisting of European superstars such as Alex Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk and Evgeni Malkin.
Players would wear jerseys from the teams for which they once played, so the ice would be filled with a mix of places, such as University of Minnesota, Kitchener and the Swedish Elite League. The challenge would be finding a way to play a quick tournament with the three teams in the course of one afternoon, but I’ll leave the logistics to Shanny.
Until that happens, here are my All-Star picks for this season:
Forwards: Claude Giroux, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marian Gaborik, Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk, John Tavares, Patrice Bergeron, Phil Kessel, Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Steven Stamkos, Eric Staal, Pavel Datsyuk, Patrick Kane, Chris Stewart, Rick Nash, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Devin Setoguchi, Matt Duchene, Taylor Hall, Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Mike Richards, Jamie Benn.
Defensemen: Kris Letang, Zdeno Chara, Tyler Myers, Erik Karlsson, Dustin Byfuglien, Erik Johnson, Ryan Suter, Nicklas Lidstrom, Shea Weber, Duncan Keith, Alex Pietrangelo, Lubomir Visnovsky, Keith Yandle, Drew Doughty, Alex Goligoski, Brent Burns.
Goaltenders: Ryan Miller, Pekka Rinne, Antti Niemi, Ilya Bryzgalov, Marc-Andre Fleury, Henrik Lundqvist.
Well, we’d be hypocrites, given our past statements, by not starting off with the obvious solution if we were given the keys to the All-Star weekend:
Blow it up and never revisit it again. No more All-Star Game.
However, if forced to keep the lame event alive, we suggest the following change:
Create a game between the NHL’s best and the top players in Europe/Russia. It’s our attempt at recreating Rendez-Vous ‘87 from 24 years ago in Quebec City. Believe me when I tell you the European players would be charged up to try to knock off the big timers from the NHL. And the NHL All-Stars would be motivated to not lose.
And given the tragedy in Russia before this season, this format could also honor the victims from that crash.
There you have it, the LeBrun All-Star plan. Now, here is my preseason roster:
Forwards: Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Pavel Datsyuk, Alex Ovechkin, Claude Giroux, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Evgeni Malkin, Rick Nash, Martin St. Louis, Patrick Kane, Mike Richards, Mike Cammalleri, Brad Richards, Jamie Benn, Loui Eriksson, Henrik Zetterberg, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Steven Stamkos, Taylor Hall, Eric Staal, Mikko Koivu, Joe Thornton, David Backes, Derek Roy.
Defensemen: Shea Weber, Nicklas Lidstrom, Lubomir Visnovsky, Zdeno Chara, P.K. Subban, Drew Doughty, Duncan Keith, Ryan Suter, Keith Yandle, Christian Ehrhoff, Dan Boyle, Brent Burns, Kris Letang, Alex Pietrangelo, John Carlson, Tyler Myers.
Goaltenders: Tim Thomas, Carey Price, Pekka Rinne, Ryan Miller, Tomas Vokoun, Jonathan Quick.