Commentary

We're pretty Zen about the whole thing

Updated: January 30, 2012, 1:24 AM ET
By Scott Burnside | ESPN.com

OTTAWA, Ontario -- Another All-Star Game in the books, the trade deadline a month away, and the playoff charge soon to follow.

But with Sunday's shinny tilt still fresh in our minds, here are a few thoughts and ruminations on the event.

• A year from now, the All-Star Game will be in Columbus, reinforcing that the event is often a kind of life preserver thrown to struggling or downtrodden franchises. Goodness knows the fans in Columbus deserve something to look forward to, given the colossal disappointment of this season. One wonders what that team will look like in terms of management and coaching personnel by that time. Franchise player Rick Nash is an obvious early choice as captain of one of the 2013 All-Star teams. That's assuming that he doesn't approach management about being traded in the interim.

• We remember writing last year after the Raleigh All-Star weekend that Ottawa would have big shoes to fill, given how the folks in North Carolina embraced the event. Not surprisingly, in hindsight, but the Senators and Ottawa did a great job and fans ate it up. We happened by the fan festival held at the local convention center in downtown Ottawa and they were lined up by the hundreds to get inside.

• One appealing aspect of the All-Star weekend is the efforts made by the league to ensure that the players and coaches can enjoy time with their families. In fact, the coaches' kids actually got to take part in the game in a unique way.

"We had an interesting way of picking our lines to start the night with. Our boys ended up doing that. So Claude [Julien] and his coaching staff had some of their children in town, so they picked the lines for Team Chara, and for Team Alfredsson, my two boys picked our lines," San Jose head coach Todd McLellan told ESPN.com after the game.

"So we started the night that way and they got to participate in it."

Philadelphia defenseman Kimmo Timonen had his 12-year-old son, Samuel, in the locker room with him after the game, and Timonen's parents had flown in from Finland.

"It was great to spend four days with my family here," he said. "Not many hockey players get a chance to come here and bring their son. I'm sure he's going to remember that for a long time."

• The All-Star draft is a terrific addition to the festivities, although there's got to be a way to get the players more enthused. How about fitting more of the players, especially the ones who might likely go later in the proceedings, with microphones. We've actually had some fun times the last couple of years, asking players to interview each other for ESPN.com, so that would be a way to liven things up at the draft. And given how tough goalies have it at these events, they should be rewarded with controlling all of the picking -- just to change things up a bit. Still, the kick-off event has now become the signature event of the whole proceedings. Whether that's a good thing or not is up for debate.

• Guy who impressed not necessarily for their play on the ice but their eloquence off it: Keith Yandle of the Phoenix Coyotes. Great sense of humor and extremely thoughtful.

• What a nice weekend for Daniel Alfredsson. The classy Ottawa captain has been the face of the franchise for years and it was nice to see the warm relationship between the fans and the player on display. This could be Alfredsson's final season but even if it's not, no doubt these will be special memories for him. It did make us pine for Teemu Selanne and Nicklas Lidstrom, both of whom are nearing the end of their careers but weren't on hand for the weekend's festivities, even though their level of play suggested that they should have been selected. Fans might get lucky if both return next year and we see them in Columbus.

• In about 48 hours, lots of these guys will be going at each other hammer and tong, but for a brief moment, even the most heated of rivals were sharing a dressing room and a few laughs.

In the Team Alfredsson locker room, there was Scott Hartnell, the abrasive Philadelphia Flyers forward, sitting next to defenseman Dan Girardi of the New York Rangers.

"It's nice to meet those guys," Hartnell said. "You play against them -- How many times? -- and you don't get to know them on a personal level. When you get that chance, you kind of hope for them to be kind of an A-hole to you, I guess, so it makes you hate them even more on the ice, but they turn out to be awesome guys. Like, 'Wow, this guy is a good guy even though you hate him on the ice.' But push comes to shove next time we play them, it'll be the same thing. I'm going to try and hit him every chance I get, and I'm sure he's going to do the same to me."

• Hard to know what the NHL needs to do to avoid the annual controversy over players who should be at the event but find ways to avoid it. We didn't like that Washington's Alex Ovechkin used the occasion of his three-game suspension to duck out, even though he had been selected to come. The fans in Ottawa missed out on seeing one of the game's highest-profile players, and that's unfortunate. But in the end, why bother to have a guy who doesn't want to be at the event when there are lots of guys for whom being selected fulfills a dream.

Hartnell's ticket to Ottawa was punched when Ovechkin declined to attend but the winger sure made the most of his moment in the All-Star sun.

"I probably had more fun than I thought I was going to have," he said. "You know, meeting these guys, being in the same room with Alfredsson the hometown favorite, the Sedins, battling out there against Chara again but not where he's going to hurt you in the corners. Just had a great time, lots of smiles."

• So, the game is what it is. A million passes. A thousand goals. Goalies thrown to the wolves. But we're pretty Zen about it now. It is what it is. So, it would seem, are the players.

"The weekend is, first of all, it's for the fans," offered Toronto's Joffrey Lupul. "Everything we do is for the fans, the behind the scenes, the interviews, wearing a microphone during the game, if you're going to do all that stuff, you're not really going to expect a competitive 3-2 game.

"This event is about more than just the game. It's to show the fans another side of the guys and have fun. I think everyone in the crowd today had fun. I know I had fun today wearing the microphone."

Scott Burnside covers the NHL for ESPN.com.