Let's face it, after last year's game in which the teams combined for a grotesque 29 firings of the cannon in Columbus, something needed to change. If you're going to have a game with no defense, why not make it interesting?
Enter three-on-three, the new means of trying to settle overtime games in the NHL this season. An interesting twist for the regular season, and a perfect idea for the All Star contest. Create four teams--one from each division--and have them square off in a tournament. Each conference's divisions will face off for a 20-minute game of three-on-three, and then the winners will play a third 20-minute contest to crown an All Star champion.
Ironically, there is no overtime in these games; any ties after 20 minutes go direct to a shootout.
For Columbus, first-year Jacket Brandon Saad gets the call after leading the team in goals and points through the All Star break. For the 23-year-old two-time Cup winner, this is his first chance to skate in the All Star Game.
This game is not without controversy, however. The long story of John Scott as All Star Captain for the Pacific division is well known, and got very ugly before the league tried to salvage some dignity. After winning the fan vote and thus earning the right to be the Captain for the Pacific division, Scott was traded away from Arizona to Montreal, and then stashed in the AHL.
As the NHL brushed its hands together thinking they'd solved the issue, they underestimated the will of the fans. Scott himself wrote a very well done piece for The Players Tribune that, if you weren't in his corner on this issue before, will probably change your mind.
With James Neal being added as a replacement in place of Jonathan Toews, the Predators now have four players in the game with Neal joining Shea Weber, Roman Josi, and Pekka Rinne. There have been requests from Nashville brass to see all four on the ice together at once, perhaps to start the game for the Central squad. I would expect nothing less.
Finally, there's the homecoming of sorts for Washington coach Barry Trotz, who coaches the Metro squad by virtue of his Capitals having the best record in the division. Trotz coached Nashville for its first 15 years as a franchise, shepherding them through the growing pains of an expansion franchise and getting them to the level of perennial playoff contender before being fired in 2014. His tenure with the Predators remains the longest unbroken coaching tenure with a team in league history.
This game is not short on storylines beyond even what's above. Will the new format be interesting beyond the five minutes we see it in regular season games? Will the players hold up? Can John Scott survive a three-on-three game for 20, and possibly 40, minutes? All of that, and much more, will come to pass this evening in Music City.
Enjoy the game!
2016 Honda NHL All-Star Game Rosters
|Atlantic Division||Central Division|
|PATRICE BERGERON (BOS)||F||JAMIE BENN (DAL)|
|(C) JAROMIR JAGR (FLA)||F||MATT DUCHENE (COL)|
|LEO KOMAROV (TOR)||F||(C) PATRICK KANE (CHI)|
|DYLAN LARKIN (DET)||F||JAMES NEAL (NSH)|
|RYAN O'REILLY (BUF)||F||TYLER SEGUIN (DAL)|
|STEVEN STAMKOS (TB)||F||VLADIMIR TARASENKO (STL)|
|AARON EKBLAD (FLA)||D||DUSTIN BYFUGLIEN (WPG)|
|ERIK KARLSSON (OTT)||D||ROMAN JOSI (NSH)|
|P.K. SUBBAN (MON)||D||SHEA WEBER (NSH)|
|BEN BISHOP (TB)||G||DEVAN DUBNYK (MIN)|
|ROBERTO LUONGO (FLA)||G||PEKKA RINNE (NSH)|
|Metropolitan Division||Pacific Division|
|NICKLAS BACKSTROM (WSH)||F||JOHNNY GAUDREAU (CAL)|
|CLAUDE GIROUX (PHI)||F||TAYLOR HALL (EDM)|
|EVGENY KUZNETSOV (WSH)||F||JOE PAVELSKI (SJ)|
|EVGENI MALKIN (PIT)||F||COREY PERRY (ANA)|
|BRANDON SAAD (CBJ)||F||(C) JOHN SCOTT (ARI)|
|(C) JOHN TAVARES (NYI)||F||DANIEL SEDIN (VAN)|
|JUSTIN FAULK (CAR)||D||BRENT BURNS (SJ)|
|KRIS LETANG (PIT)||D||DREW DOUGHTY (LA)|
|RYAN MCDONAGH (NYR)||D||MARK GIORDANO (CAL)|
|BRADEN HOLTBY (WSH)||G||JOHN GIBSON (ANA)|
|CORY SCHNEIDER (NJD)||G||JONATHAN QUICK (LA)|