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Monday, January 31, 2011

The NHL All-Star Game: Better, But Still Boring

Back from my own personal All-Star break. I figured I'd take the breather in the NHL schedule to recharge my batteries for what's sure to be an exciting season's end.

Next stop, February's trade deadline.

Personally, I do think the Canadiens will be active. For who, and for what? That I'm not sure of. I need to better assess the situation.

The All-Star Game: Better, But Still Boring: I think Shanahan's player-driven improvement to the NHL All-Star game were well received and made the proceedings more engaging and fun.

Carey Price and P.K. Subban during the NHL All-Star game skills competition. Getty Images

The draft on Friday night was cool. But unless they decide to spruce things up on a year to year basis, I can see this getting very boring, very fast. Fact is, waiting for players to be called up on stage was kind of lame, and it was relatively easy to predict who would go where. Probably the most fun was waiting to see if the Sedins would be split up (they were) and who would be the last pick. To my delight, it was Phil Kessel -- the undeserving forward of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

But I was happy for him, because he was a good sport and as a result, to everyone's surprise, he was given a new car for the trouble. Nice!

At least Carey Price wasn't picked last in the goalie category. He ended up playing on Staal's team, which was also predictable, since he played with Jordan Staal on Canada's junior team when they won gold. Staal's team seemed like the party team, while Lindstrom's team seemed all business and experience, mostly. I kind of wanted both Price and Subban to play on Lindstrom's team, if only to gleam whatever they could from the sure to be Hall of Famer.

I was also reminded that, you know, Carey Price isn't that charimatic. He's best kept away from the cameras, so as not to distract him from his true calling -- stopping pucks. P.K. on the other hand, well he didn't get the nickname "Primetime" for nothing...

It's great to see those two guys soak it in and be in the presence of all these great players. Hopefully, this will help them in the aspects of the game which is not stopping or putting pucks in the net.

The skills competition was probably the best and most entertaining part of the weekend, at least for me. Some nice events, highlighted by a couple of cool moves by Subban in the breakaway event, and Chara breaking his own record in the hardest shot competition.

The game itself was kinda a snooze. Some nice goals, but nothing really special. The best part of it for me, was listening to Eric Staal and Timmy Thomas speak from the ice as they were playing. I think more of this, plus more interaction between the players in the locker room, would make this more interesting for those watching it all on tv.

Ultimately, the All-Star weekend is really for the players. They're the ones who truly enjoy and benefit from it. They may say it's for the fans, but really only the ones who are in attendance truly get the full experience.

Tomas Plekanec -- He's My All-Star: I know all the teams need to be represented, but when I see Phil Kessel on the All-Star team, and not a guy like Plekanec well, something's wrong with this.

Plekanec has improved season after season (as a player, not necessarily in points), and is one of the NHL's elite two-way forwards. The guy does it all: scores goals, makes plays, takes face-offs, kills penalties, plays on the power play. He's an essential component of our team, and after Carey Price, he's our most important player, bar none.

He's played internationally for the Czech Republic on all levels. He played at the Olympics. He's playing in World Championships.

But most importantly, what makes T.P. the elite player he is, is that he makes the players around him better. We were all a bit curious to see how he'd perform out of Kovalev's shadow after l'Artiste signed with the Sens, and Tomas didn't miss a beat. Play him with Kostitsyn, Andrei starts lighting it up. Play him with a struggling Gionta who had a rough start and suddenly the guy finds his scoring touch. The examples are endless. Play him with Pacioretty, he scores a big goal to tie the game late against the Ducks. Everyone on the team wishes they played with Plekanec. And if you are playing with Plekanec, it's also the recognition that you're doing a good job.

Tomas Plekanec is my All-Star. He'll be recognized eventually. Just like Brad Richards was this weekend... can you believe that this was Richards' 1st All-Star game!? I was shocked to learn this. I mean, I think other than one kind of subpar season he had with Tampa, the guy's been the model of consistency in putting points up on the board, and he's a great two-way player as well.

I couldn't help but to lament to myself that the Habs should give Gomez's money to a guy like Richards. Man, wouldn't he look great in a Habs jersey!!?? And he speaks French too. Maybe it'll happen.

The All-Star weekend makes me dream as to who would be a great fit in Montreal. Richards is one. Eric Staal is another. I mean, on CBC's "Inside Hockey" he complained that not once he's had a Saturday night, high profile match-up between his 'Canes and the Leafs. And he's right.

But hey man, you want high-profile? You want to be in the hot, oh so hot spotlight??? Then come and play in Montreal man. You can play against and take pleasure in whooping the Leafs six times a year... think about it!!! You've won a cup in Raleigh. Now come help us win one. You'll be a God....

You know who else would be a nice addition to the Habs this year, but not on the All-Star team??? Dustin Penner from the Oilers. He's big, he's strong, he's got a nice set of hands. He can be tough.

The Habs brass should go back to the old school way of managing things. You know, target the league's best players (or picks) and get them!!! Like they used to. Like Sam Pollack did. Man, how do you think we got Lafleur!? Pollack was at his best with that one, but that's a story best told some other time. Point is, we've lost touch with this over the years, and that's why we haven't won a cup in almost (gulp) 20 years.

Mr. Gauthier -- tear down this wall. I mean, go get us a great, elite player. Get that big guy up front. Trade who you have to in order to get the job done, except maybe Price, Subban, Plekanec and Gorges. That's right, even Gionta is trade bait. And Markov.

Perhaps we can turn the corner and get a better elite player than Markov.

I had more to say but it's hard to remember everything when I don't write stuff down. Next time.

In any case, the Habs season continues with a tough road game against the Capitals in D.C. Hope they show up for it because the 'Canes are breathing down their necks and we need to keep pace with the Bruins. That said, the Bruins face the 'Canes tomorrow night. No 3 point games!!!

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