NHL All-Star Game: 5 Ideas for Future Captain Matchups
The four-day festivities surrounding the 2012 NHL All-Star Game in Ottawa confirmed that the league has the right idea with its current fantasy format.
The sport is sold effectively by underscoring two marquee individual names, including one from the hosting franchise. A precedent may have been set this season for a dose of national pride reminiscent of the defunct North America-World matchup.
And on top of the loose, pond-hockey type fun that goes with the team selection process, some harmless competitive spirit was injected when opposing captains Daniel Alfredsson and Zdeno Chara put each Senator and Maple Leaf on their respective sides.
With all due respect to Columbus, next year’s All-Star contest will likely have a futile time following up on this season’s.
A Blue Jacket is bound to be the home captain, which will automatically aid in drawing local interest. But with the possible exception of a Detroit Red Wing, it will be tough to find a counterpart to exploit a rivalry with Columbus, a team established in the year 2000 and yet to win a playoff game.
Granted, the 2013 All-Star Weekend should bear all of the same general elements of enjoyment and might even bolster the growth of the Columbus fan base. But afterwards, if it is to continue with its unique format, the NHL should put a more deliberate focus on individual, franchise and/or international feuds as an All-Star storyline.
As the landscape appears now, the five most promising pairs of contesting captains for any All-Star game after 2013 are as follows.
Team Crosby vs. Team Ovechkin
Sometime in the not-too-distant future, normalcy will be restored and Crosby’s career should be back on track. And the odds are against Ovechkin having a permissible excuse to withdraw from any future All-Star games.
With next year’s midseason exhibition already set to take place in Columbus and the prospect of no 2014 game in favor of the Olympics, 2015 is ripe for either the Verizon Center or Consol Energy Center.
Surely, by then, it will be time again to capitalize on the NHL’s most celebrated individual rivalry.
Team Kane (Evander) vs. Team Kane (Patrick)
Winnipeg is the last cold-weather NHL market that has yet to host an All-Star game. This matchup could not only remedy that, but also pit a young Canadian captain against an American counterpart on a sheet in front of some of the world’s proudest puckheads.
Depending on the distribution of nationalities for the fantasy draft pool, the venue that once housed the Manitoba Moose could even present a throwback to the AHL’s old Canada-PlanetUSA All-Star format. That is assuming the two Kanes were to follow the precedent set this past weekend by Alfredsson and Chara to round up each of one’s countrymen.
Team Lundqvist vs. Team Tavares
The intrigue of this matchup would depend primarily on the New York Islanders’ long-term existence. But assuming they stick around, and especially if they move closer to or right within New York City's limits, then why not have the Rangers’ vertebral netminder and the Isles’ hot gun pick the two sides?
With the Islanders’ lease at Nassau Coliseum valid until 2015, the best-case scenario for the Long Island fan base and for this proposition would have the team hosting the All-Star game as part of the inaugural season in their new abode in 2015-16.
Or, in the event the Isles do depart before this can come to fruition, the next best thing would be a celebration of the Battle of the Hudson River, whether that happens at Madison Square Garden or the Prudential Center. How does Team Lundqvist versus Team Parise (two other members of the Crosby-Ovechkin rookie class of 2005-06) sound?
Team Getzlaf vs. Team Kopitar
As the Ducks prepare to round out their second full decade of existence, Anaheim is now the longest-tenured NHL market without an All-Star game in its annals.
Not only does that need to change, but the NHL should underscore another regional rivalry in the process. The best way to do that is to pit two teams built around the Ducks’ captain and the Kings’ two-time All-Star and most leaned-on scorer.
Team Daniel vs. Team Henrik
In about eight or nine years, Vancouver’s Sedin twins will likely be in the twilight of their careers and the city will be far enough removed from its last All-Star game (1998) to warrant another.
Before the all-but-inseparable Canucks retire, they will have to treat their own fan base and the NHL as a whole to a long weekend built around sibling rivalry.