Everyone and their dog seems to have an opinion on what is needed to fix the NHL All-Star Game. Then again, these same people are the ones who say it doesn't matter anyway, and then turn around to complain about ballot box stuffing.
But I digress.
With the NHL All-Star Game fan balloting coming down to the home stretch, and with the city of Montreal in full preparation mode, the discussion is going to be rehashed on what the league needs to do to spice things up a little bit.
Hockey is an intense, physical sport. Take all that away, and the games are glorified old-timer games.
Although it is too late to change this year's version, here are some ideas that could spice up the event in the years upcoming.
Lets start with some old tricks.
How about going way back—"old school," as the kids would call it. What about reverting back to the time when the defending Stanley Cup champions battled the NHL All-Stars?
For starters, the intensity would be there. Sure, it is still an exhibition, but the champs would want to prove they are indeed that good, while the NHL All-Stars would be out to topple them, and also for some possible Stanley Cup runner-up players to extract even a tiny bit of revenge.
Another rehash: North America vs. the World.
I know this didn't go over real well the first time it was brought out, but with the infusion of Russian talent assaulting the top of the NHL stats pages, a North America vs. the World game would surely bring some much needed intensity, and even national pride, back into the fray.
Who doesn't salivate at the prospects of seeing Evgeni Malkin, centre Alex Ovechkin, and Henrik Zetterberg go head-to-head against Sidney Crosby, Jarome Iginla, and Patrick Kane?
The possibilities are endless, and the league would have no better marketing tool to promote Ovechkin vs. Crosby. No doubt there would be a nice underlining story seeing Evgeni Malkin and Crosby try to one up each other.
Of course, while these options are intriguing, there are some more unconventional methods the NHL could explore.
For instance, the NHL vs. the KHL.
Well, okay, clearly I am reaching here.
With no transfer agreement, and with top teams in the KHL trying to circumvent the National Hockey League and take their best talent, it's safe to say the relations between the two leagues are not warm and fuzzy.
Still, could they come to an agreement, this would be a hockey game of epic proportions.
There is no way the NHL would want to be showed up by a rival league in Russia that they feel isn't superior to their product.
Likewise, the Russian-led KHL would want nothing more than to drop the NHL on their collective backsides and prove—at least for one night—they were the better league.
Finally, there is a way that would surely bring out intensity and pride in each and every player.
A good old-fashioned Age Vs. Experience game.
All players over 30 on one team, all the young 30 and under crowd on another.
While the NHL is widely considered a young man's game these days, there is no way guys like Nik Lidstrom and Joe Sakic (were he healthy) would go down without a fight.
Of course, there are flaws in all of this.
For one, all of these options somewhat limit the number of players that would get voted in. Although with the way the fan balloting is these days, it's not as if the most deserving make it anyways.
Some old, some new. Either way you look at it, these are surefire ways to bring some intensity back to the NHL All-Star Game and make it more than just Gary Bettman's Variety Hour.
What about you, readers? What do you think about my ideas? Feel free to post any of your own ideas for how to fix the All-Star Game.