If you missed out on the early entries into my weekly series, you can find it all right here: Fake Teams Fantasy Hockey.
There is little point in recaping last week as only three days of hockey were played before the All Star break and the fantasy week is still ongoing. So instead, we'll talk about the All Star weekend and all the events that took place.
As an aside, I am not a fan of All Star games in professional sports. I don't mind the recognition of the games elite talents, but I'd prefer to see it as a named All Star team at year's end once the entire year can be recognized and without an actual game taking place. Combine it with the NHL awards night. I understand that the game itself provides an economic boost to the hosting city and that all the NHL proceeds benefit the players pension fund, but that's not enough to me as a fan. Instead, what I see are unmotivated players who move at half speed so as not to get injured. Unfortunately the game is usually played so slowly (and poorly with no defense or goaltending) that it's incredibly boring. And the worst part is, is that I can't blame them, because who wants to get injured in a meaningless game? The NHL either needs to add meaning to the game by providing some kind of incentive or scrap the game all together in my opinion. That's my two cents, even though I know that nothing will change.
Week Fifteen (January 19 - February 1):
Please don't forget that week 15 includes the All-Star break (five day layoff) and will therefore extend over two calendar weeks.
6 Game Week: Pittsburgh
5 Game Week: Arizona, Calgary, Chicago, Columbus, Minnesota, Montreal, Nashville, Philadelphia, Toronto, Vancouver, Washington
3 Game Week: Buffalo
All other teams at 4 games
All Star Game History:
The NHL All Star game was introduced as an annual event during the 1947-48 season, but there were previous All Star games before that. On January 2, 1908 the Montreal Wanderers played the Eastern Canada Amateur Hockey Association All Stars. It was a benefit game held in memory of Montreal Wanderers defenseman Hod Stuart who drowned the year before.
On February 14, 1934 the Toronto Maple Leafs played an All Star team made up of the other seven teams to benefit the Leaf's right wing Ace Bailey who saw his career cut short just two months earlier. Bailey received a hit from behind from the Bruins Eddie Shore and hit his head on the ice. Bailey's sweater, number 6, was the first ever number retired in the NHL.
On November 3, 1937 the Montreal Canadiens and Montreal Maroons combined to form one All Star team and competed against the All Star players from the remaining NHL teams. This game was played as a benefit to Montreal Canadiens centre Howie Morenz who shattered his leg in five separate locations in February the season before. Unfortunately Howie passed away before his benefit game due to a heart attack on March 8, 1937. while still in the hospital for his broken leg.
On October 29, 1939 the Montreal Canadiens played the remaining NHL All Stars in a benefit game held in memory of Montreal Canadiens coach Babe Siebert who drowned in the offseason.
The NHL All Star game became an annual tradition in the 1947-48 season and pitted the defending Stanley Cup Champions against the remaining NHL All Stars. The format has changed over the years, pitting divisions, conferences, and countries against each other over the years. Fan Balloting, the Skills Competition, alumni games, shootouts, and the fantasy draft were introduced over time as well. In 1979, the All Star game was replaced by the Challenge Cup which pitted the NHL All Stars against the Soviet Union All Stars in a best of three format. The same happened in 1987 for the Rendez-vous '87. The Rendez-vous '87 was instead a two game series against the Soviet's. The 1995, 2005, and 2013 All Star games were cancelled due to NHL lockouts and the 2006, 2010, and 2014 All Star games were cancelled as well due to a change in the 2005 Collective Bargaining Agreement which stipulated that All Star game would only be held in non-Olympic seasons.
BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game:
On Thursday night, the top forty prospects in the CHL played for teams Bobby Orr and Don Cherry. While not technically part of the All Star weekend, I consider it to be this year just due to the timing of the event. I enjoy watching junior hockey and seeing who the upcoming NHL stars will be. Unlike the NHL All Star game, these kids actually have something to play for as they are all trying to boost their draft status and earn NHL contracts. This makes for some good hockey. Team Orr won the game 6-0, so this game wasn't exactly close, but the kids all played hard which was good to see. Team Orr's top line of Connor McDavid (Erie Otters), Timo Meier (Halifax Mooseheads), and Travis Konecny (Ottawa 67's) were absolutely dominant. I've talked about McDavid at the World Juniors already, but his skill and vision were really evident during this game. He only registered one assist, but his line (Meier - 1 goal and 2 assists and Konecny - 2 goals and 1 assist) controlled the pace of the game and Team Cherry really had no response for them.
NHL All Star Fantasy Draft:
The All Star Fantasy Draft was introduced in 2011 and features two captains and their alternate captains picking their teams from the remaining elected All Stars. It's a fun event that promotes fan interaction in balloting and helps to bring an exciting new element to the event by way of the draft. I love this addition, although I am biased by my love for fantasy sports. This years captains were Nick Foligno from the host Columbus Blue Jackets and Jonathan Toews from the Chicago Blackhawks. Team Foligno won the coin toss and not surprisingly made teammate Ryan Johansen the first overall pick of the draft. The players were in a light mood throughout the evening and this was a rare opportunity to see their real personalities. The event was filled with laughter as jokes and friendly jabs at players' expense really highlighted the evening. The first trade at the Fantasy Draft since it's introduction in 2011 also occurred. The trade was reminiscent of a previous trade made in the NHL between two of the All Stars present. Phil Kessel was traded from the Boston Bruins to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2009 for two first round draft picks and a second round pick. The first of those draft picks made by the Bruins was Tyler Seguin and the two have been forever linked as a result. During this weekends fantasy draft, Kessel was once again traded for Seguin, making for one of the funnier events of the evening.
NHL All Star Skills Competition:
The Skills Competition is my favourite part of the All Star weekend. I've already mentioned that I'm not a big fan of the game itself, but the Skills Competition really highlights the individual skill present int he game in a quantifiable way. The key here is quantifiable for me. I like the traditional events such as the fastest skater, the accuracy shooting, and the hardest shot. I enjoy watching the relay as well as it combines many important hockey skills into a timed event, but I'm not big on the breakaway challenge or the shootout due to the nature of the skills involved. They just aren't that important to the overall game of hockey in my opinion. Rule changes have made them more relevant of course, but I don't agree with the addition of shootouts to the game (I should save this rant for another time) so I don't like them in the Skills Competition. Regardless, this is always my favourite part of the weekend.
In the first event, the Bridgestone NHL Fastest Skater, Jonathan Drouin had the fastest time with a mark of 13.103 seconds. Team Foligno took a quick 5-0 lead over Team Toews in this event, winning all four heats and thus picking up the fastest time bonus.
In the second event, the Honda NHL Breakaway Challenge, a fan vote deemed Ryan Johansen the winner and provided Team Foligno with a 6-0 lead. Johansen pulled at the heart strings of the home crowd by wearing an Ohio State Buckeye's jersey (2015 CFP National Champions) on his first attempt. He followed that up by picking up seven year old Cole Vogt, son of Blue Jackets trainer Mike Vogt, and having Cole help him stick handle to the net and score. His third and final attempt was a throwback for all hockey fans as he enlisted the help of six other All Stars to form the "Flying V" formation down the ice. Probably the funniest part of the night occurred with Jacub Voracek's next shot after Cole helped Johansen with his. Voracek grabbed Johnny Gaudreau and mimiked Johansen and Cole's shot. Gaudreau played it amazing, complete with Bambi legs all the way down the ice and made for one of the most entertaining pieces of the entire weekend.
In the third event, the Draftkings NHL Accuracy Shooting, Team Toews finally got on the board with a win before Team Foligno won the next three heats. Patrick Kane hot all four targets in the least amount of time (13.529 seconds) and won the bonus point for Team Foligno, bringing the total score to 10-1.
In the fourth event, the Gatorade NHL Skills Challenge Relay, a series of skills are tested. It starts with a series of one timers from three different positions on the ice before going to a passing challenge at different lengths, a puck control and stick handling through cones and then through pucks, before finally goaltending shooting. One heat consist of eight players per team and Team Foligno won the first heat with a time of 1:37.979. Team Toews won the second heat with a time of 1:38.789 and while they had the quickest combined time between the two heats, Team Foligno won the bonus point for having the lowest individual heat time, bringing the total score to 12-2.
In the fifth event, the AMP NHL Hardest Shot, Team Foligno won the first three heats before Shea Weber won the last heat for Team Toews with a top speed of 108.5 MPH. That blew the other competitors out of the water as only Alex Ovechkin had topped 100 MPH on the day and nearly set a new Skills Competition record (Zdeno Chara owns it with a mark of 108.8 MPH). This brought the total score to 15-4 for Team Foligno.
In the sixth and last event of the Skills Competition, the Discover NHL Shootout, teams score a point for each goal that they score with a bonus point being awarded if you score with a Discover Card puck. There were three rounds of which the teams alternated shooters within a two minute span. My issue with this event is that I already don't like it as I stated earlier due to the shooutout skill being emphasized and the fact that the points in this event are weighted far higher than the other events. In the first round, each team was able to shoot nine times. Team Foligno scored on two of their shots (with one bonus puck scored) and Team Toews scored on four of their shots (with two bonus pucks scored) bringing the total score to 18-10 for Team Foligno. The second round moved a little bit quicker and each team was able to shoot ten times. Team Foligno scored on four of their shots (with one bonus puck scored) and team Toews scored on two of their shots (with one bonus puck scored) bringing the total to 23-13. The third round had Team Toews shoot ten times and Team Foligno only shoot nine times. Team Foligno scored on two of their shots and Team Toews scored on five of their shots (with one bonus puck scored) bringing the final score to 25-19 for Team Foligno.
It was an entertaining event and Team Toews fought at the end to make it a respectable score again, but they just couldn't quite catch up after a slow start.
NHL All Star Game:
In the marquee event of the weekend (supposedly), Team Toews had some manner of retribution winning the game 17-12. Their 17 goals set a new All Star game record for most by one team and their combined 29 goals set a record for most goals in one game. The second period saw 11 goals scored which was a single period record and 7 of them were scored by Team Toews which tied a period record for one team. John Tavares also scored four goals and Jacub Voracek tallied six points, which both tied All Star single game records. Ryan Johansen scored two goals and added two assists to go with seven shots on his way to winning the NHL All Star Game MVP in front of his home fans. The game was pretty entertaining (even for me) due to the record chasing nature of the game which was nice to see.
The first period was relatively even with the score tied at four after twenty. The first couple minutes of the second period were crazy as the teams each scored twice in a span of 2:03 to start the period. Team Toews then took command of the game taking an 11-8 lead into the third period. They continued building upon their momentum to win 17-12.
The NHL announced the return of the World Cup of Hockey over the weekend. The tournament will take place in September 2016 in Toronto and will feature eight teams initially. Canada, USA, Russia, Sweden, Finland, and the Czech Republic will be featured as well as a European All Star team and an under 23 North American All Star team. This makes for an interesting format, one in which I'm still undecided if I like it, but ther is something I like about it initially. It offers a good compromise for both player and national accessibility as well as for a high level of competition. The format will see two groups of four compete in round robin play. Following the three group games, the top two teams from each group will qualify for a single game elimination semifinal berth. The finals will comprise of a best of three series and the entire tournament will be held using NHL rules rather than international rules, making for an interesting twist. I love international hockey and cheering on team Canada, so I'm all for reintroducing the World Cup, but I'm sure the format will be tweaked in upcoming years until they work out the kinks.
Three outdoor games were also announced for the 2015-16 season. The Montreal Canadiens will play the Boston Bruins on January 1, 2016 at Gillette Stadium, the Chicago Blackhawks will play the Minnesota Wild on February 21, 2016 at TCF Bank Stadium, and the Detroit Red Wings will play the Colorado Avalanche on February 27, 2016 at Coors Field. I'm glad that the NHL decided to tone down the number of outdoor events each year as they were starting to become too frequent and not as special. Obviously when you're at the event that's a different story altogether, but to the casual fan watching on T.V., they weren't special anymore, so I view this as a good thing.
All in all, I think it was a very successful All Star weekend for the NHL. Recent improvements to the events have made for a more fancentric experience that lets us get involved in a way not before seen. The All Stars seem to be having more fun during the weekend than they used to and it has really become a family event, with children on the ice and behind the benches, delivering pregame speeches, etc. And all of this emphasizes all the right things. Family, friends, and fans are the root of what the NHL All Star Game should be all about. It encourages everyone to have fun and when that happens we get to see the NHL personalities come out. I think the All Star game itself is still unnecessary, but my opinion is starting to change as the NHL makes improvements. Well done.
Week Sixteen (February 2-8) Preview:
4 Game Week: Anaheim, Buffalo, Colorado, Dallas, Florida, Nashville, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, San Jose, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Washington, Winnipeg
2 Game Week: Detroit, Minnesota, Philadelphia
All other teams at 3 games
My NHL Schedule:
The NHL Schedule has not been revised for anything since last week but can be found here: 2014-15 NHL Schedule . Don't forget to change the time zone to your appropriate time zone. The one thing I ask of you is that you do not take my schedule and use it for your own personal gains. Please do not sell it, you can direct people here to find it, but do not sell it.
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