For more on NHL All-Star Game Representation, make sure you check out Episode 114 of our podcast where I discuss this, and a few other things!
Another year, another underwhelming lead-up to the NHL All-Star Game. It’s one of those events that the league really wants to be a big thing but most fans, especially those who only get to watch at home, couldn’t care less. It seems to be more of a fan event for the kids and people who can participate in person. But I digress, that is not the real topic of discussion in this post.
Every year, when the rosters for the game get released, we see some heated discussion over who makes it and who doesn’t. This year, we had Brad Marchand, Steven Stamkos, and Nazem Kadri (among others) omitted from the initial rosters (Note: Stamkos and Kadri made it in as part of the Last Man In Fan Vote).
Those players were left off the roster in favour of Nick Suzuki, Drake Batherson, Dylan Larkin, and Clayton Keller, for example. The reason for this? The NHL insists on having one player from each team participating in the All-Star Weekend.
It makes sense from the league’s perspective. They want to make sure all fan bases are represented and to give fans of each team a reason to watch. Why would fans of Arizona or Montreal watch this season if the all-star game is full of Florida Panthers or Colorado Avalanche players? At least with Keller and Suzuki going, the idea is that Coyotes and Canadiens fans can watch a player off of their favourite team instead of just ones who beat up on your team all season.
But this same practice also irks a lot of fans and players. Nathan MacKinnon being the most prominent. In reference to his teammate Nazem Kadri not being selected to the initial All-Star rosters, MacKinnon said “It’s silly. I don’t think every team should send a guy. … It’s an All-Star Game, not a Participation Game.”
MacKinnon has a point. It is titled the NHL All-Star Game, you’d think it would encompass more of the “All-Star” concept. And that’s not to say that the players going aren’t the best on their team or stars in their own right. They just might not be the best of the best in this particular season.
But another alternative viewpoint brings me back to what I mentioned earlier where people aren’t overly invested in this game or weekend. That sentiment extends to the players, as a common complaint of fans and why we aren’t interested is because the players clearly don’t. The tone and pace of the game is often more akin to a random drop-in session at a public rink than a showcase of the best the NHL has to offer.
So while Nathan MacKinnon is right, the league wants to market it as an All-Star game so it should focus on the All-Star part and be a best on best weekend rather than the celebration of the league it seems to offer at this point. If they want it to be best on best, however, the players are also going to have to bring their best as well.
There is another solution though, a seemingly simple one that doesn’t have a lot of drawbacks. This Reddit post by chasegordon24 details that the representation per team has, in fact, gone down over the last 30 years. The number of teams and players in the league has increased significantly but the number of players going to the All-Star Weekend has barely increased.
The simple solution is to just add a few more roster spots per All-Star team. As it stands right now, each division has 11 players going to represent 8 teams. 9 skaters and 2 goalies. There is not much room for leeway when one player has to go from each team. You are left with 3 free slots per division to accommodate anyone having a great season. Now factor in teams like Edmonton that, by default, will have 2 players going pretty much every season at this point (McDavid and Draisaitl). There is barely any room to give All-Star nods to players across the division having a great season, like Quinn Hughes, Chandler Stephenson, or Anze Kopitar.
Another reason expanding the rosters would help is the positional breakdown of the players going. Across the 4 All-Star teams, there are a total of 7 defenders going. 3 from the Metro Division, 2 from the Atlantic, and 1 from each of the Pacific and Central. So there’s a 3v3 format during the game and 2 of the teams don’t even have a second defender to swap in. Adding 4 roster spots to each division’s team gives them the ability to add a couple more defenders so they can send Quinn Hughes and Brent Burns or something, while still giving a couple more forward spots to get more representation.
It’s a win-win for the league. More players at the weekend to market. A better representation of players from around the league. And, the ability to make it more like an all-star game in practice rather than just in name only. And maybe, one of these years, the league will finally get the NHL All-Star Game into a state where it is something to actually look forward to.
Do you think every team should have a representative at the All-Star Game? Let us know on social media, you can find us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter!. Make sure you check out our podcast as well, find it on any major streaming platform!