The NHL All-Star Game will drop the “fantasy draft” format and switch to a 3-on-3 mini-tournament, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, who says the league will officially announce the format later today. It could be fun! It could be really boring, just like every other iteration.
Here’s how it’ll reportedly work at the 2016 ASG in Nashville:
There will be four teams of nine skaters and two goalies, one team for each of the four divisions (Atlantic and Metropolitan in the East; Central and Pacific in the West). There will be a 20-minute mini-game – likely two 10-minute halves – featuring one division versus another in 3-on-3 action followed by another 20-minute game with the other two divisions playing each other.
The two winning teams would then meet in a third 20-minute session for the so-called “championship” game.
But will it work in an exhibition, where players are mostly trying not to get injured, and generally don’t feel like exhausting themselves unduly? Will the open ice feel so open at three-fourths speed, and with teams only having three lines to roll over 20 or 40 minutes of it, compared to a maximum of five minutes in a real game?
One way the NHL hopes to inspire players to try hard: cash.
Split 11 ways, that’s not nothing.
It will be interesting to see teams divided up by division, rather than by conference or nationality as in previous years. But that does mean the all-stars will have to be selected equally from each division, at the expensive of who’s most deserving. (Also keep in mind that there aren’t an equal number of teams in each division, with seven each out West and eight apiece in the East.)
Still, I’m down for a change from the draft that was used for the last three editions. It was never as much fun in practice as it was in theory, and the players really hated being there instead of spending a Friday night off out drinking. (They all drank before and during the draft anyway, but it’s not the same.)
The fantasy draft game was boring, as was the game under the old North America vs. the World format, despite the sometimes-enjoyable jingoistic overtones. This is the first format change in the event’s history that actually changes the gameplay on the ice. It’s worth a try.
(If this doesn’t work, they should go back to the pre-Original Six tradition of having the defending Stanley Cup champs play the best of the rest of the league. And if not, just blow the thing up and air a full mites-on-ice game instead.)