The 2016 NHL All-Star Game format worked beautifully
John Scott helped, but this All-Star Game format is a winner for the NHL.
When we talk about the 2016 NHL All-Star Game years from now, we'll be talking about John Scott and what his inclusion at the event meant to us as fans, him as a player and his family. He's the story of the weekend; from selfies with the media to being named MVP, Scott's mark on the Nashville contest won't be forgotten.
That narrative will ultimately overshadow a couple things the NHL (hopefully) learned from this weekend. If number one is listen to your fans you dummies, number two is that the new format absolutely works. Sure, the skills competition was a winner (like it usually is) because the players' personalities are on full display. The TV production of the game was good, not great (which is a step above most of NBC Sports hockey coverage) and we got to spend some time enjoying P.K. Subban and Brent Burns put on a show.
I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about the 3v3 tournament which was every bit as enjoyable as I hoped it would be. I was cautiously optimistic that turning the All-Star Game into a format that's (relatively) non-contact and wide open would succeed. Turns out I should've been confident.
The first two games in particular were packed with scoring and big chances on both ends of the ice. Players were fatigued in the championship, but there were still a fair number of shots and scoring chances in addition to big saves from all goaltenders involved. Pointing to numbers might give you an idea of how big an improvement was from last year's event in Columbus to this year's in Nashville, but the proof lies in the eye test.
I had fun watching this game. That's the first time I've truly enjoyed watching an All-Star Game from any sport since I was young enough to just be excited watching my heroes play on the same field at the same time. The championship game had me on the edge of my seat rooting for the Pacific (and John Scott), cursing great saves by Roberto Luongo and yelling at Corey Perry to finish for once.
That's a change from last year when I turned the damn thing off before it was halfway over. Scott stole the show, but even before the big man was handed the MVP trophy by a shit-eating-grin-wearing Gary Bettman I knew the NHL had found something here it should stick with.
For too long the NHL All-Star Game has been a rotating hall of gimmicks. I think that now is the time for the league to latch onto this format as one it can use for the long haul. There can be tweaks and improvements made before the next game gets going in Los Angeles in 2017, for certain, but I think we've got something that works. Thank goodness.