It's hard to dispute too many of the Western Conference selections made for the 2008 All-Star Game, announced earlier today. Roberto Luongo's decision to pass up the game to be with his pregnant wife distorted the picture slightly, creating an opening for three goalies as opposed to two and also freeing up a spot for the Canucks' Henrik Sedin, who probably wouldn't have made it if Luongo had decided to play. As advertised, the NHL's hockey operations department selected one player from each of the 15 conference teams, which kept the Red Wings' Brian Rafalski and the Flames' Kristian Huselius from earning roster spots. The Blackhawks' young emerging defensive star, Duncan Keith, received a spot on the team, as did a trio of emerging forwards (the NHL's own press release on the event began by highlighting the presence of Ryan Getzlaf, Anze Kopitar and Paul Stastny before it ran down the rest of the team).
Of course, the problem with the All-Star Game remains the same as always - how to make it competitive in an age when it is generally played just barely above the pace of a shinny outing. One suggestion that landed in my in-box last week from reader Brian Killbride suggested they divide the all-star line-ups into two teams - old and young - and let then two sides play for bragging rights.
Killbride put it this way: "Since we're getting close to another boring East vs. West All Star game I thought I'd offer up a solution to this annual bore fest - the only way to "improve " the game is to offer ' incentives ' to the players - something they can relate to and that will motivate them to really play their hearts and guts out - hence - my solution - Change the format so that one All Star team would be made up of players under 27 ( or 28 - whatever ) - and - the other would be those over 27 ( or 28 - whatever ). If you think about it the "under " team would just love to beat the ' old guys' - not only for bragging and gloating rights - but - possibly a spot on the Olympic team - now the " old " guys certainly wouldn't want to get beat by the kids so they'd play their asses off - teach them a lesson - take them to school -whatever you want to call it - ( plus - they wouldn't want to jeopardize their "given" spot on the Olympic team ) - the whole concept appeals to their pride , their competitive nature and their desire to " show " the other side just how good they still are ( the old farts ) - and - for the young guys - it would be great to show up the old farts. This concept is absolutely loaded with "incentives" for both teams - they both have a lot to lose and they both have a lot to gain." Whether that would enough to add any life to the All-Star Game remains to be seen, but after seeing World versus North America and East versus West make little appreciable difference in the compete level, I'd be willing to try anything once.