All-Star Weekend is really just an intricately planned three days that’s on par with your average grade eight Christmas play. Everyone gets dressed up, puts on their biggest and brightest smile, and does their best acting job to sell a convincing character to an audience that really doesn’t want to be there, but is watching because they feel obligated.
The all-star game isn’t played for you and me. No, ironically this Christmas play is a showcase targeting the youth, and their impressionable minds. Trotting out the local hockey legend, a name and face whom the fans in Carolina already have a strong affiliation with, makes sense from both a business and entertainment perspective.
This is why Eric Staal being voted as one of the team captains for this year’s fantasy draft–the brain child of Brendan Shanahan that will either flop or thrive in a hurry–comes as no surprise. The NHL announced the two team captains who will step up to the mic in the schoolyard style draft to pick the teams Tuesday morning, with Staal voted by his peers to serve alongside veteran Red Wings defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom.
Staal is having a fine season and is certainly deserving of the honour (he’s 11th in scoring with 46 points over 45 games). But forget about the numbers, because he could have been much lower in the points standings and still received the “C”. Stall is the hometown hero in a game brought to one of the NHL’s smaller markets to infuse interest, and maybe create a new fan or two. The NHL executives know this, and it’s a fact that certainly hasn’t eluded the players either.
Despite having a relatively successful season thus far–the Hurricanes have earned points in eight of their last 10 games and are ninth in the East, three points back of a playoff spot–Carolina is 21st in league attendance. Every night there’s an average of nearly 3,000 empty seats at the RBC Center in Raleigh.
While Staal’s inclusion acts as another marketing ploy, one that will be much more effective that fabricating strange creatures, Lidstrom’s captaincy is a nod to the old guard in a game where half of the participants are making their first All-Star game appearance. Incredibly, at the age of 40 Lidstrom is still the same consistent point producer he’s always been.
Currently leading all defenceman with 42 points over 45 games, Lidstrom will easily cruise past his 49 total points from last year that had him contemplating retirement. Prior to this season, Lidstrom’s career average season point total over 18 years in Detroit was 52 points. His ability to maintain such a high standard in what should be the twilight phase of his career is a testament to his skill, and makes the long-time Red Wings stalwart more than deserving of his all-star game captaincy.
In addition to selecting the teams, Staal and Lidstrom will also set the lineups for the skills competition.