Blake’s Takes: Looking Past the All-Star Break

Seeing that all eyes were on the All-Star Game last week, there wasn’t much other news in the world of hockey. So I wanted to focus my column this week on a few players that deserve your attention. I’ll also make my case for why the league needs to change their All-Star Game format to something much more interesting. Happy reading!

1. The All-Star Game Needs a Makeover

The league continues to try and try to make the All-Star Game interesting. From creating a three-on-three tournaments between the four divisions with cash prizes to additional skill challenges, the effort to improve the All-Star Game is there. It just hasn’t been very successful.

This is the first year I didn’t even think to tune into any of the activities. While I love that the league is including some of the more prominent female players in All-Star weekend, it’s still not enough to make me watch the actual games. I’d actually rather watch the women’s 3 on 3 tournament and the skills competitions than the games. There’s just nothing interesting about them.

After putting a bit of thought into, I had an idea. What I would watch is an international tournament. In fact, after the NHL deprived us of seeing the world’s best at the 2018 Olympic Games, I want it now more than ever. Another World Cup of Hockey would be more than sufficient.

I’m not sure what the league plans to do about the Olympics going forward, but if they are going to continue refusing to let NHL players suit up for their countries, why not use it to their own advantage? I propose that the league revamps the WCH and uses it to replace All-Star weekend. I’d bet all 31 clubs would still be represented so each market would have an interest. It would also allow one market each year to host, just like the current All-Star weekend format. Not only that, it would be far more exciting than a few three on three games and would quench the fan’s thirst for international hockey on a grand stage.

The more I think about it the more I want this to happen. If the NHL wants to create more attention for the league in midseason, they can call me because I have a few more ideas that I think can help.

2. The Rise of Jonathan Huberdeau

[Photo Credit: NHL]
Guys playing for the Florida Panthers don’t typically get a lot of attention. But, Jonatha Huberdeau deserves yours. Huberdeau was the third selection in the 2011 draft. The players drafted in front of him were Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Gabriel Landeskog. Nugent-Hopkins and Landeskog got almost all of the attention during the first part of their careers. Since then, Huberdeau has emerged as the best of the bunch.

Huberdeau was an immediate contributor for the Panthers, scoring 38 points in a shortened 48-game rookie season. After a difficult second season and injury-shortened 2016-17 season, Huberdeau started to raise his game. But, he’s been on another level the last two seasons. Last year, he played in all 82 games and posted career highs in goals, assists, and points (30-62-92). He’s dominated again this year with 65 points in only 49 games.

Hopefully, the Panthers will hold on to a playoff spot and the world can see the player Huberdeau has become in the postseason.

3. Green Day Doesn’t Care, As Usual

A few months ago I wrote about how excited I was that the NHL decided to partner with the massive rock band, Green Day. I’m a huge Green Day fan myself (I’ve seen them live twice). Part of that partnership included that the band would perform as a part of the 2020 All-Star Game festivities. To what should have surprised no one, the band took some heat for saying “fuck” multiple times on live TV.

I find this hilarious because I saw this coming from a mile away. Green Day changes for no one. I saw them with my parents for the first time when I was 12-years-old and my dad estimated Billie Joe Armstrong, the band’s lead singer, said fuck 48 times during the show. Let’s not forget Billie Joe’s little freakout during the band’s live performance at the iHeartRadio Festival back in 2012.

I’m glad the league didn’t condemn Green Day because they should have expected it. Also, the league looks a bit more like the Cool Uncle for not shaming the band. Props to Green Day for doing their thing about bringing some much-needed edge to the hockey world.

4. Breakout Candidate: Victor Olofsson

While Cale Makar and Quinn Hughes have dominated rookie news this season, there is another first-year player that deserves some attention. Buffalo Sabres winger Victor Olofsson is having a breakout year himself. Or at least he was until he was injured on January 3. Up to that point, he was leading all rookies in goals and points, and was second on the Sabres in scoring. Even after being out of the lineup for more than three weeks, he is still second in goals and third in points among first-year players. While Buffalo is currently on the outside looking in regard to the playoffs, Olofsson’s return could help accelerate the rebuild they have been working on for a few years now.

5. The Race for the Art Ross

I took a look at the points leaders today, and the race for the Art Ross Trophy looks to be an exciting one. Currently, Connor McDavid leads the way with 76 points, his teammate, Leon Draisaitl sits one point behind him. Avalanche superstar Nathan MacKinnon has 72 points and Boston’s David Pastrnak as 70. All four players are enjoying tremendous seasons.

This Art Ross Trophy race is interesting because it includes a few fresh faces, most notably Draisaitl and Pastrnak. MacKinnon’s presence in the race has cemented him as arguably the game’s best player. And for McDavid, could he win the trophy for a third time in five seasons? I’m ready to strap in and see what the second half of the 2019-20 season has in store.

R.I.P. Kobe Bryant.

A True Legend. ■

NOTE: This article has been updated to correct Victor Olofsson’s position as a winger, and to reflect his current injury.
Blake Isaacs is a die-hard Red Wings fan that doesn’t go to as many games as he should. He is also a big fan of 7-Eleven Slurpeees, Chipotle, and all things Michigan State. Follow him on Twitter @bisaacs1995.

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