NHL All-Star Game captains have choice roles this year

The Washington Post panelists discuss the NHL's new format for the all-star game this weekend in Raleigh, N.C.
Friday, January 28, 2011; 12:01 AM

Eric Staal is worried about what his mom will say. Nicklas Lidstrom is worried about what the Carolina fans will do. Mike Green is worried about being picked last - or he was, until he was named a co-captain. Now that dubious distinction becomes everyone else's worry.

Staal and Lidstrom face off Friday night in Raleigh, N.C., but not on the ice. Not yet. Instead, the two captains and their henchmen will draft their own teams for Sunday's NHL All-Star Game. Instead of East vs. West, the game will feature Team Staal vs. Team Lidstrom, and in the process, a lot of grown men will be transported back to their school yard days, when kids picked sides and some poor kid would be picked last.

Was the Capitals defenseman ever that kid? "Probably, but I don't remember," Green said. My guess: probably not if the game being played was hockey.

The all-star draft is as eagerly anticipated as the game itself; both will be televised live on Versus. The words "National Hockey League" and "bright idea" don't always reside in the same sentence, but for their 58th All-Star Game, the NHL employed one of the greatest innovations since slow-motion replay, and a perfect gimmick to draw in new fans. Watching professional athletes pick and choose among their friends, teammates, rivals and enemies to form what they hope will be a winning team - please let this idea - used last summer by Women's Professional Soccer to select its all-star teams - spread throughout the land. Start with the Pro Bowl.

Green gets to avoid the draft because he and Vancouver's Ryan Kesler are Staal's co-captains. (Patrick Kane of Chicago and Martin St. Louis of Tampa Bay will assist Lidstrom.) Instead of sweating out the possibility of being the final name called - "That was my worst fear," Green said - he'll help Staal make the tough decisions.

So let's talk about priorities. Do you have to pick your teammates first? In Green's case, of course, that is Alex Ovechkin.

"No, I don't think so," he said. "There'd be some complications a little bit. In this process, it's collectively us three guys pick."

But of course, he added, "If it was just me, I'd obviously pick Alex first."

Good answer. So what about rivals? What about . . . the Penguins?

"I would limit it to very few," Green said. He seemed serious, but it's almost a moot point anyway because Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin aren't playing. Pittsburgh will be represented by defenseman Kris Letang and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.

Which means there is no chance to see Ovechkin and Crosby on the same line. So, General Manager Green, would it have been a problem if the rivals had been picked for the same team?

"I don't know," he said. "I don't think that would happen. I think they'd both get picked first or what-not. It's all fun and games. Everybody's there for a good time so I think you kind of put that aside."

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