Sidney Crosby

With All-star games under assault, the NHL has its work cut out for it

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USATSI

With All-star games under assault, the NHL has its work cut out for it

There are probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 19,000 sporting events in the United States in any given year, and that’s only taking in the Big Four sports, pro soccer and college football and basketball (men’s and women’s), so it is understandable that we have only so much brain to give to practice games and exhibitions. As an example, the Pro Bowl is largely and correctly regarded as American’s greatest shame, because for all its other problems, America’s role as the world’s entertainer is damaged by the low level of this particular entertainment.

Thus, it is easy to see why the NHL All-Star Game being awarded to San Jose for 2019 slipped under the radar, the skyscrapers, the two-story homes and even under the topsoil. All-star games are under assault across the continent for being anachronisms whose only value are watching the teams being selected (and the NBA even screwed that up this past week).

This means that to get the area reinvigorated in the next year’s time, the NHL may need to fool with its format to address the new societal realities. The divisional-round-robin format doesn’t exactly vibrate with fun, and the game is way too convivial in any event.

Thus, we suggest that the league take a note from the NBA’s new book and go Stars vs. Snubs. Or acknowledge the new politics under which we endure and go U.S. vs. Foreigners. You know, sell that misplaced jealousy and status-seeking.

The enduring argument about all-star selections (other than how many players want to be selected and then not show up) has always been whether it should reward careers or best seasons – in other words, legacy choices against guys actually doing the deeds. And as we have seen with the NBA, those who don’t get picked get very very salty indeed.

This is an area that screams for exploitat . . . err, marketing. The NHL does not have a history of guys complaining that they should have been named, but it is amenable to trying anything to get people to pay attention to their ever-shifting formats. Thus, the trick is to name a team that will torque off other players (maybe taking Alex Ovechkin but not Sidney Crosby, or vice versa) to the point that they will both bitch about the selections and bring that bitching to the ice.

If it means paying one team more than the other, do it. If it means Gary Bettman doing a presser in which he says “We all know who the best players are, and these are the others,” do it. Hockey struggles to avoid stratifying its work force, but it seems to be working in the NBA, where royalty and reputation go hand in hand (see Paul George).

But if the game is coming back here to give an artificial prod to a franchise that evidently needs one, the league should make it a priority to find a way to make the game We vs. They. It will be an absurd contrivance, but at this point, what contrivance hasn’t been tried? So let's go past "He Hate Me" to "Of Course We Do," and see if that'll sell.

Burns joins McDavid, Crosby as finalists for Ted Lindsay Award

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AP

Burns joins McDavid, Crosby as finalists for Ted Lindsay Award

Sharks defenseman Brent Burns is a finalist for the Ted Lindsay Award as the NHL’s most outstanding player as voted on by members of the NHLPA, it was announced on Tuesday. Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby are the other finalists.

Burns, 32, is also a finalist and thought to be the frontrunner for the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman.

The NHL’s annual awards show is on June 21 in Las Vegas.

Burns became just the second NHL defenseman to lead his team in goals (29, tied with Joe Pavelski), assists (47) and points (76), joining Kevin Hatcher (1990-91, Washington Capitals). His 29 goals were the most by an NHL defenseman since Mike Green had 31 for Washington in 2008-09, while he led the league with 320 shots on goal.

Burns played in all 82 games, posting a plus-19 rating with 40 penalty minutes. He added three assists in six playoff games as the Sharks were eliminated by the Oilers in the first round.

Also named as the Sharks Player of the Year as voted on the the local media, Burns signed an eight-year, $64 million contract extension with the Sharks on Nov. 22, 2016 that kicks in next season. The deal keeps him with the organization potentially through the 2024-25 season.

On Monday, the NHL revealed the finalists for the Hart Trophy as league MVP, and Burns was not among them. It will be one of Crosby, McDavid or Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky that wins the Hart.

The Ted Lindsay Award, first handed out on 1971-72, honors the Hall of Famer known for his “skill, tenacity, leadership, and for his role in establishing the original NHL Players' Association.”

Crosby impressed with Sharks' Couture after World Cup

Crosby impressed with Sharks' Couture after World Cup

Logan Couture had plenty of nice things to say about the Penguins' Sidney Crosby on Friday, praising the former league MVP and defending Conn Smythe Trophy winner for his play on the ice and the way he conducts himself off of it.

The two played together for the first time at the World Cup of Hockey, winning the tournament for Team Canada in late September.

Crosby expressed his admiration for Couture on Saturday morning, speaking with reporters before the Sharks and Penguins matchup later that night.

“Having not really played with him in the past, you see how good he is every day and how smart of a player [he is] offensively, but defensively, as well. He was killing penalties a lot. He’s just a really responsible two-way player,” Crosby said.

Couture said on Friday that Crosby and the other Sharks players on Team Canada, which also included Joe Thornton, Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, spent lots of time together despite the Penguins knocking off the Sharks in the Stanley Cup Final just three months earlier.

“They’re good guys,” Crosby said. “They’re fun to play [with] on the same team. 

“It’s crazy how things turn pretty quick here, and you [prepare to] compete against them tonight. I’m sure the intensity and the way it was in the playoffs will probably carry over. That’s the great thing about hockey is the ability to be able to do that. It was a lot of fun playing with them in that tournament.”

Crosby will be skating against the Sharks for the first time since the Stanley Cup Final. He missed the first six games of the season, including the Sharks-Penguins game in Pittsburgh on Oct. 20, with a concussion.

There were some memories of last June’s Cup clincher at SAP Center in his mind on Saturday morning.

“First time on the ice, first time in the dressing room here, that goes through your mind,” he said. “But, now you’re doing your morning skate and getting ready for the game, it feels like a normal game day like it has other times here. I think it will always be something that comes across your mind when you’re here, but now that we’re kind of back in the routine, it feels like it normally would.”