Team Lidstrom picked Steven Stamkos with its first choice at the all-star fantasy draft. (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)
RALEIGH, N.C. – There are some real concerns with the two teams that will play in the NHL All-Star Game Sunday afternoon. For example, where is Eric Staal going to find the money to cover a $107.5 million payroll? And just how is Nicklas Lidstrom going to match up on the left side when his team has not a single natural left winger and his opponent can throw Alex Ovechkin, Daniel Sedin and Rick Nash over the boards?
Neither of them seemed terribly concerned with their plights Friday night after the league’s first-ever all-star fantasy draft. But they haven’t had to answer yet to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly. Lidstrom’s team comes in just slightly lower at $105 million.
“Wow, that high, eh?” said Staal, who obviously was not employing a capologist during the exercise. “There’s a ton of great players and a ton of great talent and it should be fun.”
Lidstrom was just as surprised to find out he had seven natural centers and no left wingers on his team, but figures he’ll be able to move a few bodies around. In fact, before Team Lidstrom took Brad Richards, alternate captain Martin St-Louis texted his former teammate to make sure he’d be willing to move to the left side.
“The skill that we have will compensate for that,” Lidstrom said. “I don’t think that will be a problem for us. We can put some of those guys on either side and that’s why we’ve got the coaching staffs to figure that stuff out.”
All in all, the league’s first attempt at spicing up the All-Star Game had to be judged a success. The players looked to get into the spirit of the thing and the captains did put some thought into their picks. The league can often handle some of these things in a rather ham-handed manner, but the fantasy draft pretty much came off without a hitch.
Now onto the game. When you look at both rosters, the first thing that strikes you is the veteran talent and history of winning with the Lidstrom group. That will go against the youth and dynamic offensive talent of the Staal group and it should be an interesting contrast of styles. Led by Lidstrom’s four Stanley Cups, his team has a total of 11 Stanley Cup rings on its roster, compared to eight for the Staal group. When it comes to Olympic gold medals, the teams are tied at six each.
Once again, led by Lidstrom’s six Norris Trophies, Team Lidstrom has 17 major NHL awards to its credit, compared to just nine for Team Staal, six of which belong to Ovechkin. (By major awards, we mean Hart, Art Ross, Norris, Vezina, Calder, Conn Smythe, Rocket Richard and Selke. If you include the Lady Byngs won by Richards and St-Louis, Team Lidstrom increases its lead to 20-9.)
Lidstrom appears to have the edge in goal as well, as it managed to land both Tim Thomas and Jonas Hiller, the two best goalies in the NHL this season. Their third stringer is Marc-Andre Fleury, a Stanley Cup winner and 2010 Olympian.
Those choosing the teams experienced some of the same frustrations their GMs do at the draft table, but at least there were no jobs at stake.
“It happened on more than one occasion where we said, ‘OK, we’re going to take this guy next,’ “ Lidstrom said. “All of a sudden he’s gone because Eric takes him and you have to start the order all over again. It’s hard. It’s not that easy.”
Well, the last superstar in Detroit ended up being a GM in the NHL. Perhaps Lidstrom will follow in his footsteps. Patrick Kane, who was an alternate captain along with St-Louis for Team Lidstrom, said their plans were scuttled early in the proceedings.
“There was some good strategy,” Kane said. “We thought if we had won the puck flip, we were going to take (Steven) Stamkos first and we knew Staal was going to take (Cam) Ward and we could have gotten Ovechkin, but we didn’t win the toss. But we had fun with it.”
For what it’s worth, here’s our suggestion for the lines and defense pairings for both teams. (Astericks denote a forward playing out of his natural position.)
FORWARD LINES (LW-C-RW)
Daniel Sedin-Eric Staal-Corey Perry
Alex Ovechkin-Ryan Kesler-Claude Giroux*
Rick Nash-Patrick Sharp-David Backes*
Jeff Skinner-Paul Stastny-Patrik Elias*
Mike Green-Zdeno Chara
Kris Letang-Dan Boyle
Erik Karlsson-Marc Staal
Brad Richards*-Steven Stamkos-Martin St-Louis
Daniel Briere*-Henrik Sedin-Patrick Kane
Matt Duchene*-Jonathan Toews-Loui Eriksson
Martin Havlat*-Anze Kopitar-Phil Kessel
Nick Lidstrom-Duncan Keith
Shea Weber-Dustin Byfuglien
Keith Yandle-Brent Burns
Ken Campbell will be filing from Raleigh, N.C., throughout all-star weekend.
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