In this week’s NHL Mailbag, we try to help the people and make the NHL All-Star Game better. Also, you should be watching The Young Pope. And why is the league so stubborn about making the product better? Do we just have to do this all ourselves? OK! Mailbag!

1. Fall-Star

People have a lot of All-Star questions and they want me, the fixer, to talk about what was bad and how I would fix it. I’m honored. Let’s fix it.

I was in and out of the skills competition. Love me some Kenny Albert, hate me some Jeremy Roenick and Pierre McGuire. I heard Pierre orgasming because two or three consecutive shooters went to Wisconsin and I had to check out. I couldn’t do it. The skills competition is supposed to be fun and there’s nothing less fun than Pierre listing colleges and junior hockey teams while a guy is trying to hit a target.

Roenick is constantly asking people technical questions about each competition. Who. Cares. Get me literally anyone funny to talk into the microphone between these events.

It’s sort of a Catch-22, because you need to have fun people at the fun event, but there’s nothing less fun than a hockey player, and TV networks always hire former hockey players, thus we get trapped in this circle of hell. Ain’t no one want to listen to Pierre and JR for three hours. Until NBC wakes up to this, the ratings will always be bad.

Also: The Four Line challenge was the dumbest shit I’ve ever seen.

As for the game, the fix there is simple: Charity.

A million-dollar prize? No one gives a shit. Multi-millionaires obviously aren’t motivated by $100,000 and fans at home don’t care if some rich guys get slightly richer. The shift to 3-on-3 was a nice start last year, but nobody was trying this year. That’s why we make the game about charity. It’s foolproof.

Each team decides the charity that gets the money if they win. It can be disaster relief, youth hockey leagues, whatever. This way, Erik Karlsson won’t be out there clearly not giving a shit as Wayne Simmonds steps around him for the fourth time. He won’t want to field questions from reporters at his locker.

“Erik, your team decided to play for earthquake relief in Thailand, so can you explain why your play out there strongly indicates you don’t care about helping the fatherless and motherless children of Thailand?”

But that team charity motivation isn’t enough — we need to add individual awards too.

What’s the worst part of the All-Star Game besides the overall lack of effort? It’s watching these goofballs futz around on 2-on-0s and 2-and-1s and make needless passes that aren’t available. The best players in the world were a combined 0-for-5 on 2-on-0s in the first two games. People were going nuts about a Corey Crawford 2-on-0 save, which was about as easy as it gets when you over-pass to the point that Gaudreau is shooting from the goal line. It’s awful television.

So we offer a $1,000 individual charity donation for each goal scored. Maybe Nikita Kucherov is happy to win $1 million for earthquake relief but he wants to kick a few extra bucks to something more political, like the ACLU or Planned Parenthood. I’m all for over-shooting than over-passing so let’s give players a reason to shoot the puck. Maybe it’s $5,000 per goal. Whatever the league that brags about “record revenue” can afford.

There you have it. I’ve made hockey better yet again.

2. The Young Bettman

The Young Pope is the best thing on television. It’s weird and funny and well-acted and well-written and self-aware and simply wonderful. Jude Law actually says, “This Pope does not negotiate.” There was a Pope wardrobe montage set to “Sexy And I Know It” by LMFAO in episode 5. It’s the only good thing in the world now.

But I wouldn’t pick teams to tie to TYP; I’d pick people and I’d pick them during lockout negotiations.

  • The Young Pope is Gary Bettman.
  • Sister Mary is Bill Daly.
  • Voiello is Don Fehr (think of the shoe kissing scene).
  • The guy with the stigmata is John Collins (I assume he’s doomed to be cast aside in coming episodes).
  • Esther is expansion team fees (although TYP resists the temptation in the show).
  • The people crying during TYP’s homily are the fans (obviously).

There you go.

3. Day Of Rest

This is a good question. Baseball players grab days off during the season. Some superstars get rest here and there during the NBA season. It doesn’t happen in football because the season is only 16 games.

But why doesn’t it happen in hockey? It’s an insanely physical sport played over too short a time period and you can see how worn down players are after the All-Star break. You’re telling me if a team that’s got a playoff spot locked up with 20 games to go, it wouldn’t behoove you to give your best players a few days off here and there in preparation for the two-month postseason gauntlet?

The answers probably include the macho nature of the game, no player wanting to be deemed soft and needing two games off, the value of points in the regular season for borderline teams and, the tried and true “this isn’t how we’ve always done it.” Morning skates have been stupid for decades and still only like three teams have given them up in 2017.

4. Oly Ghost

[extreme Gary Bettman voice] The game has never been better. We have the biggest, fastest players in the world doing amazing things on the ice. Attendance is at an all-time high and we expect big things from Las Vegas.

Yeah, this current form of hockey is bad. Interference is back again, goaltenders take up way too much of the net, there are probably 4-6 teams that could go right now and yet the NHL is adding another one in a desert market. Olympic hockey is amazing (the World Cup was pretty good at times too) and it serves as a reminder that the NHL product is the worst it’s been since pre-2004.

You’d think the NHL would embrace Olympic hockey as it serves as a two-week advertisement for what the game has to offer and could provide the league a chance to mimic what fans love about the international tournament. Instead, they want to get paid every possible dollar to go and now it’s looking like it won’t happen. One day, hopefully before it’s too late, there will be sweeping changes to the powers that be in the NHL offices and we will live to see the optimal version of the NHL that we all want to see exist.

5. Move Me


6. Truck Off

I would give it to Dave Lozo.