Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Zuccarello Would Add Magic Touch to All-Star SuperSkills

Scott Cunningham/NHLI via Getty Images
The New York Rangers might hold an answer to some of the injury issues currently plaguing the NHL All-Star weekend in the form of Mats Zuccarello.  The game itself has lost marquee names like Crosby, Iginla, Malkin and lesser known ones in Enstrom and Hemsky to injury or personal issues.  Beyond that from the rookie selections Oiler’s forward Jordan Eberle is also out of the skills competition.  The goal of the weekend is as much about promotion of the league and the marketing side as it is the game itself.  With that in mind, I propose the NHL select Rangers’ rookie Mats Zuccarello as Eberle’s replacement.  With the NHL looking to add life to the weekend events via the fantasy draft on Friday, this might be the year to make an outside the box choice for injury replacement.  

I am not arguing that Zuccarello is the next best rookie forward statistically.  The numbers are there with him only having 16 games at the NHL level and only eight points on the season.  What I am saying is that Eberle was slated to be in the skills competition and what Zuccarello has shown in his short time in the NHL is he is dynamically skilled and a master in the shootout phase of the game.  The Norwegian winger is now 4-for-4 in tiebreakers in the NHL, with two game-deciding goals, including key shootout tallies in each of the last two games.  With each passing attempt the reaction of the goaltenders is the same; helplessness.

In addition to his qualifications for the position he would be chosen for, a move like this would be excellent PR and marketing for the NHL.  The league is looking to continue to grow the game around the world and adding Zuccarello would only increase interest in Norway and throughout Europe.  The NHL would also obviously be able to sell the story of the ‘little guy’ beating the odds and playing with the world’s best players on the biggest stage.  Imagine the intrigue of Mats Zuccarello taking a shootout chance against Henrik Lundqvist on Saturday night.  Add to that the number of jersey’s the league could sell both from Rangers fans and Zuccarello supporters around the globe and this move makes too much sense not to do it.