The results of the 2015 NHL Skills Competition are in, and they are ugly.
Team Toews was absolutely embarrassed in a rout by Team Foligno that calls into question the guidance, heart, leadership and plus/minus capabilities of every member of the Team Toews roster.
As every hockey fan and columnist knows, succeeding in hockey is about a coach properly motivating his players and holding them accountable, and the players themselves having the inner fortitude to perform In The Clutch, and When It Matters.
Team Toews demonstrated that it had no such accountability, no such leadership, no such clutchitude in an embarrassing showing in Columbus. It's pretty clear that the secret to the Chicago Blackhawks' two recent Stanley Cups are the close accountability kept by Joel Quenneville and the clutchy clutchiness by Patrick Kane, who impressed in the accuracy shooting event tonight.
In contrast, Hawks "captain" Jonathan Toews -- if such a players is even worthy the title -- saw his Team Toews fall behind early and was never able to put them on his shoulders and lead them back in the competition. They were beaten to every clock, out-muscled in every passing drill, and blatantly shied away from fighting through adversity in the relays. Almost to a man, their battle level was not even on the radar.
At least Shea Weber was trying: He was really good in the hardest shot competition.
BREAKING: Shea Weber's slapshot just completed its circuit around the Earth.
— SB Nation NHL (@SBNationNHL) January 25, 2015
But hockey skills competitions are dependent on 14-20 players pulling their own weight, so Weber couldn't possibly hope to do it alone.
This is clearly evidence of absent coaching, poor leadership, and an entire roster that only tries in meaningless November, but never in the clutch period of late-January weekends, when exhibition performances for sponsors are what separate the NHL's men from the NHL's players on a rare vacation.
If anyone was coaching Team Toews, I know by the performance that that man or woman is an idiot, and I will happily make DERP gifs with cartoon characters to demonstrate this point.
Team Foligno, meanwhile, was led by a REAL NHL captain, who clearly put the home-ice advantage to good use as his team charged out to a 5-0 lead in the Fastest Skater competition (Phil Kessel showing a bit of clutch himself, no doubt well-motivated by leaders like Nick Foligno), then extended that lead to 6-0 in the breakaway relay and 10-1 at the halfway mark.
John Tavares and Jaroslav Halak were on the losing team, demonstrating that national pundits are right to question whether the New York Islanders are for real this year, and calling into question whether Tavares is just biding his time until he signs a free agent deal under Mike Babcock in Toronto.
And Now for Something Completely Different
In all seriousness, the results of the competition were indeed a bit of a blowout, but the score was secondary to what looked like a great time and a festive atmosphere in Columbus.
By design, the shootout event at the end had a lot of points available, allowing Team Toews a chance to make up some of their early deficit to finish with a 25-19 loss.
Weber did impress with an insane 108.5 mph hardest shot, Kane did impress with his target nailing -- Tavares was in that competition too, but had trouble with his final target -- and Kessel's victorious race with Tyler Seguin made for a nice opening.
Most importantly, the fans in Columbus appeared to love it, the players were almost universally into it for a good time while still flashing some skill and creativity, and the event -- as far as sponsor-heavy exhibition events go -- appeared to be a success for all involved, including the on-ice camera operators and event crew who managed the chaos.
Let's hear it for the on ice folks who are filming this without dying or puking #NHLAllStar
— loser_domi (@loser_domi) January 25, 2015
Columbus, one of the NHL's last expansion teams, waited extra long for this event since the lockout and Olympics postponed their previously scheduled event. The way the weekend is going (and the way the club's roster has improved), it may just be worth the wait. They even got to scare the Flame out of rookie Johnny Gaudreau with their cannon.
Why, in the middle of an intense hockey season with the usual highs and lows and amazingly authoritative assumptions based on one-game samples, this event was even a nice respite from the usual stream of cliches that cantankerous fans and pundits spew to explain brief segments of an 82-game marathon season.
The full results for each event are available at nhl.com. Sunday's game may be a little more competitive, with festivities opening at 5 p.m. EST.