Elias enjoys All-Stars, sees room for fixes
|Elias at Sunday's All-Star Game.|
Elias, the Devils’ representative at All-Star Weekend, was stranded in Raleigh yesterday after his 6:40 a.m. flight was delayed because of trouble with its landing gear. It cost him nine hours in the airport and caused him to miss the first practice coming out of the break.
He finally got in at 5:30 p.m. – 13 hours after waking up for what was supposed to be an early flight home.
“It’s been fun the last few flights,” Elias said after today’s morning skate. The Devils host Ottawa tonight at 7 p.m.
New Jersey (16-30-3) has opened the second half with a 6-1-1 run and hopes to stay on a roll. They visit the Garden on Thursday, host Florida on Friday, then head to Montreal for a 3 p.m. start on Sunday.
“This is a tough stretch,” Elias said. “We’re playing a lot of games; we have seven in 11 nights, and four in six right from the get-go here, so we have to start off well tonight and take it the way we’ve been playing. Take it one game at a time and do the things we’re asked to do, because when we do that, then we’re having fun, we enjoy playing with each other, then we know we have a chance to win. That’s the way we have to play.”
Overall, Elias enjoyed this All-Star trip, which was the third of his career and first since 2002 in Los Angeles. He recorded a goal and an assist for Team Staal while skating on a line with Colorado’s Paul Stastny and 18-year-old Carolina rookie Jeff Skinner.
Team Lidstrom won the game, 11-10.
“I had fun with both of them, with Paul and Skinner,” Elias said. “Paul is a great player. I think they enjoyed playing with me, I enjoyed playing with them. We tried to pass to [Skinner] all the time, maybe we could’ve gotten some more goals, but he’s a home[town] guy, he’s a young guy. They love him there. We tried to set him up as much as possible.”
At 34, Elias was among the senior members of the forward group. Of all the young guns taking part, he was most impressed by Colorado center Matt Duchene, the third overall pick in 2009.
“Duchene is a good kid and it was fun to watch him,” Elias said. “Obviously I played with Skinner and all you heard the whole three days was 'Skin-ner!' It was fun, we tried to set him up as much as possible, it didn’t work out, but I’m pretty sure he’s going to have another opportunity.”
This was Carolina’s first time hosting the NHL All-Star festivities and Elias thought they put on a good show.
“They do have a surprisingly good fan base,” he said. “Not too many people would expect that. It’s a nice town, a nice quiet community there. There’s no hassle, but people are into it.”
He gave two thumbs up to the red carpet event leading into Saturday’s SuperSkills, which ran from 7 to 9:30 p.m.
“I think it was great, the excitement to go to the skills competition and walk through the people and sign [autographs],” he said. “Weeksie [former Devil Kevin Weekes] was awesome doing the commentating about the suits and all that. I think he’s just doing a great job there. But the skills, you’ll hear, you’ll listen to people, they think it’s too long, two and a half hours sitting there. It’s fun to watch the guys, but there’s a lot of time in between.”
But Elias wasn’t a fan of this year’s new wrinkle: a Fantasy Draft, in which team captains Nicklas Lidstrom and Eric Staal formed their squads from a pool of 36 players. Elias was chosen 31st. Five picks later Toronto’s Phil Kessel went last. For his trouble, Kessel received $20,000 to donate to his favorite charity and a new Honda CRX.
“I didn’t enjoy it as much,” said Elias. “The idea was good, I think the fans enjoyed it, the media enjoyed it. I’m sure some of the guys enjoyed it, it’s just my opinion.”
He admitted he was relieved not to have been taken last, and suggested a lottery system might be used in the future for the remaining handful of players.
“Whoever’s going last is going to hear it for a long time,” he said. “It’s not right. The guys are picked because they’re the best on that team or they’re top players. You don’t want to put guys in that position.”
The game itself was high scoring as usual. Elias doesn’t believe the NHL should follow the lead of Major League Baseball and put home ice advantage on the line for the Stanley Cup Finals.
In baseball, the winning league earns home field advantage in the World Series. In hockey, a competitive game would likely include hitting, which could impact players’ willingness to participate.
“I don’t know if you can really implement hitting and contact and all that,” Elias said. “It is a fun event. I understand the fans want to see maybe more speed. That you can implement maybe, I don’t know how though. You cannot go and ask guys to go after each other and hit, really, because then not too many guys will go.”