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Brian Eller

Announcing the NHL's new way to hurt people's feelings

I am, by no means, a gifted athlete. My skills were few and far between, mostly on the soccer field and the baseball diamond, but life as an NCAA athlete wasn't in my future. That being said, I was fortunate enough to never feel the humiliation of being picked last for a team, whether it was a pickup game of touch football or a three-on-three game of hoops.

Watching the face of the unlucky kid, the playground's version of Mr. Irrelevant, we all knew it was a position we were just glad we weren't in. But after the NHL announced Wednesday the new format of the annual All-Star game, it's clear we won't have to wait too long before pointing and laughing at another poor sap.

According to reports, the 2011 NHL All-Star Game will feature teams drafted by two captains, moving from the familiar conference-vs.-conference format. Under the new format, two captains per team will select the remaining All-Stars in any order they choose, where the two teams will then compete in the All-Star Game and Superskills competition.

As for who is labeled as an All-Star, that is still up to the fans. The annual voting of three forwards, two defensemen and a goalie will begin Nov. 15 and run through Jan 3. The catch is, however, these votes can be for either conference.

The new "fantasy draft" will be Jan. 28 and each team must have three goalies, six defensemen and 23 forwards represented. I like this new plan for the NHL. For a sport that's taken a huge hit in popularity over the past two decades, this could be a new wrinkle that gets more people intrigued. Teams will be tailored toward a captain's preference, and what we always seem to call a popularity contest, referring to all-star games, will actually be a popularity contest.

Before we can worry about who got picked last, however, Capitals fans have to be pleased with the team's efforts recently. With seven wins in its last 10 games, including a five-game winning streak, Washington is now in the top spot in the Southeastern Division, Eastern Conference and NHL. The Capitals also sport the best goal differential so far at +15 and rank first in the league in goals per game, averaging 3.4 per contest.

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