What we learned at the All-Star Game

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- In no time at all, maybe even by the time the accursed replica Civil War cannon in Nationwide Arena fired its final volley Sunday night, the actual details of the 2015 NHL All-Star Game had begun to fade to nothing.

And that's the way it should be.

Imagine eating the world's largest order of cotton candy and you'll have a sense of the substance to Sunday's loaf-a-thon that ended up 17-12 in favor of Team Toews, an All-Star Game record for most goals (or least backchecking).

But at the end of the day, the All Star Game is all about context -- because it sure isn't about anything remotely resembling an actual hockey game.

"What people have to understand, the All-Star Game is not, 'let's drop the puck and see if we can win it 4-3.'" Columbus Blue Jackets president John Davidson told ESPN.com. "It's a celebration of the game. People have to understand it. There were lineups to see the [Stanley] Cup. A big lineup for the [snow] slide. It's celebrating the game."

After Saturday's board of governor's meeting, Davidson described the events that surrounded the actual game, and the way the community responded to the event -- including a big gala charity dinner earlier in the week. For a team that's not headed to the playoffs this year, this is an important way for fans to stay connected to the team. It's also why the All-Star event continues to be an important bone for the league to throw to teams.

Former NHL netminder Glenn Healy, now a national broadcast analyst, agreed that this event is about far more than the 60 minutes of hockey on Sunday.

"I think you've got to look at this event in much of a bigger picture," Healy said. "And I think any of us that have been around Columbus for the last couple of days, you saw 150,000 fans cruising around the city spending around $22 million, and you saw a city that built a convention center, have the All Star Game and could potentially be poised to host the Democratic National Convention. ... Without a rink, it doesn't happen, without the activities and restaurants [that] are all built around that. So you can pick apart the 60 minutes, but I think you have to look at the overall picture and the fan experience and just how many people came and had such a great time."

For all the moaning about Sunday's game -- and allow us to say just this: it might have been nice for poor Marc-Andre Fleury's Team Foligno teammates to actually make a mild effort as the affable Pittsburgh netminder was getting lit up for seven goals on 16 shots in the second period -- is there anyone connected to the game who won't be chomping at the bit to get to next year's All-Star event in Nashville? Even if we do end up bemoaning the same lack of commitment to defense a year from now. Just saying.

Healy provided more perspective on the goaltenders, who combined to allow 29 goals on 92 shots.

"We talked about it during the game," Healy said. "I asked Carey Price -- he was mic'd -- and I said this reminds me of your very first practice in Sochi, Russia. We went over with the players [to the Olympics] and I was there for that first practice, it probably took 20 minutes for any goalie to make a save. Tic, tack, goal.

"You know Fleury, he plays with Crosby and Malkin, I'm sure he's been humbled a few times. You put it in perspective. You don't get many experiences to do this with the greatest players on the planet. I don't think anyone's keeping score here. I think if you ask Fleury, the only [stop] he would remember is the save on Nicklas Lidstrom for the Cup," Healy added referencing the classic save made by the Pittsburgh netminder in the waning moments of Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals in 2009 to preserve the Penguins' Stanley Cup victory over the Detroit Red Wings.

And OK, what does anyone really expect the game to be like? What player wants to be the guy that blocks a shot, breaks a bone in his foot and is a factor in his team missing the playoffs? Imagine if Brent Seabrook nudges teammate Patrick Kane the wrong way, even by accident, and Kane goes down with an injury? So, yes, the game possesses few of the qualities that attract us to the game, the physicality, the battle for space, driving the net. But get over it, because it's never going to change, nor should it.

"Obviously you're not going to go run somebody or anything like that. Just try to have some fun, and I think everybody did a pretty good job with that," offered Team Toews representative Filip Forsberg, who had two goals -- the first All-Star goals ever scored by a Nashville Predator. Who knew?

And when you factor in the player draft -- a huge hit with players and fans -- and the skills competition, which had a nice festive atmosphere Saturday, it provides a pleasant respite in the middle of the season. Plus we're still left with the as yet unanswered question: What exactly was in the players' plastic cups at the draft?

More takeaways from Columbus:

• This year's All-Star event featured a significant news element with the confirmation that the NHL would be heading out of doors three times next season with the Winter Classic in Boston and two Stadium Series games in Minnesota and Denver. Although the news had been reported earlier, it was still a nice add to the proceedings. Would it be a surprise to see the league take advantage of next year's event in Nashville to do something similar?

• More newsworthy was the decision to have the NHL and players' association formally announce plans for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, which will be held in Toronto in September 2016. Announcing the important undertaking by the league and its players at an event that showcases the top players -- many of whom will be taking part in the eight-team tournament -- helped give the announcement additional oomph. Again, might be a nice idea to make some sort of World Cup of Hockey announcement next year in Nashville, like perhaps the coaching staffs or something like that.

• Did we miss Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Erik Johnson and the rest of the players who had to bow out due to injury? Of course. But if there was any concern that their absence would somehow diminish the event or cast a pall over it, well, that just didn't happen. Both Johnson and Crosby will be forced to miss their teams' first game this week because they played in their final game before the break and then declined their invitations to All-Star weekend. There could be some debate among NHL GMs at their March meeting about expanding the repercussions for failing to attend the event going forward to perhaps two games.

• Worst part of All-Star Weekend? Did we mention the cannon that seems to be located right in the press box and went off each time Team Foligno scored? "No, I don't like that. I don't think anyone does. It's not good when we come here. It scares me, still," offered Los Angeles Kings defenseman and Team Foligno alternate captain Drew Doughty. Saving grace? Team Foligno could have scored the 17 goals that Team Toews scored.

• OK, want to get a sense of why we shouldn't get all bent out of shape about the game? When you look at the bench and see head coach Peter Laviolette's daughter standing with him behind the Team Toews bench. Or Darryl Sutter, who coached the Foligno squad, sharing the moment with son Chris, who clearly enjoyed his time in Columbus.