I’m proud and privileged to begin my return to Faceoff Factor. For those of you that are new to Faceoff Factor, thank you for inviting me onto your computer screen; for those of you that are FF veterans, thank you for having me back.

Salutations aside, there’s much to discuss with All-Star Weekend festivities afoot (and subsequently completed by the time this is read). The SuperSkills competition has become a snooze-fest to the casual fan at this point. The lack of diversity and the lack of will-to-win has really turned off of a lot of fans and they are returning the favor. First of all, the events change too often and are altered for maximum stupidity and minimum excitement. That said, perhaps I’m the only one who enjoyed the puck control relay or the one where the goalies shot it toward an empty net (but with a guard, so you have to get it off the ice).

I think I liked the final shootout competition, the hardest shot and accuracy shooting are both classics. It might be cool to have defensemen participate in an accuracy competition with slapshots from the blueline, just for kicks. And after all, this is just for kicks – anyone else realize that they didn’t even keep score like they used to. Everyone’s a winner or nobody is, par for the course in today’s society.

Social commentary aside, Penguins fans might be breathing a sigh of relief after it appears that a reconciliation has taken place between free-wheeling sound byte machine Alexander Ovechkin and the charming-by-naivety NHL scoring leader Evgeni Malkin. Apparently this harmonization was the result of a Russian with a shiny new “C” on his jersey and a maturing all-the-time attitude – one, Ilya Kovalchuk. Word on the rink is that the new Kovy on the block (to the previous “generation’s” Alexei Kovalev) arranged for these two to sort out their differences and maybe even hit the bottle a bit (vodka was likely the drink of choice, but that may only be stereotypically accurate). In fact, Ovechkin’s one man show that turned into a duet was the idea of Kovalchuk. He worked it out so that Malkin would be the lucky contestant applying the touristy garb and Gatorade drink before Ovechkin won the competition with allure instead of ability. Perhaps a little less head-hunting in common matches at the Igloo and the Phone Booth and a little more gold digging in 2010.

The most underrated thing in the whole weekend, lost in the flash and dash and sometimes dragging interviews, is the YoungStars game. It’s a shame they’ve marginalized it so much over the years, but it’s a great chance to see some wonderful young talent. Between commercials, on-ice interviews that are teeming with awkwardness and ignorance and Marc Staal’s face, I managed to miss nearly half of the game’s goals. Remarkably, a two-on-zero rush is postponed to replay a shot that missed the cage, meanwhile the goal that was just scored will have to be replayed at the cost of the next odd-man rush. Inexplicable and inexcusable are the words that begin to describe the coverage, incompetent and inept are the words that finish it.

Those that were left unspoiled by day one of the two-day star-studded event were treated to a whale of a game on Sunday evening. That was the best All Star Game I’ve seen in quite some time. Some highly skilled player really put on a show worthy of its billing. Though it wasn’t a real game, I was pretty disappointed in Zdeno Chara, Jeff Carter and Henrik Lundqvist. It’s hard to fault a goalie in a game like this, but King Henrik was merely a jester and Anaheim’s Jean-Sebastien Giguere was predictably bad as well, par for the course this season. Interestingly, of the three goalies there with the biggest equipment (Giguere, Lundqvist and Luongo), two of them were just putrid. It seemed as if the broadcast team, the venerable wordsmith Doc Emrick and the unsavory-to-the-ear, even a touch bumptious, Brian Engblom, reveled in their interviews (and maybe a Samuel Adams Boston Lager too) with Tim Thomas. The awkward and unpredictable goalie surrendered a few goals early on in his time, followed by a good save or two and an excellent one in overtime; despite that, it seemed as if the men in the booth were pulling for Thomas to be MVP, citing such on multiple occasions. I found that a bit interesting, even though most of the golden scoring opportunities while Thomas reigned were missed wide of goal.

Ignoring that, to focus on the here-and-now as opposed to the never-was, I like Kovalev winning the MVP in his home barn and he was certainly deserving. Deserving, too, are the fans that put up with such poor production quality from Versus, a station that continues to assert itself as a Daniel Baldwin to brother Alec. In terms of skill, Versus is to ESPN as Oscar Mayer is to Scott Niedermayer; if my bratwurst had a first name it would be l-o-u-s-y.

As a hockey fan through and through, here’s to a great display of hockey this weekend at the 57th NHL All Star Game and a pleasing recommencement to the 91st National Hockey League regular season. Until next week, adieu.