The NHL released its annual All-Star Game fan ballot today, which means it’s time to look over the list and see which players were undeservedly included and which ones were unfairly ignored.
By-and-large, it’s a fairly strong ballot, and realistically any player likely to earn a starting line-up job at the All-Star Game is on the list (with 127 players on the ballot, it would be more than a little surprising to see an unlisted player garner enough votes).
Even so, let’s look at some of the weaker players on the list, and the stronger players off of it. Keep in mind too that voting goes until January 4, so excluding a strong player off to a slow start could come back to bite the NHL.
- F – Sidney Crosby: This isn’t actually a particularly questionable player to include, but somebody was bound to bring it up given that he hasn’t played this year. The league’s biggest name absolutely belongs at an event like the All-Star game.
- F – Michael Grabner: Grabner’s off to a slow start after a big goal-scoring season last year, but he’s also one of just three Islanders on the ballot (the other two being John Tavares and Mark Streit). Assuming that the league was automatically going to put three Islanders on the list, it’s easy to see why they chose a bigger name in Grabner over a more productive player like Pierre-Alexander Parenteau (12GP – 2G – 9A – 11PTS).
- F – Andrew Ladd: Along with defensemen Enstrom and Byfuglien, Ladd makes up the Winnipeg Jets contingent on the ballot. However, other players on the Jets’ roster might have made for a better choice given that Ladd has just five points in 15 games. Streaky Nik Antropov, who leads the team with 11 points would be one option; other offensive leaders include youngsters Alexander Burmistrov (10 points) and Evander Kane (eight points).
- F – Eric Staal: Staal’s terrible start (15GP – 3G – 2A – 5PTS, -16) was ignored in recognition of the fact that he’s very skilled and a famous player.
- F – R.J. Umberger: The Blue Jackets have only three players on the All-Star ballot, tied for the fewest of any team. Umberger has been one of a bunch of players that have found it impossible to generate offense; one imagines that Vaclav Prospal or James Wisniewski would have been a better choice in the ‘token Blue Jacket’ category.
- D- Ed Jovanovski: An odd pick, particularly given how many other Florida Panthers could have been subbed in. While Brian Campbell and Tomas Fleischmann are worthy options, the omission of a defenseman like Dmitri Kulikov (10 points in 14 games) or forwards like Kris Versteeg or Stephen Weiss is interesting.
- D – Niklas Kronwall: Kronwall’s not actually a bad pick, but he’s not off to a blazing start and he lacks an imposing name, so he’s something of an odd inclusion on the list.
- D – Brent Seabrook: Four assists and the worst plus/minus of any Chicago blue-liner represents a poor start for the blue-liner who had 48 points last season.
- D – Marc Staal: Staal has yet to play a game this season after suffering a concussion thanks to a big hit from his brother Eric last season. There’s no publicly announced timetable for his return.
- D – Ryan Whitney: The Edmonton Oilers defenseman is on this list thanks to his strong play last season; he’s barely played this year and when he has he wasn’t particularly memorable.
- G – Jaroslav Halak: One very much gets the impression that Halak was added to round out the St. Louis contingent. Every team in the league has at least three players on the ballot, and removing Halak would leave the Blues with just two. Even so, it’s hard to overlook his 2-6-0 record and 0.879 SV%, particularly since last season’s performance wasn’t all that good.
- G – Jonas Hiller: Good goalie is off to a subpar start (0.900 SV%) and doesn’t have the name to warrant automatic inclusion. The Ducks, with six options on the ballot, aren’t exactly underrepresented, either.
- G – James Reimer: Played just six games prior to injury, in his second NHL season. Currently out of action with no timetable for return.
- G – A whole bunch of big names off to slow starts: No matter what, guys like Brodeur, Bryzgalov, Luongo and Price were going to be on this ballot, because excluding them would be too big of a statement.
- F – Johan Franzen: The Red Wings leading scorer was not one of the four players from his team added to the All-Star ballot.
- F – David Legwand: No Nashville forward made the cut, which is a shame because they had some interesting options. Legwand, a veteran defensive center, is one of the league’s better scorers this season and his inclusion would have been a nice tip of the cap.
- F – Tyler Seguin: Taylor Hall made the ballot, but Tyler Seguin did not (and the Taylor/Tyler debate thereby solved for all eternity). Seguin’s 15 points so far this season make him the top-scoring forward to be ignored on this list.
- F – Kris Versteeg: It’s easy to make a case for the Panthers’ leading scorer on a ballot that includes Ed Jovanovski.
- F – A whole bunch of rookies: On Twitter, @plantheparade made the point that the NHL might be trying to keep players eligible for the Young Stars game off the All-Star list, and I think that’s what has happened here. None of the league’s leading rookie scorers (including first overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins) made the All-Star Ballot.
- D – Marc-Andre Bergeron: The NHL’s defensive scoring leader somehow managed to dodge the ballot altogether. Must be the journeyman’s reputation as a poor man’s offensive specialist.
- D – Dmitri Kulikov: Ten points in 14 games makes Kulikov an easy pick to justify, but like others on this list he’s probably bound for the Young Stars game.
- D – Kyle Quincey: Lacks the name power of former first overall selection Erik Johnson, but he’s soundly outplayed him this season in Colorado.
- D – Dennis Wideman: The other top-10 scoring defenseman passed over on the ballot.
- G – Niklas Backstrom: Long-time starting goalie has had a strong beginning to the season.
- G – Corey Crawford: Arguably the biggest name not on the ballot in net, Crawford’s off to a middling start.
- G – Jimmy Howard: A 6-3-1 record and 0.928 SV% for one of the league’s most successful teams wasn’t quite enough to get Howard’s name on the ballot.
- G – Mike Smith: Unsung veteran has had a comeback start to the season in Phoenix, but last season’s implosion and subsequent AHL vacation probably didn’t do him any favours.
- G – Jose Theodore: Has played very well in Florida and as a former Hart/Vezina winner has the appropriate fame credentials to make the list.
- In: David Legwand, T.J. Oshie, Tyler Seguin, Marc-Andre Bergeron, Dmitri Kulikov, James Wisniewski, Jimmy Howard
- Out: R.J. Umberger, Ed Jovanovski, Marc Staal, Ryan Whitney, Jaroslav Halak
I maintained the rule that each team have at least three players participating, which is why Kulikov, Oshie and Wisniewski were added in place of Halak, Jovanovski and Umberger. Bergeron, Seguin and Legwand were added entirely based on merit, while I felt Jimmy Howard was the best combination of ability/reputation/early season results among the excluded goalies. I also opted to leave the rookies out of the equation, as the NHL has done.
While I’ve chosen to make some substitutions here, I want to acknowledge that the NHL seems to have done a very strong job with this list, largely finding a good balance between name recognition, participation for the fans of each team, and early season performance.
As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.