The 2016 All-Star Game captains have been announced, and based on the voting ranks on NHL.com there should have been no major surprises, right?
There was no shortage of storylines behind the four players elected to lead the four divisions. Two of the players have been blowing up the league and making a case for each of their teams to be heavyweights when the playoffs roll around.
The fun begins in the Atlantic and Pacific Divisions with a player who literally begged not to be voted in and a player who was waived. Twice.
2016 All-Star Game
This year, the NHL has opted to change the format in an effort to produce a more exciting game for the fans. With the overall success of the 3-0n-3 overtime format, the NHL All-Star Game will be played in its entirety as a 3-on-3 game.
The change came about as the league tries to inject some life into a game that many have called phoned in the last few years. While the leagues top guns have come together, many felt that the game had become more of a spectacle than a challenge where the teams play very little defense and simply look to bloat the score. In reality, the change should be welcomed as the 3-on-3 overtime has been one of the most exciting changes that the league has implemented in years past.
Alex Ovechkin – Washington Capitals
Ovie has gone from a player many deemed as selfish to a true leader for the Washington Capitals, and they are likely to be heavily favored as the team that comes out of the East.
Since Barry Trotz took over the helm of the Washington Capitals for the 2014-15 season, Ovechkin has been held more accountable. He is still a scoring machine (he broke the all-time scoring record for Russian players in the NHL this season), but he has been held much more accountable for the things he does without the puck and off the ice.
In fact, when he overslept earlier in the season Trotz boldly benched his star player; A misdeed many coaches would have overlooked for a player of Ovechkin’s caliber. That accountability has changed Ovechkin for the better.
Of course, the real test will come in the playoffs as the Caps have folded in years past when expectations were much higher, but by appearances with Ovie’s accountability comes a new culture in the Capitals locker room. A winning culture.
Ovechkin has earned the respect of his team, his coaches and clearly his fans as he was the top vote getter out of the Metro Division to earn the Captain’s title for the All-Star Game. This sharp shooter is bound to make an impact in the new 3-on-3 format.
Jaromir Jagr – Florida Panthers
Jagr didn’t know that jumping on twitter to beg his fans not to vote him into the All-Star game was equivalent to shouting “I volunteer as tribute” in the Hunger Games. At that moment, his fate was all but locked in.
For Jagr, he may have preferred the extracurriculars of NHL hockey like the All-Star Game be over for him after 22 years in the league with eight different teams. In fact, odds are good that he might be wishing to spend the All-Star break relaxing instead of racing around playing 3-on-3 hockey with a bunch of players who are young enough to be his children.
Having said that, Jagr has shown very few, if any signs that he is ready to hang up his skates as he leads the young Panthers team with 26 points, and is still averaging over 17 minutes of ice time per game. The future Hall of Famer and true hockey legend may prefer a rest over what will undoubtedly be a grueling, fast-paced race of an All-Star Game, and all that goes along with it over the course of the weekend. However, there is no doubt that he has earned his place among the NHL’s best this season.
Patrick Kane – Chicago Blackhawks
After his 26 game point streak, Kane was a lock for the All-Star game.
Though it was questionable whether he could garner enough votes for the Captain’s title after a difficult summer. Any doubts were erased after the first day of voting had him sitting at the top of the standings for the Central, and near the top for the entire league.
Kane is a true talent, with the ability to create plays seemingly out of thin air and slippery enough to avoid heavy contact to hang onto pucks when opponents close in on him. In nine NHL seasons, no team has been able to completely shut Kane down for long.
If he isn’t scoring, he is creating opportunities for his linemates. This season, he has been kept off the score sheet a mere five times, and all five times the Blackhawks lost. Over the course of the season so far, Kane has been booed and heckled by nearly every opposing fanbase, but after the votes were tallied, it is clear that he has far more supporters than he does detractors.
One thing is certain, Patrick Kane is very good at hockey and whether you love him, or you hate him, he is fun to watch.
John Scott – Arizona Coyotes
John Scott is an anomaly. For weeks, he has been burning up the voting for the All-Star Game, in spite of the fact that he had been waived by the Coyotes, not once, but twice!
He has played in a total of 11 games this season, and recorded one assist; That is not generally what you might expect from a captain, but the fans get what the fans want.
Over the course of eight years in the NHL, Scott has played with six different teams with his best career year coming last year with the San Jose Sharks. He recorded four points with three goals and an assist. In his entire career, he has 11 points, and has never been better than even +/- and has even recorded a -12 during the 2013-14 season with the Buffalo Sabres. To be fair, the Sabres did not have a good year that year.
The most impressive stat Scott has put up is that in 11 games where he averaged just over six minutes of ice time he has managed to accrue 25 penalty minutes. Scott is set to be a healthy scratch for the Coyotes game against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday and has only played in two games since he was waived on December 18th.
The question has arisen many times, can a player not even playing in the NHL play in an NHL All-Star Game? We shall see. If Nashville’s general manager David Poile has a say, that would be a no.
“Well, if he was to make the All-Star Game, that would be, with all due respect, not an appropriate situation,” Poile said. “And with all due respect to John Scott, but when you do something like this and in this digital age, you sit there all day and push a button, that doesn’t make it right.”
So how does a player like this get enough votes? That is anyone’s guess, but irony comes to mind. There are hundreds of players who have more impressive stats. Perhaps the imbalance in the Pacific, as it is the weakest division in the NHL has something to do with this comedic turn.
He is a dying breed as one of the league’s last true enforcers, and somehow he will be adding All-Star Captain to his resume.