As the New Year begins, the National Hockey League will shift their attention to the All-Star Game later this month after Wednesday’s Winter Classic on New Year’s Day is in the books for another year. The annual game will be played at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis, the home of the defending Stanley Cup champion Blues. Recently the NHL named the four All-Star Game captains that were voted on by the fans and Boston Bruins’ leading goal scorer David Pastrnak will be the Atlantic Division captain.
It was also announced that Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask will join Pastrnak for the game that will be coached by Bruins boss Bruce Cassidy. Patrice Bergeron is among the finalist for the “Last Men In” vote for the Atlantic Division, which began on Jan. 1 and runs through Jan. 10. One name that is missing from the All-Star roster and “Last Men In’’ vote is Brad Marchand, which feels like an omission against the Bruins’ first-line left wing.
The process for selecting All-Stars is an issue and it’s not easy to please everyone. The league requires at least one player from the 31 clubs on one of the teams. It tries to take the top 10-15 leading scorers, but in a case like this, it’s not always doable. Since the NHL went to the 3-on-3 format, it has limited the numbers of All-Stars on each team from each division.
Each team get a mixture of forwards, defensemen and two goalies. That means, each division starts with eight all-stars (except for the Central Division which only has seven teams) and it’s not easy picking the final two selections. The third and final player to round out the roster is the vote winner. A player’s individual success that season should be considered when putting together the selections. Not to be overlooked, so should a team’s success. With that said, without Marchand, the Bruins are not knocking on the door of the Washington Capitals in the race for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
Numbers Don’t Lie
Marchand is currently one point behind Pastrnak for third in the league with 59 points and is just five points behind league-leading scorer Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers. He is a plus-22, while logging an average of 20 minutes of ice time a night.
Nine of the top 10 scorers in the league are were selected to the All-Star Game and the one who wasn’t is Marchand. He has 20 goals and 39 assists this year, which includes four power-play goals to go along with 13 assists on the man advantage. At the halfway point of the season, his numbers have him in the running to be a candidate to win the Hart Trophy, but not an All-Star.
Reasons For Omission
With each team required to have at least one player represented in the game (which means the struggling Detroit Red Wings and Ottawa Senators get at least one player), it causes a numbers crunch. Marchand is in a bind because he is on the same line with Pastrnak and Bergeron, but that should be no excuse for him not to be playing or not to be part of the final vote for his third career All-Star Game. Nothing against Bergeron, but Marchand has better numbers than his linemate. The case could be made that Marchand could be in the “Final Men In’’ vote instead of Bergeron.
With three right wings currently on the roster with two centers and a left-wing before the final vote, it makes little sense that arguably the Bruins’ best all-around player is not on the roster. Could the league be making a statement because of Marchand’s past history of suspensions and questionable hits? That shouldn’t factor into a player who has had the first half of the season that Marchand has.
Final Vote Nominees
Let’s take a look at the “Final Men In’’ nominees for the Atlantic Division and their numbers (goals, assists and points) compared to Marchand’s.
Boston – Bergeron 17-19-36
Buffalo – Rasmus Dahlin 2-19-21
Detroit – Dylan Larkin 6-19-25
Florida – Aleksander Barkov 13-23-45
Montreal – Max Domi 12-19-31
Ottawa – Jean-Gabriel Pageau 18-11-29
Tampa Bay – Steven Stamkos 14-22-36
Toronto – Mitch Marner 10-27-37
Looking at that list, it appears that Barkov is certainly worthy of being in St. Louis. After that, Marner and Stamkos each have a case, but Marchand certainly has a better case than the remaining nominees.
St. Louis will have three players in the game, while the Capitals had three players named, but Alex Ovechkin, who was selected as the Metropolitan Division captain, has backed out of the weekend after saying he will instead spend the time resting for the second half of the season and the playoffs. Ovechkin will have to sit out a Capitals game before or after the break as punishment for not participating in the All-Star Game.
Rest For Marchand
There are still three weeks before All-Star weekend and there is still the possibility of selected players getting injured and being forced out of the game. One player will be added through the final vote and those other players will most likely be at the top of the list as an injury replacement.
If that ends up being the case, then maybe it’s not a bad thing that Marchand won’t be attending the festivities. He could use the time off to rest up before the second half push towards the playoffs. With that said, his numbers and play through the first half of the season say he should be in St. Louis.
Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. A frequent user of the Oxford comma. Scott has been a sports writer for 25 years for different sites and daily newspapers. Writing started out as a hobby, but it has become a passion for Scott over the years.