On Tuesday, the NHL revealed the final 40 players who will participate in the 2017 NHL All-Star Game. The fans already had selected captains (Carey Price, Atlantic; Sidney Crosby, Metropolitan; P.K. Subban, Central; and Connor McDavid, Pacific) for each division.
The NHL selected the rest of the participants, with each division being represented by six forwards, three defensemen and two goalies. And since every team has to have one representative, somebody from the Detroit Red Wings was selected.
The easy choice would be Anthony Mantha, Thomas Vanek or Henrik Zetterberg (although he probably would opt to sit out, á la Sidney Crosby). However, Frans Nielsen was selected as the Red Wings representative.
Now, I’m not an all-star purist who believes only the top goal scorers should attend. I think the fans voting in John Scott last year turned out to be a great story and I wish there was some sort of movement this season to get another wild card into the mix — whether it was an aging veteran, a loveable grinder or a player who is fighting adversity (see Craig Anderson’s wife battling cancer).
Alas, that did not happen, but I’m still puzzled as to why the NHL decided to select Nielsen. He isn’t a vocal leader, he isn’t a goal-scoring machine, he isn’t exactly marketable and he isn’t the face of the Red Wings. He is having a decent season, with eight goals and 15 assists in 41 games, but certainly not a PR person’s dream candidate.
Now, it is the All-Star Game, so I’m not outraged he was picked. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. The All-Star Game is one big PR event for the NHL and gives them an excuse to make new jerseys to sell to fans. It’s good for growing the game, but it’s not about the best players competing against each other. The best players aren’t always there, and the players who do go don’t try as hard, understandably, wanting to avoid injury.
As long as Nielsen doesn’t get hurt in the game or the skills competition, Nielsen’s presence during all-star weekend doesn’t bother me. In fact, I’m happy he gets the opportunity to go to his first All-Star Game. I’m sure he’s very excited to go and will have a good time.
Red Wings’ Better Selections
With that being said, the Red Wings had a few better options. Dylan Larkin represented the Red Wings last year and broke the fastest skater record. Not only was it exciting for a 19-year-old to be at the All-Star Game, but it was a great story as he broke a 20-year-old record.
Anthony Mantha, at 22-years-old, is having a fantastic season for the Red Wings, with 11 goals and eight assists in 26 games. If the World Cup of Hockey showed us anything about what fans want to see on the ice, it’s youth and speed. Mantha would have been a perfect selection to showcase both. Although not as fast as Larkin, he’s still a special player the fans would have enjoyed watching.
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) November 21, 2016
Vanek would have been a nice selection as well, as he’s having a bounce-back year after being bought out by the Minnesota Wild last summer. He has 10 goals and 16 assists in 30 games. At 32-years-old, he’s showing he still has more in the tank and could be a good bargaining chip for the Red Wings at the trade deadline.
And of course, there is the captain, Zetterberg. Although, as I referenced earlier, Zetterberg probably would opt out and take the extra rest. He’s having a good season, with seven goals and 21 assists in 41 games.
So, good for Nielsen for getting the nod, I’m just curious as to what the rationale is.
Tom Mitsos is a writer from Michigan who covers the Red Wings and the Red Wings’ AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins, for The Hockey Writers.