Anyone in Winnipeg watching one of Canada’s three sports networks last night would have seen bad news crawl across their screens – Dustin Byfuglien, the lone member of the Jets set to play in the NHL All-Star Game would not be able to play due to injury.
What’s worse, “Big Buff” was being replaced by Kris Letang of the Pittsburgh Penguins, leaving the squad completely out of the festivities.
Not to discount what Letang has done this year as being not worthy of All-Star consideration (he’s nearly at a point-per-game clip), but to have a team not represented in the game is not only mystifying, but rather insulting. As a team, the Jets aren’t on the most solid of grounds (10th place after last night’s defeat at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes), but do they not have another star worthy of playing in the NHL’s showcase contest?
If you set your wayback machine to the 1990s, you’ll see that every NHL club was represented in the games, and on top of that, if a player was injured, they would be replaced by another member of their team. This happened for the Jets original incarnation back in 1990, where Doug Smail replaced Thomas Steen in the game.
Certainly, the current Jets roster has a mix of blueliners that are worthy replacements either in terms of star power or on-ice performance (or both), namely Tobias Enstrom, whose 19 points in 29 games is fairly comparable to Buff’s 24 in 35, and Toby’s +1 is much higher than Dustin’s -8 rating.
Further, shifting could have taken place – with the countless other setbacks the potential NHL squads have faced – and a spot on the forward list could have been opened for a Winnipeg player, say either Blake Wheeler or Kyle Wellwood (leaving Evander Kane and his injury woes out of the equation).
The bottom line is this – assigning 15 “musts” on each squad so that each team is suiting up, that still leaves 7 spots for teams with multiple entrants, assuming a 21-man roster is utilized (12 forwards, 6 defencemen and 3 goalies).
If the point of the All-Star Game is to provide a celebration of hockey across the landscape of the league, then all teams should be represented.