The NHL’s 5 Biggest All-Star Game Snubs

The NHL unveiled the rosters for the 2022 All-Star Game on Thursday, naming 10 players (eight skaters, two goalies) to each divisional squad, including the four captains selected through fan voting. As is customary with these types of announcements, several deserving candidates were left off by the selection committee, leading many on social media to clamor for their inclusion. Although the list of worthy players that were overlooked extends further than the five I’ve chosen for this article, these would-be all-stars are the NHL’s biggest snubs for this year’s all-star festivities.

Nazem Kadri, Colorado Avalanche

In what is to be a recurring trend on this list, one of the NHL’s most productive players in 2021-22 was left off of the league’s initial rosters in Nazem Kadri of the Colorado Avalanche. He leads the NHL in assists (35) and ranks fourth in total points (48) behind Leon Draisaitl, Connor McDavid, and Alexander Ovechkin. According to Hockey Reference’s Stathead tool, Kadri has amassed more multi-point outings (16) than games with a single point or fewer (14) this season, a mind-boggling depiction of his offensive excellence in 2021-22.

Nazem Kadri Colorado Avalanche-The NHL’s 5 Biggest All-Star Game Snubs
Nazem Kadri, Colorado Avalanche (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Not only does Kadri’s 131-point pace this season more than double his previous career-high (61 points in 82 games in 2016-17), but his rate of 1.6 points-per-game (P/G) is second only to McDavid. He also sits within the top 50 of shots (47) and is tied for third in even-strength scoring (32 points), showing he’s done more than just be the fortunate beneficiary of favorable usage and deployment. The collective absence of Nathan MacKinnon (10 missed games), Gabriel Landeskog (7), and Devon Toews (11) pushed Kadri to the forefront of the Avalanche’s attacking strategy, drawing increased defensive attention as a result.

His exclusion over the likes of Nick Suzuki (19 points in 36 games) or Clayton Keller (26 in 34) calls into question whether the midseason event can be referred to as a true conference of All-Star caliber players. The league is following its explicitly stated (and commercially-driven) mandate, but that doesn’t make Kadri’s absence from the initial rosters any more palatable.

Related: 3 Avalanche 2022 All-Star Snubs

As far as I could tell, no player ranking as high as Kadri in the midseason scoring leaderboard has ever been excluded from the All-Star Game. The league’s rule of having at least one representative from each of its 32-member franchises leads to galaxy-brained decisions where the NHL’s fourth-highest scorer is left watching from home. It’s unlikely that Kadri maintains his blistering pace for the entire season, but his All-Star snub in the face of his current level of play represents one of the NHL’s greatest travesties.

Roman Josi, Nashville Predators

Sure, the NHL passed over a player sitting within the top five in scoring, but that could be chalked up to his lack of out-of-market gravitas. They couldn’t do the same to one of the game’s most exciting blueliners and one who fairly recently featured in the Stanley Cup Final, could they? Well, they did, and the Nashville PredatorsRoman Josi, captain and offensive compass for the league’s fifth-placed team this season, has been relegated to the sidelines.

Where to start with this injustice? Not only does Josi rank second in scoring among defensemen (38 points), he’s also playing the 13th most minutes per game this season (24:46), functioning as the main facilitator of Nashville’s game plan.

Roman Josi Nashville Predators-The NHL’s 5 Biggest All-Star Game Snubs
Roman Josi, Nashville Predators (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Josi is sometimes unfairly typecast as an all-offense defender, but his contributions are a big reason why the team ranks highly in 5v5 defensive metrics this season. Nashville is fifth in expected goals against per-60 (xGA/60) and third in high-danger chances allowed (HDCA/60) – those from in and around the slot area – and Josi’s ability to skate the puck out of danger helps insulate their net from opposing attacks.

Although goaltender Juuse Saros (.925 save percentage) is a well-deserving All-Star nominee, few are as influential across all facets of a hockey game as Josi is for the surprising Predators. Josi could claim the second Norris Trophy of his career by the end of the season, and make the league’s decision to overlook his All-Star credentials all the more incomprehensible.

Igor Shesterkin, New York Rangers

We’ve seen contenders for the Art Ross (Kadri) and Norris (Josi) trophies fail to procure an All-Star nod to this point, so why not add a Vezina Trophy frontrunner in Igor Shesterkin of the New York Rangers to the mix? Whether you’re a hardened traditionalist or abide by the new-age advanced metrics, it’s impossible to discount the impact the Russian net-minder has had on the Rangers’ success.

Among goalies to have played in at least five games this season, the Russian net-minder is tied for fifth in wins (16) and ranks second in both save percentage (.939 SV%) and goals-against average (1.99 GAA). Shesterkin’s impenetrability is a key factor in the Rangers’ lead atop the cutthroat Metropolitan Division and third spot in the NHL’s overall standings.

Igor Shesterkin/Shestyorkin New York Rangers-The NHL’s 5 Biggest All-Star Game Snubs
Igor Shesterkin, New York Rangers (Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

Shesterkin has also prevented the most goals above expected (GSAx) this season despite playing in fewer games (22) than Jonathan Quick (23), Jack Campbell (27), and Andrei Vasilevskiy (30), the three goalies who round out the top four. That he’s done so behind New York’s leaky defensive structure (28th in unblocked shots and scoring chances against per-60-minutes at 5v5); makes his lead atop the leaderboard all the more impressive.

Related: 2021-22 Vezina Trophy Power Rankings: Campbell, Jarry Among the Best

GSAx attempts to better contextualize a goaltender’s performance, identifying how many goals a goalie has allowed compared to what’s expected based on their workload (chance quality and volume faced). It’s a more reliable barometer of a goalie’s ability than standard SV% which assumes each shot attempt is identical and assigns greater value to shots taken closer to the net.

Fortunately, Shesterkin leads peers in both departments, meaning that the NHL has no excuse for excluding one of the league’s top goaltenders from a best-on-best competition.

Troy Terry, Anaheim Ducks

The NHL, not satisfied with excluding three of the top contenders for year-end hardware, left Troy Terry off of the initial rosters even as the Anaheim Ducks forward sits sixth in goal-scoring (22) as of this writing. Terry has been a consequential figure in the Californian franchise’s resurgence this season as the team’s leading scorer (36 points), but symbolizes another casualty of the NHL’s misguided attempts at forced parity.

Troy Terry Anaheim Ducks-The NHL’s 5 Biggest All-Star Game Snubs
Troy Terry, Anaheim Ducks (Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Given commissioner Gary Bettman’s long-standing desire to establish fanbases in unconventional markets, excluding one of America’s rising stars appears counterintuitive on the surface. Yes, the Ducks’ nominee in John Gibson has enjoyed a solid start to the year (.917 SV%, 3.7 GSAx), but the All-Star Game should market the league’s offensive stars first and foremost, especially in the first year of a landmark TV deal with one of North America’s leading sports media conglomerates.

It’s true that Terry’s scoring exploits have been partially driven by unsustainable percentages (9.8 goals above expected on 24.4% shooting), but the All-Star Game isn’t concerned with potential regression candidates. It should be about recognizing the league’s brightest performers in a given season, and Terry deserves a place in Vegas for his efforts.

Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning

It could be recency bias talking, but this season’s crop of All-Star snubs appear to be more noteworthy than in years past. Not only is Steven Stamkos, the captain of the back-to-back Stanley Cup Champions, leading his team in scoring (45 points in 38 games – sixth in the NHL), but he’s doing so without the services of his usual running mates.

Both of Nikita Kucherov (32 games) and Brayden Point (14) have missed significant time this season, but Stamkos is in the midst of one of the most productive campaigns of his career (97-point pace). Furthermore, the Tampa Bay Lightning lead the Presidents’ Trophy race at the midpoint of the season, even with the extended absence of their offensive superstars.

Steven Stamkos Tampa Bay Lightning 2021 Stanley Cup-The NHL’s 5 Biggest All-Star Game Snubs
Steven Stamkos celebrating the second of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s back-to-back Stanley Cup triumphs, (Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

Consequently, Stamkos has taken it upon himself to expand his offensive portfolio, even at the ripe old age of 31. His 27 assists in 38 games (0.71 per game) puts him on track to tally the second-most helpers (57) of his career, showing a willingness to influence the run of play in a variety of ways.

Related: 5 NHL Players Set to Break Out in 2022

The Lightning’s reliable triggerman also counts 18 goals on the year, sitting just outside of the top 10 league-wide. Perhaps Stamkos appreciates the extra time off for rest after two injury-plagued campaigns, but the decision to abdicate his spot should be left up to him, not the NHL.

NHL’s Last Men In Voting Extends Snubbed Players a Lifeline

Fortunately, the league has introduced the Last Men In voting, which is meant to give snubbed players a final chance to be chosen for the 2022 NHL All-Star Game, with one additional player selected per division. While each of the five players on this list is sure to be in the running, are there any that I’ve missed that warrant praise for their performances this season? Let me know in the comments.

Honorable Mentions: Jake Guentzel, Pittsburgh Penguins; Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins, Mikko Rantanen, Colorado Avalanche; Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings; Artemi Panarin, New York Rangers

Data courtesy of Hockey Reference, MoneyPuck, and Natural Stat Trick. Statistics are accurate as of January 14th.

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