The All-Star Game is in Ottawa this weekend and the best and brightest the game has to offer will be headed to Canada’s capital. Well, for the most part. While the goal is to have a player from each team at the All-Star Game each year there are two teams, the New Jersey Devils and Winnipeg Jets, that will be without representation this weekend. The Devils have three players with 40 points or more, yet the only two players picked were rookies Adam Henrique and Adam Larsson, both of whom had to be replaced recently due to injures, and the Jets only had defenseman Dustin Byfuglien selected, but he has been out since the end of December with a knee injury.
With only 42 spots available for the game, it’s impossible to get every player having a good season in the game, but you’d think there would be a way to get all 30 teams represented. Jonathan Toews and Alex Ovechkin pulled out recently due to injury and suspension/disinterest respectively and were replaced by Scott Hartnell and James Neal. Hartnell is having a terrific year, he’s only five goals off his career high with 34 games remaining, but his addition means there are now five Flyers headed to Ottawa, more than any other team, save for the Sens.
Half of the teams only have one player in the All-Star Game. Actually, three teams only have a rookie going, so there are five fanbases who will not see a player of their in the actual game. Granted, the game is a half-hearted contest at best, but it is still nice to be selected. That there was no room for a Devil or Jet is a little bewildering. Patrik Elias, 16th in the NHL with 46 points and on pace for 80 points for just the third time in his career at age 35, is the highest scoring player not to be selected to go. Though Elias is a very quiet player who, in all honesty, probably doesn’t mind not going, he’ll be spending the weekend in Florida with Petr Sykora and Dainius Zubrus, he truly deserved to be in the game for the fourth time.
But even if he is not going to go, was there really no room for a Devil? Ilya Kovalchuk has finally settled in New Jersey and while he is no longer going one of the top offensive threats in the league, his 19 goals and 40 points are right near that of Alex Ovechkin (20-19-39) who was selected to the game originally. It’s a little tougher with the Jets whose best player, Evander Kane, is now out with a concussion, but surely defenseman Tobias Enstrom merited an invitation. Yes, he’s only played 30 games, but he’s tied for 16 among defensemen with 0.5 assists per game and his even plus-minus rating is pretty good considering the Jets are a minus-13 as a whole. Anybody who watches the Jets knows just how good he is
The truth of the matter is though, you can easily go through every team and find at least one player deserving to go. The Boston Bruins, sending three players already, could easily double that number. The same could be said for the Detroit Red Wings, Dallas Stars and Florida Panthers. Unfortunately it’s not the fairest process; it never will be. There are just too many players to get everyone deserving of an invitation to go. It’s as much about name, if not more so, as it is about numbers. How else could you explain Sidney Crosby being on the ballot before even suiting up this season. He actually finished sixth in fan voting among forwards despite only playing eight games.
For those who feel their favorite player or team was left out, don’t fret. Enjoy the weekend, watch the amazing players that were chosen to go and be glad your team is getting an extra rest for the stretch run. With quite a few teams very close in the standings, only 10 points separate the tenth place Jets and third place Capitals in the Eastern Conference and the Coyotes, currently in 12 place with 52 points, are just three points out of eighth in the Western Conference. The All-Star Game is a fun spectacle, but it’s the playoff run that really matters.