When the roster of the NHL All-Star Game is revealed, as much is made about who wasn’t selected as who was. When you have to have a representative from every team in the league, a deserving player is always left by the wayside.
With the decade coming to a close and the thought of All-Star snubs on the mind, let’s look back at some notable Tampa Bay Lightning players who have been left off the roster since 2010. As one of the more successful teams this decade, the Lightning have been on the receiving end of a number of snubs due to the sheer volume of players that could represent the team each season. Sure, this is a great problem to have, but it still creates some head-scratching scenarios.
2011: Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis
At the start of the decade, the NHL gave the fans far more responsibility than just voting in one player from each division. At the time, the league ran a massive All-Star poll that allowed fans to choose three forwards, two defensemen and a goaltender who would receive an automatic bid into the game before the rest of the selections were made a week or two later.
Since this system was basically a popularity contest, deserving players were often left out of the first round of selections. None were more noticeable than Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis in 2011. At the time Stamkos was second in points with 56 and St. Louis sat third with 50, but neither was considered a top-three forward by fans.
Even though they were eventually added to the roster by the NHL, these initial snubs led to some serious conversations about the legitimacy of having fans vote for the All-Star game. As Lauren Burg of Bleacher Report said at the time:
If fans voted for the BEST players and not just their favorite players, we might have a true All-Star game… The Tampa Bay Lightning have the other two top players in the NHL and yet they were completely snubbed.
This system of fan voting led to some, let’s call it fan trickery, so it was eventually abandoned by the league. However, it lasted long enough to create situations like this where top players were relegated to second place due to market size instead of skill.
2014: Ben Bishop
Is it still considered a snub if the All-Star Game never happened at all? While this may be the next great hypothetical question, Ben Bishop was on the receiving end of an Olympic sized snub in 2013-14. That season, Bishop was one of the top goaltenders in the NHL, leading a young Lightning squad to the playoffs and an eventually earning a Vezina nomination. Any other time, he would have been a shoo-in to receive the first All-Star nomination of his career.
However, due to the 2014 Winter Olympics, there was no All-Star Game that season. And while Bishop may have been, arguably, the top American goaltender in the NHL, he was still relatively unknown at the time, meaning that he was unable to play his way into an Olympic nomination either.
Despite being deserving of both an All-Star nomination and an Olympic nod, Bishop received neither. While he would eventually become an All-Star in 2016, there was a chance that one of the best goaltenders in Lightning history would exit the franchise without earning the honor of being named an All-Star.
2015: Nikita Kucherov And Ondrej Palat
Throughout the 2014-15 season, the Lightning were stunningly successful on the backs of what became known as the ‘Triplets;’ a dynamic forward line featuring Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov. For those who don’t remember how dominant that line was, by the end of the season, three of Tampa Bay’s top-four scorers were a Triplet.
Even with their domination of the NHL, only one of the Triplets was deemed an All-Star in 2015. Johnson and Stamkos rightfully received an invite to Columbus, Ohio to participate in the festivities, but both Kucherov and Palat were left out of the fun.
Since Palat plays a more defensive game, his omission wasn’t a big surprise at the time, even if you could have made a strong argument for him. Kucherov, however, was seen as a big miss by the NHL. As said by Tom Urtz JR. of Bleacher Report:
Nikita Kucherov is having a breakout campaign this season, and it is a travesty that he wasn’t named to the All-Star Game. He is 11th in the NHL in scoring with 17 goals and 41 points in 43 games, and he is a young player that the league should want to promote in a setting like this.
Fortunately, Kucherov gave the NHL many more opportunities to market his incredible play. Since getting snubbed in 2015 and 2016, he has received an invite to three-straight All-Star Games and is primed to get the nod many more times in the future.
2019: Brayden Point
Heading into the 2019 All-Star Game nominations, it seemed certain that the Lightning would suffer a serious snub given how many players were lighting up the scoreboard. Ultimately, Brayden Point drew the short straw and was left off the team despite being one of the best players on the Lightning and in the league.
Here are Point’s scoring numbers: Roughly 50 games into the season, he is one of only four players to score 30 goals, sits seventh in overall scoring with 65 points, and he is the only player to register both 30 goals and 30 assists so far. Yet, despite his resume, he is not considered a 2019 All-Star.
You can make the argument that being left off the roster will ultimately be a positive for Point, as he will be able to get a full week of rest instead of having to travel across the country to participate in a relatively meaningless event when you only have a Stanley Cup Championship on your mind. While this is true, it still doesn’t alleviate the fact that, with this body of work, he should have been an All-Star.
All-Star Snubs Will Continue for Lightning
Even if things have changed with how the NHL selects its All-Stars over the last decade, snubs will persist. In a league full of incredibly talented players, it’s impossible to get everyone the representation they deserve with such a limited roster.
For the Lightning, snubs are a sign of progress. The fact that they have multiple players each season deserving of the All-Star Game shows that the team is having great success on the ice and is a contender for the Stanley Cup. Hopefully, Point won’t be the last snub for the Bolts, because a snub means that the team is near the top of the league.