Were the Predators Cheated?

Were the Nashville Predators cheated when it came to the All-Star Game selections?

 

This is an ongoing discussion in all corners of Nashville’s hockey community since the NHL disclosed the All-Star rosters over the weekend.

 

Shea Weber and Pekka Rinne, who will play in the game itself, were obvious choices. Rookie Filip Forsberg was an obvious choice for the six-player pool of young-stars but, many Predators fans and observers say, should play in the game alongside his teammates. The argument doesn’t stop there. Roman Josi, Mike Ribeiro and James Neal are all on the list of Predators who are considered worthy of the all-star status.

 

This surely is overkill. Neal, for example, has 13 goals and 25 points in 36 games and has recently been on injured reserve. Ribeiro, with 38 points in 42 games including 29 assists, sets out something of a compelling case, but in both instances, there are only so many roster spots to go around for such players. Forsberg and Josi are the most obviously deserving Predators who were not honored.

 

Forsberg’s Case

 

Nashville Predators center Filip Forsberg (Photo Credit: Andy Martin Jr)
Nashville Predators center Filip Forsberg (Photo Credit: Andy Martin Jr)

 

Forsberg is perhaps the best player in the NHL right now who is not going to play in the all-star game itself, though he will participate in the weekend’s other events. He has 15 goals and 39 points and is a staggering plus 23 in goal differential. If Zemgus Girgensons can be an all-star, the obvious argument goes, Filip Forsberg is more than deserving. Girgensons has 11 goals and 20 points on a Buffalo team that is decidedly not very good.

 

Of course, Girgensons was chosen by a vote of the fans, somewhat controversially to some, while Forsberg was dependent on the NHL’s decision making. This does not relieve the NHL of responsibility. If anything, it probably increases it. If the NHL plans to open any all-star selection to the fans, it has to be prepared that strange phenomena, like Girgensons, could happen. That means the league ought to compensate for that somehow, perhaps by insuring that one of the league’s upcoming stars is showcased in its game of stars.

 

Josi’s Case

 

Roman Josi Predators
Roman Josi is paired with Shea Weber on Nashville’s first defensive unit, and the results have been excellent thus far. (Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports)

 

Josi, however, is a little bit of a sleeper story, and a more complicated one. The Swiss defenseman’s cause is not just one belonging to fans. Willie Daunic, the Predators radio voice, has campaigned on the radio and online for Josi’s inclusion on the all-star roster. And the case is pretty strong.

Josi, a second-round pick of Nashville’s in 2008, is shaping up to be a formidable complement to Shea Weber, a sort of sequel to Ryan Suter. As if to show off for the all-star scouts, Josi’s two-way skills have been on display prominently of late. He scored seconds into overtime at Los Angeles to defeat the Kings 7-6, and most spectacularly, he lead a short-handed rush with Weber against St. Louis that ended in a goal for the defensive duo.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1UmRGkZ8-rQ

 

He has 27 points, while Weber has 29, and is a plus 12, while Weber is a plus 16. A case could be made that Josi’s historic record, or basically his consistency, has not quite yet put him on the all-star map. His 40-point season last year was the first real indication of his assent. But on a pure smell test, is Josi better than the minus-15 Justin Faulk of Carolina? Is he better than Colorado’s Erik Johnson?

 

To be fair, the NHL doesn’t have an easy job. The league has to put together a team that isn’t, say, made up completely of centerman or defenseman, while also making the team representative of the entire league and offering enough to keep casual fans and TV viewers interested. In other words, it is impossible to placate everyone. But were the Predators truly wronged?

 

The answer is almost surely yes. By any educated viewer’s estimation, Forsberg should be playing in the game. He is not just a first-year sensation; he is a star in the making.

 

Josi is a tougher call. He has a lot of the things seemingly required of an all-star. But his main problem is he’s a defenseman, and by that very construct, has a lesser chance because there are fewer spots on defense. It’s a tough call, but one that might be more easily ingested if Forsberg were doing more than a skills competition.