Tuesday, November 14, 2006

All-Stars, Get Your All-Stars!

Too often in the NHL, and in most professional sports for that matter, the all-star game is comprised of players that don't necessarily deserve to be on the ballot, let alone in the game. Sure, it's an exhibition game and it's all for the fans, blah blah blah...but you can't tell me that players aren't honored to be selected and they certainly play hard when they get there. This is a chance to play with the greatest players of the day, a chance to get some bragging rights, and yes, a chance for a little extra cash. So why shouldn't it actually be a game for those who have earned the playing time?

This year 100 players were selected and will be submitted to hockey fans everywhere tomorrow, who will then vote online for the starting lineup of this year's all-star game. After finally finding the list, I've had a chance to look it over and I have to say, this year it looks like the NHL got it right.


I've crunched the numbers, checked the stats, watched the tapes...okay, not really, but I did run those stat report thingys on NHL.com...there were some new faces, some old favorites, and a few surprises good and bad, mostly good. I've picked out a select few who make my list in each category - I've even set aside my biases, of which there are many. So - agree or disagree? Let me hear it!

Deserving Nominees (New):
- Alex Ovechkin - obviously deserving. Please. Moving on...
- Scott Hannan - a very solid defenseman who has done a great job on a young team (incidentally headed by our old skipper, Ron Wilson). It's good to see this kind of player get recognized.
- Sidney Crosby/Evgeni Malkin - okay, this one is a bit painful. Actually it's really painful. But I have to admit it - as a hockey fan, I have to say they're truly among the elite right now.
- Maxim Afinogenov - one of the most exciting players when he has the puck. He has amazing hands and tremendous patience - you just never know what he's going to do.

Deserving Nominees (Old):
- Nicklas Lidstrom - still one of the best defensemen in the league at 36 years old, the current Norris Trophy winner is a shoo-in almost every year.
- Martin Brodeur - another 'duh' entry, just an absolutely incredible goaltender who continues to break records...and all with the same team. I'm just amazed he doesn't get lulled to sleep watching the Devils play every night.
- Jarome Iginla - probably one of my favorite players in the entire league not wearing a Caps jersey and one of the great power forwards around today.
- Joe Sakic - my other favorite non-Cap, Sakic is an almost assured hall of famer and has written his name in the history books over and over again, all while being one of the classiest players in the NHL.

Surprises (Good):
- Olie Kolzig - we here in DC know how good Olie is and what he brings to the table each night, but I love that the league is taking notice as well. Zilla rules!
- Sheldon Souray - I think his offensive output to start the season has surprised him more than anyone else, but his defense hasn't suffered and it's nice to see him get his first nomination for the All-Star game.
- Michael Nylander - I still love him from when he played in DC, so even if he has to play for the Evil Empire it makes me happy that he's doing so well.
- Manny Fernandez - one of the more underrated goaltenders in the NHL and a big reason for the sudden emergence of the Wild as a team to be reckoned with
- Brendan Morrow - the new captain of the Dallas Stars deserves all the accolades he can get, as Dallas has kicked off the season with their best start in franchise history. Very impressive.

Surprises (What were they smoking?):
- Henrik Lundqvist - I'm sorry, I love Lundqvist but his play this year has not really merited a place on this list. On a team as good as the Rangers have been, a 3.35 GAA, .888 save % and one game over .500 just isn't enough to convince me.
- Chris Phillips/Wade Redden - this pair played for one of the stingiest defenses with the highest +/- last year, but a combined +5 and 6 points between them is just not what they're capable of.
- Peter Forsberg/Simon Gagne - I get that Philly is having problems and every team needs representation on the ballot, but these goal-scorers have 5 and 8 goals respectively and are a combined -17. Ouch.
- Nikolai Khabibulin - the "Bulin Wall" just hasn't been the same since winning the cup. He's only played 6 games and his GAA is a scary 3.36; how Vesa Toskala (9 wins, 2.16GAA, .927 save %) was overlooked for this guy is beyond me.
- Henrik Zetterberg - he's supposed to be a sniper and has proven he can be in the past, but his numbers just don't show it this year - 5 goals and 2 assists through 16 games isn't exactly sparkling.
- Doug Weight - just because he's an old favorite and a recent Stanley Cup Champ doesn't mean he gets an automatic spot on the All-Star roster. Doug has 9 assists but has yet to score a goal...

And there you have it - remember, vote early, vote often, and for the love of god don't vote for Jagr.

Well, maybe I still have some bias.

No comments: