How Can Five Flyers make the All-Star Team?
That being said, I'll make it easy on them.
Here is a list of should be All-Stars, broken down by team, with the exception of the final spot, which I explain at the end. Each team list includes the rookies who are also being selected.
We'll see how close I come in a few hours:
FLYERS - (4) Claude Giroux, Kimmo Timonen, Matt Read, Sean Couturier - Giroux is a no-brainer. Timonen might not be having his best defensive season, but you can't argue with his offensive numbers where his 25 points have him tied for seventh-best in the NHL among defensemen. Read is another no-brainer as he is tied for the rookie lead in goal scoring but Couturier is also deserving. Consider: Among rookies he's 12th in scoring, third in plus-minus, fourth in faceoffs among centers, and all this from a fourth line/penalty killing role. Imagine what he'd be if he got more than 12 minutes ice time per game.
New York Rangers - (2) Henrik Lundqvist, Michael Del Zotto - The $51 million dollar goalie might be in Philly, but the "money" net minder plays in New York. Del Zotto has had a really nice bounce back season after a sophomore slump. Some will argue that Dan Girardi is a better choice because he's a veteran and a better defensive defenseman, but as steady as he is, Del Zotto has stuck out more this season. Where's Marian Gaborik? He's in that conversation at the end.
New Jersey Devils - (2) Adam Larsson, Adam Henrique - The two Devils rookies have been outstanding and are a big reason why they are poised to return to the playoffs this season. They will both count among the dozen rookies in the All-Star festivities as Devils stars like Patrik Elias, Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise have been sub-par so far this season.
Pittsburgh Penguins - (1) Evgeni Malkin - If they were healthy, they'd be a Stanley Cup contender. They are ravaged by injury, it's starting to look like they'll miss the playoffs, and as a result, just Geno, their best player this season, gets the All-Star nod. Narc-Andre Fleury was close, but just missed the top six among goalies.
New York Islanders - (1) John Tavares - For a team that no one cares about - not even the NHL - Tavares is having a nice season. 39 points through 41 games is pretty good. It just gets lost because the Islanders are so bad.
Boston Bruins - (2) Tim Thomas, Zdeno Chara - Thomas was voted a starter and Chara is a perennial All-Star. The more interesting items are the names not listed. Tlyer Seguin? Patrice Bergeron? We'll get to Seguin later, but Bergeron, a should be Selke finalist, loses out because it's an All-Star game. Nobody wants to see excellent defensive forwards!! I'd take Bergeron on my real team any day. Just not the All-Star team.
Ottawa Senators - (5) Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, Milan Michalek, Erik Karlsson, Colin Greening - Yes, the host city will have a handful of hometowners to root for. Not that they all deserve to be there. Alfredsson, Spezza, Michalek and Karlsson were all voted in by fans despite only Spezza and Karlsson deserving of being there. Greening is deserving as a rookie and will round out the five-spot of Sens.
Toronto Maple Leafs - (3) Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul, Dion Phaneuf - This was an easy team. Phaneuf was voted in. Kessel and Lupul are the highest scoring line mates in the NHL. No one else from the team was even in the conversation.
Buffalo Sabres - (2) Jason Pominville, Thomas Vanek - One of them will be there for sure, as each team needs one representative, but I think both belong. Pominville is top 10 in the NHL in scoring with 43 points (only five less than Giroux, who we're talking about as a Hart finalist)so to leave him off would be a crime. As for Vanek, he was my next-to-last forward I picked. But the rationale is, it's hard to argue 40 points and a plus-player on a non-playoff team.
Montreal Canadiens - (1) Raphael Diaz - What, no Carey Price? He's been good behind a bad team, but there are other decent goalies on bad teams and they're not in the All Star game. Quite simply, there were six more deserving options than Price. Not that anyone else on that roster deserved to go either. At least Diaz is a rookie defenseman that has shown some promise, so there you go.
Florida Panthers - (1) Brian Campbell - One of the surprise teams of the NHL this season, yet I am only awarding one spot. Campbell has had a resurgence in Florida after being an albatross in Chicago. Kris Versteeg has to be in the conversation - and is for the final pick - but no one else stood out on the team.
Winnipeg Jets - (1) Evander Kane - Again, each team has to have one player, and while Kane isn't even the leading scorer on his own team (that would be Blake Wheeler) he is the rising star on the Jets and will represent Winnipeg well.
Washington Capitals - (1) Nicklas Backstrom - An All-Star game and no Sid or Ovie? That's right. Ovechkin has been a major disappointment through the first half of the season, as have the rest of the Caps. Backstrom has been their best player, and since each team needs to be represented - he's the choice.
Tampa Bay Lightning - (1) Steven Stamkos - Talk about disappointing teams. The Lightning were one goal away form the Stanley Cup Finals last Spring and now won't make the playoffs. Crazy. Stamkos is still pretty darn good though.
Carolina Hurricanes - (1) Justin Faulk - This team was the least deserving of any All-Stars. There isn't one player, veteran or rookie, who should be there. But, it's less egregious to put a rookie who is improving through hard work on the team then a vet that doesn't deserve to be there. So Faulk gets the nod.
Chicago Blackhawks - (3) Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp - The most exciting team in hockey gets three excellent offensive players into the game (and maybe a fourth as Patrick Kane is in the conversation for the final spot). Sharp may not be able to play because of injury, but deserves to be selected regardless. Hossa and Toews are having monster seasons. Where's Duncan Keith? I ran out of room on defense, but he's my first alternate if there's an injury.
Detroit Red Wings - (3) Jimmy Howard, Nicklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk - Like Toronto, this was an easy trio. Howard is a likely Vezina finalist while the other two are grat players who deserve to be in this game every season.
St. Louis Blues - (1) Kevin Shattenkirk - As great as this team has been under Ken Hitchcock, there wasn't one standout player that screamed All-Star. Shattenkirk was the best choice because of his two way ability as a defenseman, scoring a good amount of points while being sound defensively. Brian Elliott would be a fun story, as good as he's been this season and heading back to Ottawa where he failed as a starting goalie, but I'm not giving an All-Star nod to a guy who has only started half of his team's games.
Nashville Predators - (3) Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, Craig Smith - It'll be fun to just fuel the trade speculation fire with these two defenseman at All-Star weekend. Make no mistake, they are both among the best in the game, but Nashville may have to trade one within a month of the All-Star game. Smith has been one of the best rookies in the NHL this season, and belongs among the top 12.
Columbus Blue Jackets - (1) Ryan Johansen - What a foul, fetid, awful mess this organization is. Johansen, a rookie, has been their one bright spot on an otherwise disaster of a season. It'll be like a vacation for the kid to go to Ottawa and see what real hockey looks like.
Vancouver Canucks - (4) Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, Alexander Edler, Cody Hodgson - Once again the Sedins find themselves at the top of the scoring race in the NHL and will be All-Stars again - maybe on the same team this time. Edler is not a popular choice for All-Star defensemen, but he's been the best on one of the league's best teams, so how can you ignore him? Hodgson is a talented rookie who is only adding to the great depth of the Canucks.
Colorado Avalanche - (1) Gabriel Landeskog - The Avs have been playing really good hockey lately, but without one standout star. Landeskog got off to a slow start to his rookie campaign, but has been much better the last month or so. He's only 19, so I expect the improvement to continue beyond that, which makes him one of the best dozen rooks in my book.
Minnesota Wild - (1) Niklas Backstrom - As great a start as the Wild got off to this season, it's amazing they only have one All-Star. But, when you lose 10 in a row, this is what happens. Backstrom has still been solid despite the team's collapse, and not to mention, it'll be fun at the fantasy draft determining between him and the Washington Center with the same name.
Calgary Flames - (1) Jarome Iginla - Like there's anyone else from that team who should be considered for an All-Star Game.
Edmonton Oilers - (2) Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Eberle has been a breakout star this season to get into the top 10 in the NHL in scoring at the halfway point. Nugent-Hopkins, the No. 1 pick in the draft last summer, has not disappointed and is the leading scorer among rookies in the NHL.
San Jose Sharks - (1) Dan Boyle - With all the talent on this team, to only have one representative is indicative of how slow their start was. It came down to Boyle and fellow defenseman Brent Burns for me and I think Boyle has more cache in the league, which was the difference in the tossup. Burns could be a deserving injury replacement though.
Los Angeles Kings - (1) Jonathan Quick - If your team can't score, yet you are still in second place and clinging to a playoff spot, it has to be because of one guy. You're goalie. Quick has been excellent.
Dallas Stars - (1) Jamie Benn - What a great story Bennn has been for the Stars to become one of the better power forwards in the NHL. Credit him for his continued hard work to get where he is, deserving of a trip to Ottawa.
Phoenix Coyotes - (1) Mike Smith - Talk about crimes, if he's not an All-Star after the way he's carried the Coyotes this year, it's larceny. When they lost Ilya Bryzgalov, many thought the Coyotes were dead in the water. Smith has kept them afloat.
Anaheim Ducks - (1) Teemu Selanne - It's his last season. He's retiring. He's a surefire hall of famer playing out the string on a dreadful team. Yet, he leads the team in scoring at age 41 with 41 points and is a plus player. Gotta admire his commitment to the sport.
As for the final spot. There are 10 forwards in the conversation. A few of these guys may eventually end up on the roster because of injury concerns, but it comes down to one of the following:
Tyler Seguin, James Neal, Patrick Kane, Loui Eriksson, Marian Gaborik, Scott Hartnell, Kris Versteeg, Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk and Patrik Elias.
When doing my process of elimination, I immediately wiped out the three Devils because although they've ben hot lately, they weren't consistently good all season.
Likewise, I eliminated Versteeg, who started off on fire, but has slowed down a bit since.
I wiped out James Neal and Marian Gaborik for basically the same reason - somebody has to score goals on low-scoring teams, and they happen to be the guys, but they're not giving you much else besides the scoring threat.
So in the end it came down to Seguin, Hartnell and Eriksson to me.
I probably eliminated Eriksson because I don't get to see him enough. And if that was the determining factor, then shame on me, but I couldn't get away from the seasons Seguin and Hartnell were having.
Hartnell is the best power forward in the NHL this season. He creates so much havoc and also is putting up career-best offense. But I'm not sure he should go ahead of Seguin, a young superstar in the making.
Seguin has added a dynamic to the Stanley Cup champion Bruins that no one ever saw coming so soon. He is legit and should be celebrated for what he's doing as a 20-year-old in the NHL.
So give the nod to Seguin, and Hartnell just misses. But as soon as someone backs out with injury, Hartnell is the guy to go, hands down.