Lots of players have played in All-Star Games over the years and while it’s a noteworthy achievement, the real all-stars in the NHL are the players who have been named first- or second-teamers after the season.
Well, we now know that the NHL was pretty concerned about John Scott playing in the All-Star Game. In a piece for The Players’ Tribune, Scott alleges that someone from the NHL called him and told him point-blank, “This game is not for you, John.” That person then alleged asked Scott, “Do you think this is something your kids would be proud of?”
Nice work. As if the league hadn’t made this enough of a debacle, Scott threw some pretty good gas on the fire there. He basically went on to say that was where he decided he was going to play in the game come hell or high water (insert joke about him being dispatched to Newfoundland to play in the minors here). “Because while I may not deserve to be an NHL all-star,” Scott went on to say, “I know I deserve to be the judge of what my kids will – and won’t – be proud of me for.”
Scott is right about the fact he doesn’t deserve to be an NHL all-star. And, in fact, he isn’t one. Neither is Zemgus Girgensons, Mike Komisarek, Brad Marsh, Donald Audette, Cristobal Huet or any number of other dubious choices who have played in the All-Star Game over the years. This business with Scott will blow over in a little while and he’ll be remembered as part of All-Star Game trivia – as well as the guy who prompted the NHL to change its voting format – and that’s all.
But he will not be remembered as an all-star. It’s been said before, but it bears repeating, particularly at this time of year. There is an important distinction to make when it comes to being an all-star. Just because a player participates in an All-Star Game does not give him the designation of being an all-star. That honor goes only to the 12 players each season who are named to the post-season all-star teams.
For example, Sidney Crosby has played in only one All-Star Game over the course of his career, but he’s actually a five-time all-star, having been named to the first all-star team three times and the second team twice. Alex Ovechkin had played in five All-Star Games before pulling out of this year’s festivities, but is actually a 10-time all-star, including 2012-13 when too many voters with the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association failed to notice that Ovechkin spent the entire season playing right wing and voted him a first-team right winger and a second-team left winger.
We point out the Crosby example because if you defined all-star by the All-Star Game, both Crosby and Scott would be considered one-time all-stars.
Truth be told, probably not enough is made of the year-end all-star designations. Because it actually is quite a large deal. It allows the league to honor players who might not have won an individual award with the designation of being one of the top two – top four if you’re a defenseman – at your position. In today’s game, that’s quite an accomplishment.
When the league was comprised of only six teams and each had roughly a 20-man roster, a full 10 percent of the league was named to the all-star teams each season. But with a 30-team league and 23-man rosters for each, only 12 of those 690 players end up being all-stars, which is just 1.74 percent.
To be named an all-star, either a first- or second-teamer, in today’s game is a distinction that clearly carries some weight to it. For Ovechkin and Mark Messier to be first-team all-stars at two different positions in their careers is nothing short of astounding.
Gordie Howe holds the record for post-season all-star selections with 21. He was a first-teamer at right wing 12 times and a second-teamer nine times. But for 18 of those selections, there were basically only 24 right wingers in the entire NHL. The year Ovechkin switched positions and was a first-team all-star at right wing, there were 120 of them.
To be named an all-star in the modern day game is a pretty big deal. To play in the All-Star Game, not so much. So don’t worry about John Scott being forever remembered as an all-star because playing in the game isn’t really that big an achievement. Now, Byron Dafoe being named a second-team all-star behind Dominik Hasek in 1998-99? That’s something to celebrate.