Sure, it’s just for fun. And the real all-stars are named at the end of the season. But for NHL hockey fans, voting for players to go to the all-star game is an exciting yearly ritual punctuated by scowling at certain names on the ballot and saying “Whaaattt? Him?”
According to the NHL, the hockey operations department puts together the final ballot in late October/early November, so why is Tampa Bay’s Dan Boyle an Eastern defenseman candidate (only played four games this year due to injury), but Pittsburgh’s Sergei Gonchar (leading all NHL blueliners in scoring) is not?
Likewise, the Chicago Blackhawks have been carried offensively by Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews (neither are on the ballot), while Martin Havlat has been injured for all but the first game of the year (and he’s on the ballot).
Before the season started, you would assume Patrick Marleau and Jonathan Cheechoo would be valuable members of the San Jose Sharks. You probably wouldn’t have predicted Jeremy Roenick would surpass both in all-star stock. But guess which two are on the ballot? And how much fun would this year’s all-star tilt have been with Roenick in the lineup?
Thanks to the “Vote for Rory” debacle last year, the NHL’s online form is much more strict and weighted against vote-in candidates, which is too bad for one group with a pretty legitimate cause: Vote for Volchie.
Ottawa Senators defenseman Anton Volchenkov has the double misfortune of not being an offensive rearguard and happening to play for a team with two other pretty good all-star candidate blueliners in Wade Redden and Chris Phillips.
But the hard-hitting, shot-blocking Volchenkov would bring something new and potentially revolutionary to the mid-season meeting: toughness over flair. Now, we don’t want to turn the all-star game into a defensive struggle, but something other than a 12-10 result would be nice.
And who knows? Maybe given the chance in a meaningless skills competition, Volchenkov could pull off some sort of Marek Malik shootout goal madness.
And while we’re on the topic, TSN’s James Duthie suggested turning the shootout into the slam-dunk competition of the NHL all-star game and I couldn’t agree more. But here’s the way you really freak ’em: You know how in baseball’s home run derby, they get the bullpen coach to be the pitcher? Instead of every shooter getting foiled by Niklas Backstrom or Marty Turco, get ex-goalies like Isles GM Garth Snow or TV analyst Glenn Healy to play net. The smack talking alone would be worth it.
Not a lot of names slip through the cracks here at THN (one reason being an office pool that covers nearly half the NHL), but who the heck is David Booth? Through the first month and a half of the season, the Florida Panthers sophomore winger had two points (both goals). In the past six games, he has six points and the Cats played .500 hockey in that span. The former Michigan State Spartan had 10 points in 48 games last season.