Amidst all the pondering of how Scott Arniel still has a job, the NHL released the 2012 All-Star Game ballot. The ballot is the usual mix of fan-favorites, early-season surprises, and players who have no business being on the ballot based on their play so far this season (I’m looking at you Eric Staal).
The NHL always tries to make the All-Star ballot fair and magnanimous for every team and this year is no exception. There are at least three players from every NHL team on the ballot, even teams that are mired in the basement of the NHL standings. There are currently five teams with 13 points or fewer at this point in their season. Let’s take a look at their prospective all-stars.
Carolina Hurricanes: Jeff Skinner, Eric Staal, Cam Ward
One player who makes it: Jeff Skinner
Jeff Skinner is a no-brainer. Hockey Bieber has 14 points in 16 games, leading the Hurricanes in scoring by 5 points. Cam Ward and Eric Staal, on the other hand, seem to be on the ballot based more on their names than their current accomplishments. Staal boasts a league-worst minus-16 plus/minus rating and has only 5 points in 16 games. Ward is carrying a pedestrian .909 save percentage and a goals against average of 3.04.
That said, they are certainly not the only players riding name recognition rather than current production. Sidney Crosby, after all, is on the ballot, and perpetual all-star Roberto Luongo has stats much worse than Cam Ward. It just might be nice to see someone like the underrated Jussi Jokinen, second on the Hurricanes in points with 9 in 13 games, get a chance on the ballot instead.
Winnipeg Jets: Dustin Byfuglien, Tobias Enstrom, Andrew Ladd
One player who makes it: Dustin Byfuglien
Dustin Byfuglien is the closest thing the Jets have to a marquee star and Tobias Enstrom is a fantastic defencemen who the Jets will dearly miss while he’s out with a broken collarbone, but Andrew Ladd? I understand he’s the captain of the Jets, but he only has 6 points in 16 games this season and doesn’t have the history to justify an automatic inclusion on the ballot.
I know the Jets are short on stars, but there are better options. How about Nik Antropov, currently leading the Jets in scoring with 12 points in 14 games. What about Alexander Burmistrov the twenty-year-old Russian wunderkind who’s third on the team in scoring and whose puck control would be marvelous to watch in an all-star game? Heck, why not Evander Kane as a reward for punching out Matt Cooke?
Calgary Flames: Jarome Iginla, Mikka Kiprusoff, Jay Bouwmeester
One player who makes it: Jarome Iginla
Wait, seriously? Jay Bouwmeester? The guy went from scoring 40+ points in Florida to scoring 20+ points in Calgary and he gets on the all-star ballot? I mean, surely the Flames have some better players that could be on the ballot instead. Pardon, what’s that? They don’t?
New York Islanders: Mark Streit, John Tavares, Michael Grabner
One player who makes it: John Tavares
Not much to complain about here. Mark Streit is a superb hockey player and has scored 10 points in 13 games to start the season, putting him in the top-20 in scoring from defencemen. John Tavares is leading the Islanders in scoring with 13 points, including 8 goals. The only player you could question is Michael Grabner, since he has only 6 points, but with goals in back-to-back games to end the week, he’s once again on pace for a 30+ goal season.
If you were to replace Grabner, P.A. Parenteau would be the obvious choice, as he’s currently second on the team in scoring with 12 points. An outside-the-box choice, however, would be Al Montoya, who by all accounts should be the starting goaltender on Long Island.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Rick Nash, Jeff Carter, R.J. Umberger
One player who makes it: Rick Nash
Rick Nash and Jeff Carter are the two marquee names on the Blue Jackets roster. While Carter has only 3 points this season thanks to an injury limiting him to 5 games thus far, Nash has scored 12 points in 15 games, continuing to produce while his team struggles. The odd choice is R.J. Umberger, who has just 5 points in 15 games. Did Rick Perry put this ballot together?
Meanwhile, Vinny Prospal has scored 13 points in 15 games, leading the Blue Jackets. What does he have to do to get on the ballot? Is Prospal the Ron Paul of the NHL?