Bottoms Up is a weekly feature on Backhand Shelf that admits that sometimes the underdog doesn’t win: sometimes they just lose and lose and lose some more. In this edition, we look at their representatives at the NHL All-Star Game.
The stars of the NHL descended on Ottawa for the NHL All-Star Weekend on Thursday, with the festivities kicking off in earnest later today with the Skills Competition. Every year, representatives from all 30 teams take part in the highly anticipated contest, competing to be the fastest skater, the hardest and most accurate shooter, the most creative on the breakaway, and the best relay-er. Okay, that last one doesn’t really work.
This year, not all 30 teams are represented, and while you might expect that the league’s worst teams might be lacking in All-Star representation, the two teams without a single player participating in the All-Star Weekend are both in playoff contention. Neither the Winnipeg Jets nor the New Jersey Devils are represented, though both had players invited who could not attend due to injury.
Many players were unable to attend due to injury (or vacation plans), but no players were invited from the Jets and Devils to replace them. But all the teams in the basement of the league are represented, so lets take a look at which players are having All-Star seasons for the worst teams in the NHL.
The bottom six teams each have one representative; two of them are only represented by a rookie, as are the Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild.
Carolina Hurricanes: Justin Faulk (rookie)
The 19-year-old Faulk is the Dan Girardi of the rookie All-Stars, as he is currently leading all rookies in time on ice per game, averaging 22:28, which puts him second on the Hurricanes. He has 11 points in 35 games, tying him for 6th among rookie defencemen. Faulk will be competing in the hardest shot competition for Team Alfredsson.
Buffalo Sabres: Jason Pominville
A new addition to Bottoms Up, the Sabres are represented by their leading scorer, Jason Pominville. He’s experiencing his best season offensively since the 2007-08 season when he scored 80 points and currently has 47 points in 49 games and is 14th in the league in scoring and 7th in the league in powerplay points.
The Sabres’ captain will be putting his superb wrist shot to work as a target shooter in the relay for Team Alfredsson.
New York Islanders: John Tavares
Despite his team’s struggles, Tavares is having a career year, scoring 49 points in 48 games, and is currently 12th in the league in scoring. He recently went on an incredible 12-game point streak, scoring 21 points in those 12 games, showing that he’s a fan of palindromes.
Ignore anyone who claims differently: Tavares is fantastic. He will be participating in three events for Team Alfredsson: the Breakaway Challenge, one-timers for the relay, and the Elimination Shootout,
Anaheim Ducks: Corey Perry
It could be argued that Perry was named to the All-Star Game solely for last season rather than this one, but he is on pace for 37 goals and is second on the Ducks in scoring behind Teemu Selanne, who understandably declined his All-Star Game invitation. Still, this season has to be a disappointment after last year’s 50-goal, 98-point career-high.
With that said, 47 of his points last season came after the All-Star break; if he repeats that feat, Perry could finish at better than a point-per-game with 86 points. He will be facing Tavares in the Breakaway Challenge and Elimination Shootout for Team Chara.
Edmonton Oilers: Jordan Eberle
With Ryan Nugent-Hopkins unavailable due to injury, the equally deserving Eberle skates in his stead. Eberle leads the Oilers in scoring with 45 points in 45 games, already besting his rookie totals.
He was selected to last year’s All-Star rookie team, but was unable to participate due to an ankle injury. He likely could have had an ankle injury this year and still participated, as he is set to just be a passer for the accuracy competition and relay for Team Chara.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Ryan Johansen (rookie)
Very few things are going right in Columbus this season, but Johansen is putting together a respectable rookie year. The 19-year-old has 17 points in 42 games, good for 10th in rookie scoring. Most impressively, he’s leading the Blue Jackets in plus/minus with a plus-5 rating. Considering the number of goals Columbus has given up, that’s pretty impressive.
He also leads the team in gamewinning goals, but given the number of games they’ve won, it’s a small sample size.
Johansen will be the rookie representative for Team Chara in the Breakaway Challenge.