The NHL All-Star Games rosters were officially announced on Wednesday, and they are, yet again, nearly identical to last year’s rosters… and the rosters before that.
While the Skills Competition is still fantastic, almost no one looks forward to the All-Star Games anymore. It’s worth watching the Skills Competition for the craziness and for players’ true skills, especially when they set new records (Dylan Larkin’s speed record still impresses me) or they make the goalies score through a tiny slit. Players from different teams work together on the relays and their players’ personalities shine through in the shoot-out.
But the Games are pointless and ridiculous. They showcase the same players year after year performing at barely a third of their effort and talent in a game that doesn’t count for anything. It’s just not entertaining or worth watching. 2019 will be the eighth year for Patrick Kane and the seventh year for Carey Price. It will be the sixth year for a list of players including Stephen Stamkos, John Tavares, and Brent Burns. It would have been Alex Ovechkin’s eighth year, too, had he not backed out of them. There are only ten total players going to the Games for their first time this year, two or three from each division.
Sure, these repeat players are amazing athletes, entertaining to watch, and fan favorites, but they are not the only amazing, entertaining, fan-favorite players in the League. The NHL organizes a survey with only three to six players per team for fans to choose from. Yes, fans can write in a name, but how many people actually bother to go through that effort when the NHL already lists the obvious players for them? Then the same teams see multiple players invited each year while the same teams only see one player invited each year. For example, John Tavares was the only player chosen as an Islanders All-Star for years until Josh Bailey was finally recognized – with Tavares – last year.
Of course, this year Mat Barzal was invited from the Islanders, and he is definitely deserving of it. Who had any doubts about that? He won the Calder Cup last year, and he’s among the team’s points leaders. Not to mention, he’s young and a hot name around the League. When non-Islanders fans think about the Islanders, they think about Barzal. He’s winning at the popularity contest in the League, so to the All-Star Games he goes.
Barzal does not, however, lead the team in points; he’s only recently been on a scoring streak. Anders Lee still leads the team in points. Our brand-new captain has deserved an All-Star spot for years. Matt Martin has been among the best fourth-line forwards in the League for years. And what about Casey Cizikas? He not only broke his career-high record for goals in the first half of the season, but he is the core player of the Islanders penalty kill and a truly unrecognized MVP year after year. Apparently, that’s not enough, though. Then Robin Lehner? He has some of the best goalie stats in the League recently. Why pick Lundquist, who has appeared in four All-Star Games already and is have a so-so season, instead of Lehner, who has appeared in none? Lehner, of all people, who is an All-Star off the ice, too, with his powerful message over the summer regarding his alcoholism and bipolar disorder.
And so what Ovechkin backed out of All-Star Weekend? He is getting older and stiffer, like he said. He’s made seven All-Star appearances already. Doesn’t the Washington fanbase want any other players to represent their team? Washington is one of the few teams with two players attending the Games. One of them didn’t want to go – well, he was quickly replaced by someone else on Washington.
Obviously, all the Islanders I mentioned, and the others who are deserving, can’t go to the Games. The system of one or two players per team is fair. It would be so much more enjoyable though, if different players actually attended year to year instead of only the most popular players around the League.
All-Star Weekend is supposed to be a pat on the back for the players. It is supposed to be a proud moment for players and a fun weekend for fans. It is supposed to be a step back from the regular season to remember to enjoy the sport and reward the players who are truly excelling each season. Different players during different seasons. Instead of the obvious players year after year, can there be some more diversity, please? More than just the same handful of players in each division are deserving of the title All-Star and a weekend of plain fun.
Featured Image: NHL.com