Sorry NHL but this rule that every team needs to be represented at the All-Star game just isn’t cutting it anymore. Last week the NHL announced the roster for this month’s All-Star game taking place in San Jose. Some notable names were left off, while a few head-scratchers were named as well. I’ve given credit to the NHL for trying to keep the All-Star game fresh by changing its format every so often. 20 years ago we had the World vs team North America. It was a nice concept that wasn’t just your basic East vs West game, not to mention there was some national pride added to the game. For a few years, we had this format, it was a good change and gave us a chance to see different players, mostly from the World team. From Jaromir Jagr and Peter Forsberg to Sergei Fedorov and Mats Sundin, these were combinations you wouldn’t see okay alongside one another if it was the standard East vs West format.
As the NHL changed back to its old format of East vs West in 2003, the league switched it up again in 2011, making it a more player friendly game. Watching the fantasy draft of all-star players being chosen and even poking fun at Phil Kessel who got picked last was entertaining to watch. More importantly, the players made the draft fun. In 2015 Phil Kessel and Tyler Seguin were traded during the fantasy draft which replicated the real trade both players were involved in 2009. The fantasy draft style All-Star game was popular and even the NBA and NFL followed the NHL doing them on fantasy draft in their respective league’s.
In 2016 the NHL decided to do something new, they wanted both divisions in each conference to play one another in one 20 minute periods. The winner would be a division from the Western Conference vs the winning Eastern Conference division. The next year the format was tweaked having the winning division in the skills competition get to choose their opponent and whether to play in the first or second semi-final game. It's a format that I don’t mind and is not the problem. There’s also something at stake. The winning team gets 1 million dollars combined which is roughly around 90,000 dollars per player. Not a bad amount for playing two periods of hockey.
The issue here though is that it’s mandatory to have a representative from each team. Why does it matter that a player from every team is there? Are there fans from each team going to watch a hometown player to root for? Yes, but it’s the All-Star game, the best face the best. It's not a game that has mediocre players that people don’t want to see. It hurts the credibility of the game and the league.
Jimmy Howard's name being announced for the All-Star game was a head-scratcher, even for Detroit fans. Why put somebody who shouldn’t be there over one the best players in the world. Not having Morgan Reilly in San Jose makes the league look somewhat foolish. Sure every year there are snubs, but Reilly is second in the league in points amongst defenceman this season, he's been the anchor for the Leafs and is an early Norris candidate. Jimmy Howard isn’t even the 4th best goalie in his division. Currently, he's 11-10-5 with a GAA north of 2.75. In 2012 Howard was 24-10-1 with a save percentage of .924 and four shutouts heading in his first All-Star game. That’s a cry of what he’s posting this season.
If anyone were to rep the Red Winds, it should have been Larkin. At least he's averaging close to a point a game, and on pace for a career year. However, compared to Morgan Reilly and Mitch Marner, Detroit shouldn’t have anyone at the All-Star game. Both players are way more deserving than any Red Wing players. Other questionable choices like Keller over Draisaitl, or Price over Vasilevskiy (or even Freddy Andersen) drives home the point even further that the right players are being picked. Bad teams shouldn't be represented, because people want to see good players from good teams.
Mitch Marner was the biggest snub of them all this year, and it's all due to the format. Marner is tied for fourth in assists is sixth in points, every player ahead of him in both categories got selected to the All-Star game. Marner has been one of the premier players in the league this season and him being snubbed just makes no sense. The NHL is not picking the best of the best to go to San Jose.
The NHL needs to let the fans pick the entire All-Star lineup, not just the captains and fillers. Sure, there have been times the fans have gone too far, John Scott in 2016 or Zegmus Girgensons the year prior who shouldn’t have gotten the all-star nod, but other than a few hiccups the fans will put out the best lineup in each of the four teams. That’s what the All-Star game is about, the fans. Sure the All-Star game isn’t supposed to be taken too seriously but it's also a game where we should see the best showcase their skills.