It’s the NHL All-Star Game season and the NHL is…something else. While the Miami Vice style that will go down in South Florida is sure to bring in merch sales, the selection of the all-stars is definitely a choice that’s been made.
Before going any further, this is my yearly reminder that the All-Star Game in any sport is an antiquated idea. In the age of cable/streaming/internet– the ASG is not needed for people to see the top players in the leagues. This weekend is one that many players would want to skip, which is why the NHL gives suspensions out to players who don’t go and are not proven to be injured at the time. I get that this is a key to the NHL marketing, but at the same time– you could hold a Comic-Con-esque event where the players just have to show up and sign autographs and flip the format to a Young Stars game so people can see a game and interact more with their favorite players– without the older star players making up an injury not to go and putting the younger generation on display.
Back to the matters at hand then– the NHL has selected 32 all-stars already, one from each team and now leave it up to the fans to vote-in the rest of the players. This is a format that is tried and true and has not backfired twice on the NHL which almost saw Rory Fitzpatrick get into the 2007 All Star Game and saw John Scott win All-Star MVP in 2016 in a feel-great moment for the league…that the league tried so hard to sabotage. Let’s not forget host fans stuffing the ballot boxes, too. Those instances, meme oriented or otherwise, shows that fans want a reason to watch the game that otherwise may not be given to them. There’s no incentive to the games, aside from giving millionaires more money and a vehicle to the MVP. Plus, as stated earlier– if the NHL has to strong-arm the players into going to the event; almost makes you think the players aren’t jazzed about playing shiny hockey when they could be at home resting with family.
Regardless of all that– who’s going to be the random folk-hero the internet gets behind to take the crown of “meh” All-Star. Looking at the rosters, the chosen players in the Atlantic and Metro divisions are all forwards– less the one goalie already picked; so defense is on the menu there. The Central has all three of their defense already picked out, with the Pacific only having one defenseman. Then, of course, you have four goalie roles to fill out. So, let’s go down the list of who I think should get in, fan vote or otherwise:
ATLANTIC: Filip Hronek, Detroit: The rebound Hronek has made defensively on the Red Wings is stellar. He’s on the path to a career year, he’s been stellar on the power play, and he’s a key part in this Detroit rebuild. Give him some open ice and he’ll shine out there for the winged wheel group.
METRO: Vitek Vanecek, New Jersey: The Seattle Kraken legend has gotten a boost in New Jersey this year. With 15 wins already, he’s helped the Devils go from lottery picks to playoff possibilities. It would only make sense to give the Devil his due as the back-up and create a Hudson River tandem in net.
CENTRAL: Jordan Kyrou, St. Louis: Leading the Blues in goals and points, it’s wild that he didn’t get the nod outright. He used last year’s postseason as a jumping off point and hasn’t slowed much since. Adding him to the other young stars on that Central squad and it’ll be a skills showcase in this one for them.
PACIFIC: Tyler Myers, Vancouver: A former Calder Trophy winner, Myers is still logging over 20 minutes a game for a Canucks team who has a major identity crisis going on. Not bad for a guy in his 14th season in the league. Only Quinn Hughes is logging more ice time on the blue line. Plus/minus is a meaningless stat, but only he and Luke Schenn are pluses on the Canucks defense. Let the big man eat in South Florida.