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Picking an All-Star Team, Especially this Year, Isn’t Easy but, Hell, I’ll Do it Again Anyway

It’s never a cinch to select the rosters for an All-Star game in any sport and, with a bizarre “fantasy draft” format for this year’s NHL midseason showcase and the game’s first six participants already selected via fan balloting, filling out this season’s All-Star pool of 42 has some added challenge to it, to say the least.

For starters, dividing things by conference is no longer a provision, as the remaining 36 All-Stars named today will go into said pool along with the elected top-six for a field of 42. With that in mind, and factoring in at least one representative for every member club, there will be notable omissions, no matter how this list is put together, or by whom.

Nevertheless, always one to face a challenge head-on, in keeping with my annual tradition (whether an All-Star game has been played or not), I’ve put together my own list of mid-season honorees, complete with a set of 12 rookies to be featured in the skills competition at All-Star Weekend, as the NHL Hockey Operations department will do later today.

(For clarity’s sake, I’ve already accounted for the fan selections.)

Deep breaths, everyone. Here goes nothing, with a few explanations afterwards…

JJ’s 2010-11 NHL All-Stars
Forwards (24)
Jarome Iginla, Calgary
Eric Staal, Carolina
Jonathan Toews, Chicago
Matt Duchene, Colorado
Rick Nash, Columbus
Loui Eriksson, Dallas
Brad Richards, Dallas
Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit
Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles
Mikko Koivu, Minnesota
Patrik Elias, New Jersey
John Tavares, NYIslanders
Mike Richards, Philadelphia
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh
Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh
Ryan Clowe, San Jose
David Backes, St. Louis
Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay
Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay
Mikhail Grabovski, Toronto
Ryan Kesler, Vancouver
Daniel Sedin, Vancouver
Henrik Sedin, Vancouver
Alex Ovechkin, Washington

Defensemen (12)
Dustin Byfuglien, Atlanta
Tobias Enstrom, Atlanta
Zdeno Chara, Boston
Jordan Leopold, Buffalo
Duncan Keith, Chicago
Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit
Ryan Whitney, Edmonton
Bryan McCabe, Florida
Shea Weber, Nashville
Erik Karlsson, Ottawa
Keith Yandle, Phoenix
Kris Letang, Pittsburgh

Goalies (6)
Jonas Hiller, Anaheim
Tim Thomas, Boston
Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles
Carey Price, Montreal
Henrik Lundqvist, NYRangers
Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh

Rookies (12)
Cam Fowler, Anaheim
Tyler Seguin, Boston
Jeff Skinner, Carolina
Brian Bickell, Chicago
Kevin Shattenkirk, Colorado
Jordan Eberle, Edmonton
Taylor Hall, Edmonton
P.K. Subban, Montreal
Derek Stepan, NYRangers
Mark Letestu, Pittsburgh
Logan Couture, San Jose
John Carlson, Washington

[Note: While, apparently, rookie representation will be enough to satisfy the “every team” thing, I didn’t account for as much. Oh well.]

That just isn’t easy – period – certainly not when you’re accounting for every team. So, before the flamethrowers are primed, keep that in mind.

Regarding the goaltending, Fleury had already been selected by the fans and I wouldn’t have had him on this team otherwise. Nothing I can do about that, though. After Fleury, I put Thomas in as an automatic. You can’t discount what he has done this season for Boston one bit. Beyond that, I played the stat card as best I could and went with the foursome of Hiller, Lundqvist, Price and Quick, with apologies to Ondrej Pavelec, Pekka Rinne, Semyon Varlamov and Tomas Vokoun, most notably. In some cases, remember, snubbed goalies belong to teams that I already knew would be represented on my list. Bumma. Elsewhere, a goaltender’s inclusion meant a position player’s exclusion. You get the picture.

How Jordan Leopold gets a nod is still a little murky to me, even, and I picked this damn squad! Still, unless you go with Ryan Miller, how could anyone make a case for a clear cut All-Star in Buffalo? Even Miller’s numbers, to this point, pale in comparison to some of the performances of his fellow netminders elsewhere so a little out-of-the-box thinking was in order here. Derek Roy’s on the shelf long-term and Thomas Vanek’s 16 goals were a little underwhelming for me. Leopold, though, on a non-playoff team (at least for now), plays more minutes than any other Sabre at a relatively respectable minus-five. Throw in ten goals from the blueline and, well, All-Star. (Sigh.)

In Calgary, I battled between Iginla and Alex Tanguay, as much as I might hate to admit that. In the end, Iginla gets the nod on star power, which I think the league will recognize later today as well. But kudos to Tanguay for a remarkable turnaround so far this year.

Leaving out Patrick Sharp in Chicago is a big snub, I’ll admit, but he was simply a victim of the numbers game with ‘mates Keith and Toews already on the squad.

D-man Ryan Whitney has a share of Edmonton’s scoring lead (despite missing five games) and is a commendable plus-13. Besides, Oiler kids Eberle and Hall get some rookie love from me so no complaining.

In shunning Tomas Vokoun’s five shutouts, by default, Florida’s representative had to come from the blueline. Sorry, Messrs. Weiss and Frolik, but 26 points does not a leading scorer make (or at least it shouldn’t). Ergo, congrats to Bryan McCabe.

It was a toss-up, for me, between Koivu and Martin Havlat in Minnesota. In all honesty, I literally tossed up a coin here. Nod, Koivu…

I really wanted to recognize Patric Hornqvist in Nashville (as I did on our special All-Star selection edition of The Bolts Beat last night). Alas, this incarnation of my star-studded squad was in need of some help on defense and Weber gets the call accordingly. After a slow start, he’s rebounded nicely and I expect a big second half.

Oh, New Jersey… What else was I supposed to do?

Oh, Islanders… See: New Jersey. Seriously, Tavares deserves some credit for persevering on Long Island. Despite his team’s struggles (and missing three games to injury early on), last year’s number one pick is on pace for his first 30-goal campaign.

Honors for Karlsson in Ottawa stem from many of the same reasons as Leopold in Buffalo: A little bit of “Who the hell else was I going to pick?” combined with some steady progress in his Karlsson’s second NHL season. (The minus-11 is a tad ugly, yes, but he’s nowhere near alone.)

Several different paths could have been taken in making my Philadelphia Flyers selection (and I thought long and hard about what former Bolt Andrej Meszaros has been able to do up there after a tough tenure in Tampa Bay) but, in the end, Richards was the ol’ reliable-type choice for me.

Choosing Clowe over Dan Boyle, Dany Heatley and Joe Thornton in San Jose might raise a few eyebrows but my defense choices were already filling out nicely and the latter two, in my opinion, have underachieved significantly this season. Instead, Clowe gets the call on the laurels of a career best pace in points.

St. Louis was a tough team to sift through as well. Kinda went with Backes by default after some consideration for Jaroslav Halak and Alex Pietrangelo.

The Lightning’s dynamic duo in St. Louis and Stamkos were a no-brainer and landed on my roster just after the automatic fan selections. There’s just no argument against either here.

Grabovski in Toronto got a slight edge over Clarke MacArthur’s surprise season (just don’t see him as an All-Star, all due respect), Phil Kessel’s 18 goals (can’t help but think the Leafs want so much more from him) and Kris Versteeg’s continued progress. I could also see the league sending the invite Tomas Kaberle’s way, if their thinking on defense is different than mine was. But, hey, with Grabovski, my team gets another weapon for the skills competition, right?

I had to take both Sedins from Vancouver and, by the same thinking, I had to take Kesler as well. One look at his career numbers shows steady progression year-to-year. He truly keeps getting better. So much for East Coast bias…

With the Capitals, it was hard not to bring Alex Semin along and only slightly less difficult to spurn Nicklas Backstrom but there were team needs elsewhere and the required representation of other clubs, once again, to consider. Varlamov, as well, was at least in the conversation for me.

Finally, regarding the rookies, I’m not exactly sure what the league will be looking at here but my dozen honorees had to meet the criteria of performance, promise and budding star power. I didn’t pay much attention to position and I think the league will operate similarly.

Well, argue away. In a few short hours, we’ll get to see how my picks shape up against the actual selections from the league.

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  Tags: all-star+game



Leaving off Corey Perry from the forwards category must have been a senior moment.If given the opportunity, would you change your picks?

Posted by dragoneer on 01/11/11 at 03:10 PM ET

Flashtastick56's avatar

I was disappointed Letestu wasn’t one of the rookies selected…

And, yeah…definitely have to get Corey Perry in there.

Posted by Flashtastick56 from Meriden, CT on 01/11/11 at 04:20 PM ET

Jon Jordan's avatar

Dragoneer, if I had the opportunity to revisit these, I would change a thing or two, mostly because I didn’t realize rookie inclusion would be considered satisfactory as far as representing every team goes. That definitely clouded my thinking in the cases of Jordan Leopold, Bryan McCabe and John Tavares

For starters, I’d get Patricks Kane and Sharp in there and, yeah, Corey Perry would be on the short list as well.

I didn’t account for players who likely asked out of ASG weekend (or had their GMs do so for them), like Henrik Zetterberg and Mike Richards.

I’m stumped as to how Jonathan Quick got neglected in favor of Cam Ward, though I suspect a little home cookin’ was in order there.

Elsewhere, Alex Hemsky? Really? Phil Kessel over Grabovsky? And Mike Green?


Glad to see wishful thinking on my part became reality with Tobias Enstrom, Erik Karlsson, David Backes and Ryan Kesler. I had a feeling at least one of them would get the shaft.

And the rookie crop is baffling. Evgeny Dadonov has played in 14 games this season for Florida and will represent the Panthers, while Washington’s John Carlson, who some would argue has been their best player at times this year, did not get an invite. No love for P.K. Subban, despite a constant love-fest from some areas and Oliver Ekman-Larsson over Mark Letestu.

Again, hrmph.

Oh well. It is what it is…


Posted by Jon Jordan from Tampa, FL on 01/12/11 at 11:22 AM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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