First things first: We are really happy P.K. Subban will once again be at the NHL All-Star Game.
Aside from John Scott and the 3-on-3 tournament, the best part of last year’s all-star weekend was Subban putting on a mullet wig and old-school Jofa helmet and pretending he was Jaromir Jagr during the skills competition. It was a pitch-perfect imitation, right down to the salute. So it makes sense that one of the league’s biggest personalities was voted in by the fans to once again return to an event that is first and foremost for the fans.
But let’s not pretend Subban’s inclusion to this year’s game is much different than what occurred with Scott a year ago. Subban might not be playing in the minors, but he’s certainly not playing like an all-star. Which is fine, if you view the all-star game for what it is: meaningless entertainment for the fans. But if it’s about rewarding players for a spectacular first-half to the season, Subban shouldn’t be there.
He’s not the best player on the Predators this year. He might not even be their best defenceman. With seven goals, 17 points and a minus-11 rating, he’s certainly not having an all-star season.
And yet, he’s not the only all-star who fits that description.
From Jonathan Toews and John Tavares to Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen, here are eight players who don’t deserve to be heading to the All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles on Jan. 28-29.
Jonathan Toews, Chicago
The Blackhawks captain is one of the best players in the world and will probably get named by the league as one of the top-100 players of all-time during the all-star weekend. But with only 21 points (tied for 141st in the league), he is not having an all-star season. He is certainly not having a better year than teammate Artemi Panarin, who is tied for sixth in league scoring with 42 points, but somehow won’t be at the game.
Frans Nielsen, Detroit
Someone from Detroit had to go, but why Nielsen? He’s not necessarily a big-name player and, with only eight goals and 23 points, he’s definitely not having a season worth remembering.
It could be that the NHL didn’t want to invite Henrik Zetterberg (28 points) because he’s missed past events due to “injury.” Either way, the player who should be going is rookie Anthony Mantha, who already has more goals (11) than Nielsen despite playing in 15 fewer games.
Seth Jones, Columbus
It’s been a banner year for the Blue Jackets, who are the surprise team of the NHL. So it’s not surprising that the team is sending two representatives.
Obviously, Sergei Bobrovsky (2.00 goals-against average and .931 save percentage) deserves to be there. But we’d rather see defenceman Zach Werenski or forward Cam Atkinson than Jones. Werenski not only has more points (25) than Jones (18), but could be the NHL’s rookie of the year. Atkinson, a sixth-round pick in 2008, is having a career year in which he has 20 goals and is ranked in the top-10 in scoring with 40 points.
Kyle Okposo, Buffalo
Is there a minimum amount of games a player has to appear in to be an all-star? Or are the rosters chosen in November? Those would be the only reasons why Jack Eichel, who despite missing the first two months of the season with an ankle injury, isn’t going to the All-Star Game.
Nothing against Okposo, who has 12 goals and 27 points, but Eichel (nine goals and 14 points in 19 games) has been Buffalo’s all-star. We would have even selected Rasmus Ristolainen, who is fifth among defencemen with 27 points, over him.
John Tavares, N.Y. Islanders
Like Toews, Tavares is a career all-star. But with 11 goals and 27 points, Tavares is on pace for his lowest production in a full season since he was a rookie. It’s not exactly his fault. With Okposo in Buffalo and Nielsen in Detroit, the Islanders’ second-highest scorer is Joshua Bailey, who has five goals and 24 points.
The All-Snub Team
If the NHL All-Star Game were chosen based solely on merit, the following players would be there:
Mark Scheifele, F, Winnipeg
Tied with Patrik Laine with 37 points, Scheifele is ranked in the top-15 in scoring. Even more impressive is that he has 30 even-strength points, tied for sixth in the league.
Jakub Voracek, F, Philadelphia
Wayne Simmonds, who leads the Flyers with 17 goals, is Philly’s all-star. But Voracek is the team’s leading scorer, ranking in the top-10 with 39 points.
Mitch Marner, F, Toronto
Auston Matthews might be leading the race for the Calder Trophy, but Marner is third in rookie scoring with 10 goals and 32 points — five back of the lead.
Justin Schultz, D, Pittsburgh
The comeback continues for the former Oilers defenceman, who won a Stanley Cup last year and is tied for eighth in scoring among defencemen with seven goals and 20 points in his last 17 games.
Chad Johnson, G, Calgary
When Brian Elliott was struggling in October and November, Johnson kept the Flames afloat. He has a 2.27 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage.
Kevin Shattenkirk, D, St. Louis
A minus-10 rating might stick out like a sore thumb, but Shattenkirk is tied for fourth among defencemen with eight goals and tied for sixth with 26 points.
— Michael Traikos
On the plus side, going to the all-star game will finally give Tavares a chance to play with actual top-end talent — something he has missed this season.
Ryan McDonagh, N.Y. Rangers
A year ago, the only way Michael Grabner would have made it to the all-star game would be if someone voted him in as a joke. With the Maple Leafs, he didn’t score his first goal until Dec. 2 and finished the season with nine goals.
This year, Grabner deserves to be there on merit. He is tied for seventh in the league with 19 goals — all even-strength — and has two hat-tricks and three game-winners. And yet, McDonagh is the Rangers’ sole representative, despite outside the top-10 in defence scoring with 25 points.
Mike Smith, Arizona
We know, we know. Every team has to be represented. But couldn’t Maple Leafs rookie Auston Matthews represent Arizona?
On any other team, Smith isn’t being rewarded for a 7-11-5 record, 2.83 goals-against average and .918 save percentage. And while Arizona doesn’t have many other alternatives — Radim Vrbata leads the team with nine goals! — it’s a shame Smith is taking up a spot that could go to Los Angeles’ Peter Budaj, who is the reason the Kings have survived the first half of the season without Jonathan Quick.
Vincent Trocheck, Florida
After Jaromir Jagr made such a big deal about going to the all-star game last year, there was no way the league was going to force him to go again. And so we’re left with Trocheck, who has 12 goals and is ranked outside the top-100 scorers with 24 points.
It’s not like the Panthers had many other options. Aleksander Barkov has more points (27) in fewer games, but is out two-to-three weeks with a lower-body injury. And Aaron Ekblad is having a down year, with just 11 points.
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