Would-Be NHL All-Star Team for the Eastern Conference
Though the 2013 NHL All-Star Game was a victim of the lockout, cancelled before the season even got underway, we have now reached the midway point of this abbreviated 48-game NHL season, and so it's time to pick the All-Star teams that would have been if the game were held as scheduled.
A few rules when picking this team:
I am picking 21 players per conference: 12 forwards, six defensemen and three goalies.
Like a real roster for an All-Star Game, each team in the conference needs to be represented by at least one player.
With that in mind, here is my Eastern Conference All-Star team.
Feel free to comment on players you feel deserve to be on this roster whom I omitted. Keep in mind, however, that if you add a player, you have to take another player off, and you still need to keep at least one player from each team on your roster. So tell me who you would take off and not just who you would add on.
John Tavares, F, New York Islanders
John Tavares has continued to improve his all-around game each season since joining the N.Y. Islanders as the top overall pick in the 2009 NHL draft.
This season, Taveres is the undisputed leader of the Islanders and has scored 16 goals and 29 points in 25 games.
His last goal gave him 100 for his NHL career.
Tavares is making plays he could not have made earlier in his career by using his strength and skating ability, both of which he spent time improving over the past few seasons.
He is now one of the best in the game and would get more recognition if the Islanders won more hockey games.
Sidney Crosby, F, Pittsburgh Penguins
"Sid the Kid" is back and better than ever.
The Pittsburgh Penguins star leads the league with 40 points in 25 games, which would put him on pace for 131 points in a full 82-game season.
There is no doubt Sidney Crosby remains one of the most dangerous and talented players in the game.
Steven Stamkos, F, Tampa Bay Lightning
The Tampa Bay Lightning's Steven Stamkos led the NHL in goals scored last season with 60, and he's off to another fine start over the first half of this season.
Thus far, Stamkos has 19 goals in 25 games, which leads the league. It also puts him ahead of last year's pace, as he would score 62 goals over the course of an 82-game season at this rate.
Stamkos is a dangerous goal scorer and the best sniper in the game.
Martin St. Louis, F, Tampa Bay Lightning
Martin St. Louis is the setup man that helps create chances for Steven Stamkos.
The veteran Tampa Bay Lightning winger is second in the NHL in assists and third in points.
St. Louis shows no signs of slowing down at the age of 37 and is averaging more than one assist per game right now with 27 helpers in 25 games.
Chris Kunitz, F, Pittsburgh Penguins
Pittsburgh Penguins winger Chris Kunitz is fourth in the league in points with 31 in 25 games thus far.
He has scored 14 goals, including three game winners. Ten of his points have come on the power play.
Playing with top talents like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin certainly helps make Kunitz more productive, but he has undoubtedly earned his spot on this year's Eastern Conference All-Star team.
Eric Staal, F, Carolina Hurricanes
With 30 points in 24 games, the Carolina Hurricanes' Eric Staal is fifth in the NHL in points.
Staal's slow start hurt the Hurricanes last season, but this year, Staal has 12 goals, four of them game winners.
Add his leadership ability, and you have an All-Star no matter how you look at it.
Jakub Voracek, F, Philadelphia Flyers
While everybody was waiting for this to be another outstanding season for Claude Giroux, it's been Jakub Voracek who has turned more heads in Philadelphia this season.
The 23-year-old native of the Czech Republic has 12 goals and 29 points in 26 games. That leaves him tied for sixth in the league in points.
The former Blue Jacket has seven goals and 13 points on the power play, making him one of the most dangerous players in the league with the man-advantage and our choice to represent the Philadelphia Flyers on this year's All-Star team.
Nazem Kadri, F, Toronto Maple Leafs
Nazem Kadri has finally arrived!
The Toronto Maple Leafs forward was always the most heralded prospect in Toronto's system but never managed to establish himself as a full-time player in the NHL.
This season, Kadri is not only putting up impressive numbers (11 goals and 25 points in 26 games), but has established himself as a leader and go-to player for the Maple Leafs.
Thomas Vanek, F, Buffalo Sabres
Nobody got off to a faster start this season than the Buffalo Sabres' Thomas Vanek.
The veteran forward from Austria had points in each of his first eight games this season, including a pair of five-point outings.
He has 13 goals and 29 points in 22 games, which still leaves him among the league leaders and makes him Buffalo's representative on our All-Star team.
Mike Ribeiro, F, Washington Capitals
Mike Ribeiro has been a big success for the Washington Capitals since coming over from Dallas last summer.
The veteran Montreal native has nine goals and 28 points in 24 games for the Caps, which leads the team in scoring and places him 10th in the league.
Ribeiro has been deadly on the power play, with 15 of his points coming when Washington had the man-advantage.
Patrik Elias, F, New Jersey Devils
The New Jersey Devils have been inconsistent as a team so far this season, getting off to a very strong start before slumping over their last 15 games.
But one player who has been consistently good for New Jersey is veteran wing Patrik Elias.
The 36-year-old native of the Czech Republic has eight goals and 25 points in 25 games this season and is the New Jersey Devils representative on our All-Star team.
Rick Nash, F, New York Rangers
The trade for Rick Nash was supposed to put the New York Rangers over the top in their quest for their first Stanley Cup championship in nearly two decades.
While Nash may or may not be the final piece of the puzzle, he has shown his value to the Rangers in the first half of the season.
Nash has nine goals and 23 points in 20 games for the Rangers. Many of those scores have been highlight-reel goals, and the Rangers are a better and more confident team with the former Blue Jackets star in the lineup.
Kris Letang, D, Pittsburgh Penguins
The Pittsburgh Penguins' Kris Letang leads all NHL defensemen with 24 points in 22 games.
The 25-year-old Montreal native has quarterbacked the Pittsburgh power play and has six helpers with the man-advantage.
He also has a plus-seven rating and 38 blocked shots, which shows he is solid in his own zone and not just when his team is on the attack.
Andrei Markov, D, Montreal Canadiens
The Montreal Canadiens have gone from last in the Eastern Conference last season to near the top in 2012-13, and one big reason is the return to health of defenseman Andrei Markov.
Markov only played in 20 games over the previous two seasons but has already played in 26 games this season for the Habs, scoring five goals and 17 points.
Fourteen of Markov's points have come on the power play. Having the veteran Russian and young P.K. Subban on the points has helped improve Montreal's power play from one of the worst in the league to a top-10 unit.
Brian Campbell, D, Florida Panthers
Everybody always talks about Brian Campbell's very high salary, but they also should talk about his consistent production as well.
This year, the Strathroy, Ontario, native has six goals and 16 points in 26 games which ties him for fourth among all Eastern Conference blueliners. Ten of his 16 points have come on the power play.
Campbell is by far the best representative for the Florida Panthers and therefore earns a spot on our Eastern Conference squad.
Cody Franson, D, Toronto Maple Leafs
Defenseman Cody Franson has been a major reason for the Toronto Maple Leafs' first-half success this season.
Franson has great size at 6'5" and has 16 points in 23 games so far this season.
In addition, Franson owns a plus-11 rating, which places him fifth among all Eastern Conference defensemen. He also has 49 hits, which shows he's not afraid to use his large frame to help out in his own end.
Tobias Enstrom, D, Winnipeg Jets
Tobias Enstrom was off to a red-hot start before a shoulder injury derailed his season.
The talented Swede had 13 points in 13 games for the Winnipeg Jets with two goals and 11 assists.
If Enstrom were not ready to play in our All-Star Game, he would be replaced by Andrew Ladd or (if we need a defenseman) Dustin Byfuglien.
Zdeno Chara, D, Boston Bruins
Zdeno Chara's offensive numbers may be a bit lower than usual in the first half of the season, but the Boston Bruins' hulking captain is a valuable contributor despite having only nine points in 22 games.
Chara has a plus-12 rating, which ties him for third among Eastern Conference defensemen, and he has 52 hits and 39 blocked shots, showing that he's not afraid to do the dirty work it takes to win hockey games.
Chara also remains clutch, as two of his four goals have been game winners.
Tuukka Rask, G, Boston Bruins
The Boston Bruins had questions concerning their goaltending after Tim Thomas decided to take a one-year sabbatical from hockey, but Tuukka Rask has answered all of those questions in the first half of the new season.
Thus far, Rask has 12 wins in 17 games, a GAA of 1.97 and a .927 save percentage. The 12 victories place him second among Eastern Conference goalies.
While Rask's big test will come in the playoffs, thus far he looks as strong as any goalie in the league, and he has established himself as the Bruins' starter for at least the rest of this season.
Craig Anderson, G, Ottawa Senators
A quick look at Craig Anderson's numbers, and you see why he is the Ottawa Senators representative on our team.
The veteran netminder has a tiny 1.49 GAA and a save percentage of .952. He also has a record of 8-4-2.
Anderson is out of the lineup right now with a sprained ankle. If he is unable to go, his backup, Ben Bishop, could take his place. Sergei Gonchar is the next most deserving Sens player regardless of position.
Carey Price, G, Montreal Canadiens
The Montreal Canadiens' Carey Price signed a contract extension this past offseason, but unlike many other players who sign big contracts, his play has not been affected.
Price leads all Eastern Conference goalies with 13 wins and has a GAA of 2.37 and a .910 save percentage.
Most importantly, Price gives the Canadiens confidence every time he steps onto the ice.