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The Strangest All-Star Selections in NHL History at Every Position

Jonathan WillisNHL National ColumnistJanuary 29, 2016

The Strangest All-Star Selections in NHL History at Every Position

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    Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

    John Scott is going to play at the 2016 NHL All-Star Game, as the league announced on January 19. He's an unconventional choice, to be sure, a career role player who ended up getting voted into the event thanks to a fan campaign.

    But he's a long way from being the only unusual entry in the All-Star Game. Over the history of the event, more than a few players have participated who might catch a fan of the sport by surprise. NHL expansion, weird formats and idiosyncratic coaches have all done their part to make the game's participants a little less predictable than one would expect. 

    The following slideshow takes a look at some of the strangest selections over the years.

Left Wing: John Scott

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Regardless of whether one is in favour of or against Scott's inclusion in the All-Star Game, there's no question that the route he took to get to the event was a strange one. 

    After being voted into the game, the Arizona Coyotes traded Scott to the Montreal Canadiens,who then promptly banished him to the AHL. Even before that happened, the NHL pressured Scott to drop out of the game. That pressure backfired, as Scott related in a recent piece for The Players' Tribune.

    According to Scott, the pivotal moment for him was when someone with the league asked him, “Do you think this is something your kids would be proud of?” as though his children would be ashamed of him for going. 

    But he'll be there. Waivers, a trade, demotion to the minors and pressure from the league couldn't keep him out.

Centre: Zemgus Girgensons

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    Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

    Scott isn't the first odd inclusion generated by the fan vote. Latvian centre Zemgus Girgensons found his way into the 2015 All-Star Game in the same manner.

    Espen Knutsen is frequently cited on lists like this one as the worst centre selection, but the Norwegian pivot actually put up pretty good numbers for a time. The year before he went to the All-Star Game, Knutsen recorded 53 points in 66 games for the Columbus Blue Jackets, and the year he actually went he finished the season with 42 points. This was despite a late-season slump; in January 2002 he had 31 points through 50 games.

    Girgensons is a more unusual candidate. He put up 22 points as a rookie, then climbed to 30 points as a sophomore in the year he was sent to the All-Star Game, powered by the Latvian vote, Sabres fans and an online campaign not dissimilar to the one that got Scott into the game. He has just 10 points so far this season. 

Right Wing: Chris Nilan

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    Joe Giza/Associated Press

    Scott isn't the only enforcer selected to the game, either. Fans have been lambasted by many columnists for sending a fighter to an All-Star event, but back before it ever occurred to them to do so, an NHL head coach had a similar idea.

    Mike Milbury, coach of the Boston Bruins, was tasked with selecting the bulk of the roster for the Wales Conference in 1991 and ended up naming Chris Nilan to the team. Nilan enjoyed nearly 700 games in the NHL, had some good seasons and would later go into coaching, but at the time of his selection he was near the end of his career and basically a pure enforcer.

    Milbury was defiant about the choice, as related by Mike Kiley of the Chicago Tribune:

    I'm not prepared to take any grief from anybody. I tried to make all the obvious selections. The remaining four or five spots, I considered qualities such as leadership, courage and commitment. Last year`s 12-7 (All-Star) final was an inaccurate showing of our game. [It's a] gross oversight not to look at the physical player.

    That isn't the weirdest thing about this, though. As Sal Barry of Puck Junk wrote in 2011, the 1991-92 Pro Set collection of hockey cards includes every player who was named to that All-Star Game, including the injured ones, except for Nilan. He had to sit the game out due to injury, but he didn't get a card, and the card of his replacement doesn't mention Nilan, either. Whatever the reason, it's an odd omission. 

Defence: Petr Buzek

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    GEORGE WIDMAN/Associated Press

    Many of the players who were considered for this list came from expansion teams, clubs with a limited supply of legitimate NHL talent who nevertheless were represented at the All-Star Game. That's where Petr Buzek, a representative of the Atlanta Thrashers in 2000 for "Team World" comes in. 

    Buzek played a career-high of 63 NHL games in 1999-00, and prior to the All-Star Game he had a reasonable 14 points in 37 games, most of them collected in October when he managed seven points in just eight contests. 

    That hot streak aside, there wasn't much memorable about Buzek's NHL career, and even his European career didn't last for long afterward. 

    Almost as odd was the inclusion of Marcus Ragnarsson on Team World the following season. Ragnarsson enjoyed a long career and played heavy minutes for the San Jose Sharks that year, but he was a pure defensive defenceman, a strange choice for an All-Star Game.

Goalie: Peter Sidorkiewicz

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    It was tempting to go with Pekka Rinne here, as the NHL has no real excuse to choose the 0.906 save percentage goaltender who for most of the 2015-16 season has been a millstone around the Predators' neck. The truth though is that while more deserving candidates (notably Corey Crawford) were passed over to include him, he's a long way from being the strangest goalie selection at the game. 

    That honour falls to Peter Sidorkiewicz, the Ottawa Senators goaltender who in 1992-93 went an incredible 8-46-3 with a 0.856 save percentage. It's hard to blame him for that record; his backup went 2-17-1, and the third- and fourth-string goalies who played for Ottawa that year didn't even crack a 0.800 save percentage. 

    But what made the selection so strange was that Ottawa had more qualified options. Sylvain Turgeon finished the year with 25 goals. Defenceman Norm Maciver was coming off a 40-point season and put up 63 points that year. Instead, Sidorkiewicz, who would only play four other games in the league after the 1992-93 season, went. 

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