NHL All-Star Voting: 25 Players Who Should Be on the Ballot
Last week, the NHL released the voting ballots for the 2011-12 All-Star Game in Ottawa, Ontario.
Most of the usual suspects (Alex Ovechkin, Tim Thomas, Nicklas Lidstrom, Steven Stamkos, Ryan Miller, Zdeno Chara, to name a few) are on the list.
Heck, even some guys who have yet to dress this season (Sidney Crosby, Marc Staal) are on the ballot and can receive votes to partake in the All-Star festivities.
There are certainly a handful that simply aren't deserving right now (Jay Bouwmeester, Ed Jovanovski, Andrew Ladd, R.J. Umberger, among others), and because they're on the list, others who might be worthy of a nomination, well, they didn't get one.
Here are twenty-five such NHLers who, in this writer's opinion, were wrongfully snubbed.
No. 25: P.A. Parenteau, New York Islanders
Through 13 games this season, P.A. Parenteau has put up 12 points (two goals, 10 assists) for the New York Islanders.
He's been able to produce offensively, despite having to adjust to four different line-mates (John Tavares, Matt Moulson, Frans Nielsen, Brian Rolston) since the start of the season, and deserves to be on the ballot as much as his teammates that are (Tavares, Michael Grabner, Mark Streit).
Parenteau continues to prove that he can perform at the NHL level, showing no signs of regression from last year, when he racked up 53 points with the Isles.
No. 24: Antti Niemi, San Jose Sharks
Niemi currently boasts a 6-2-1 record with a respectable 2.74 goals-against average and .903 save percentage. He's certainly just as deserving as someone like James Reimer or Jaroslav Halak, whose names appear on the ballot.
He's one of the biggest reasons for San Jose's turnaround, and that's obviously gone unnoticed because had anyone bothered to pay attention, I doubt Niemi would be in this slideshow.
No. 23: Ryan Callahan, New York Rangers
Ryan Callahan has scored seven goals (and nine points) in 15 games for the Rangers this season.
He's also blocked the third-most shots of any forward in the league (21), continuing to lead by example at both ends of the ice. "Captain Cally" is definitely the heart-and-soul of this Ranger team, and his on-ice contributions go beyond the score sheet.
Granted, he's a long-shot to get voted in, but Callahan deserves to at least be on the All-Star ballot. I was surprised to see that he wasn't.
No. 22: Nik Antropov, Winnipeg Jets
To the Winnipeg Jets and their fans, Nik Antropov will always be remembered for scoring the first goal in the team's (new) history.
Beyond the Canadian Province of Manitoba, he hasn't quite received the recognition he deserves, because he's amassed 12 points (three goals, nine assists) in 15 games and an All-Star ballot snub.
He's been the Jets' most consistent player this season and he should have, at the very least, been nominated.
No. 21: Max Pacioretty, Montreal Canadiens
Max Pacioretty's rebounded pretty nicely, considering he was nearly decapitated by Boston Bruins' defenseman Zdeno Chara last season.
He was the leading scorer for Les Habitants until Tomas Plekanec surpassed him last week, and has put together a solid 2011-12 campaign thus far, with seven goals and 12 points in 16 matches.
That's better than teammate Michael Cammalleri, who, naturally, is on the ballot. Nothing against Cammalleri, but if he's earned a spot on the list, so has Pacioretty. The NHL wasn't very consistent on this one.
No. 20: David Legwand, Nashville Predators
David Legwand was the first player ever to be drafted by the Nashville Predators, who selected him with the second overall pick in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft.
Thirteen years later, he's still proving his worth to the organization, and if the stats are any indication, he's worth a hell of a lot. Legwand's been producing at a point-per-game pace with 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in 14 games.
Maybe it's because he plays in Nashville, maybe you can chalk it up to the fact that, historically, he's never racked up more than 63 points in a season. It doesn't matter. All that does is the reality of the situation, which is that Legwand has as many points as games-played.
Point-per-game players don't grow on trees, and David Legwand, who currently is one, should've been on the ballot. Period.
No. 19: Dmitry Kulikov, Florida Panthers
This season, the Florida Panthers have made one thing quite clear: They're not pushovers anymore, and don't plan to be for a very long time.
Kulikov's been a significant part of that, moving the puck with precision and accuracy (12 assists) and giving the Cats a stable presence on the blue line (plus-four rating).
At just 21-years-of-age, Kulikov's one of the better young defensemen in the NHL, and he probably should've been on the All-Star ballot over aging teammate Ed Jovanovski.
No. 18: Luke Adam, Buffalo Sabres
If you haven't heard of Luke Adam, you will soon enough.
The Sabres' 2008 second-round pick has five goals and eight assists (13 points) in 16 games this season, his first full-time NHL stint. He's been strong on the puck and, at least to this point, has shown the offensive awareness of a savvy veteran
Adam's produced, and though he probably wouldn't make the All-Star Game, it wouldn't have killed anyone to nominate him.
No. 17: Craig Smith, Nashville Predators
Craig Smith was a fourth-round pick of the Predators in 2009, and it would appear that GM David Poile's unearthed a hidden gem in the Madison, Wisconsin native.
Smith's tied with David Legwand for the team-lead in points (14) and with Patric Hornqvist in goals-scored (seven).
The Preds have enjoyed some success this year, largely due to their star goaltender, Peka Rinne. But Smith's star-status hasn't been lost on anyone in Nashville.
By no stretch is Smith a well-known hockey player, but perhaps he ought to be one. The NHL had a chance to market him and they failed to do so by excluding him from the All-Star ballot.
No. 16: Dennis Wideman, Washington Capitals
Playing defense on a team that features the likes of Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin is a pretty nice gig, assuming you can get it.
Dennis Wideman's wasted no time cashing in on that opportunity, notching 12 points (three goals, nine assists) in 15 games for the Capitals.
His most productive season came in 2008-09, when he racked up 50 points (13 goals, 37 helpers) in 79 games as a member of the Boston Bruins. It would appear he's trending upward once again, and Wideman deserved to be an All-Star Game nominee this year.
No. 15: Kevin Shattenkirk, St. Louis Blues
Unlike the Dow, Kevin Shattenkirk's stock is very much on the rise.
The Greenwich, CT native has eleven points (two goals, nine assists) and a plus-seven rating in 16 games for the St. Louis Blues this season. He's currently on pace for 56 points, a significant jump from last year, when he amassed 43 with both the Blues and the Colorado Avalanche.
He's a rising star that's flown under the radar, and his absence from the All-Star ballot will ensure that he continues to do just that. Shattenkirk could have been a nominee this year, and as long as he keeps improving, he will be in the near future.
No. 14: Vinny Prospal, Columbus Blue Jackets
To say the Columbus Blue Jackets have gotten off to a disappointing start would be outrageously inaccurate. They've been downright pathetic, having won just three of the 16 games (3-12-1) they've played this season.
When a team's not winning hockey games, that tends, at least partially, to stem from a lack of offensive production. Columbus has found the back of the net just 34 times thus far, averaging slightly-better than two goals per-game.
There are two players tied for the team lead in that department, and they've combined to score a third of Jackets' goals with five apiece: One is rookie dynamo Ryan Johansen. The other is an ageless wonder: Vinny Prospal.
Prospal has nine helpers in addition to those five goals, good for 14 points and a knack for consistency on a team that lacks it.
He certainly deserved to be on the All-Star ballot over teammate Jeff Carter, who, though by no fault of his own (he was injured), simply had not played enough to deserve a spot over Prospal. I understand why Carter's on the list, but Vinny should be there too.
No. 13: Ryane Clowe, San Jose Sharks
Ryane Clowe's been a mainstay on San Jose's third line for quite some time now, and there are at least 20 teams who would love to have him on their first or second.
All he's done over the last three years is produce, racking up 52, 57 and 62 points, respectively. This season, Clowe's on pace for 64, and has 12 (four goals, eight assists) in 15 games.
Clowe's never gotten the recognition he deserves, and it would've been nice to see him on the All-Star ballot. If and when he ever leaves the Sharks, his ice time and numbers will rise accordingly, as should his star-status.
No. 12: Alex Tanguay, Calgary Flames
Tanguay's last All-Star appearance came back in 2003-04, when he was mixing it up with guys like Joe Sakic, Ray Bourque, Patrick Roy and Peter Forsberg while playing for the Colorado Avalanche.
He got lost in the wilderness for a while, struggling to produce with the Montreal Canadiens or Tampa Bay Lightning, but Tanguay returned to Calgary last season and put up 69 points.
This year, Alex has three goals and nine helpers (12 points) in 16 games for the Flames, and, at this rate, will finish out the campaign with 64 points.
He has offensive flair, as he's shown numerous times. He's an excellent hockey player and deserved to be on the All-Star ballot.
No. 11: Mike Smith, Phoenix Coyotes
Ilya Bryzgalov's departure from the desert was supposed to be the move that killed Phoenix's playoff hopes for this season and beyond.
Surely the next time the Coyotes wound up in the postseason, they'd be called the Nordiques and would play in Quebec City (I'm not suggesting or implying anything).
Well it just so happens that Bryzgalov's replacement, Mike Smith, has a better record (7-2-3), goals-against average (2.22) and save percentage (.931). He is also yet to entertain the idea of informing the media of just how bad a goalie he is, unlike his predecessor, who's humbling (yet hilarious) comments became an instant classic on YouTube.
However, there's one thing that Bryz has and Mike Smith doesn't: A spot on the All-Star ballot.
Makes sense, doesn't it?
No. 10: Radim Vrbata, Phoenix Coyotes
Vrbata's been flying under the radar for such a long time, that people tend to forget how good a hockey player he is.
He's on pace for 70 points this season, with 13 through 15 games, 10 of which came in his last seven outings. Vrbata's never been a star, but he has been this year, and that's unfortunately gone unnoticed.
I'm not saying he's a star, because historically he has never been an absolute stud. This season, however, Vrbata has played well enough to earn a nomination and he wasn't given one.
No. 9: Logan Couture, San Jose Sharks
Just 15 games into his second NHL season, Couture's off to another hot-start with six goals and five assists (11 points).
Much like Ryane Clowe, Couture's another highly-gifted player, overshadowed by Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau in San Jose. He'll probably finish with 60 points this year, but there's no Calder Trophy to compete for this time around, so Couture will have to find another way to gain some recognition for his efforts.
An All-Star ballot appearance would've been fitting, but the NHL couldn't come through with one, despite the fact that last season's other Calder finalists, Michael Grabner and Jeff Skinner, were nominated.
No. 8: Valtteri Filppula
Valtteri Filppula's been so good for the Red Wings this season, that he has nearly the same number of points (13) as letters in his full name (16, in case you were wondering) over a 15-game span.
Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk have been (gasp!) struggling out of the gate, and fortunately for Detroit, secondary-scorers like Filppula have stepped up and produced.
Not that the NHL would ever consider scratching Z-Berg or Pavel from the All-Star ballot (which I completely understand), but Filppula deserves to be there too, right alongside his fellow Wings.
No. 7: Justin Williams, Los Angeles Kings
The last time Williams appeared in an All-Star Game was in 2007, just two weeks after the late Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPhone (For younger readers: Yes, the iPhone's only been around for nearly five years, and yes, mankind was able to survive without them).
LA's oft-injured winger is a fantastic and capable hockey player when he's healthy, but as implied by my description of him, he generally doesn't play 82 games.
In his first two seasons with the Kings, Williams dressed for a measly 61 games combined.
2010-11 was a whole different story, and in 73 games (I'm as shocked as you are), he managed 57 points. With 14 points through 17 matches thus far, he's on pace to rack up 67 by season's end. He's really been at the top of his game and it's too bad the NHL couldn't recognize that.
No. 6: Marc-Andre Bergeron, Tampa Bay Lightning
Do you know who leads all defensemen in points this season? I'll give you three guesses, but if you didn't know better, you'd probably need about 50.
It's not Nicklas Lidstrom, Shea Weber or Drew Doughty. It's also not Wade Redden, though had it been, that would arguably have been just as surprising.
Alright, it's Marc-Andre Bergeron; the guy who only played on the power play because he was otherwise useless, had a 200 mile-per-hour slap shot but couldn't hit sand falling of a camel and was, for all intents and purposes, a turnover machine.
He leads all NHL rearguards in points with 16 (three goals, 13 assists).
Bergeron's turned things around this season, and not just offensively. We all knew he could score (even though he's had an incredibly frustrating tendency not to do so on a consistent basis), but it's his plus-five rating and the fact that, through 16 games, he has more takeaway than giveaways.
You'd think that he'd be rewarded for his efforts, and maybe he will, but it won't be in the form of an All-Star ballot nomination.
No. 5: Kris Versteeg, Florida Panthers
Versteeg has 17 points (eight goals, nine assists) in 16 games for the upstart Florida Panthers this season, and he's well on his way to surpassing his career-high of 53 points, which he attained during his rookie year (2008-09).
He's been maddeningly inconsistent since his freshman year, but it looks like those days are behind him.
Kris is a big reason why the Cats have been competitive from the get-go, and you'd think someone who averages more than a point-per-game could get his name on an All-Star ballot. Apparently, you'd be wrong.
No. 4: Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings
The Detroit Red Wings haven't had the greatest start to their season, but don't blame Jimmy Howard.
All he's done is go 8-3-1 (including three shutouts), while posting an eye-opening 1.66 GAA and .934 save percentage. Not that it should come as any surprise, after all, Howard's been putting up strong numbers for the last two seasons.
That being said, he certainly doesn't get enough credit for what he's doing in the Motor City, and how he's not on the All-Star ballot is beyond comprehension.
No. 3: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers
The first overall pick this summer, Nugent-Hopkins is no stranger to the spotlight.
Of course, he's usually been worthy of the hype, and his rookie season has been no exception to that rule; he's racked up 13 points (seven goals, six assists) in 16 games for Edmonton.
Nugent-Hopkins has showed there's more to his game than his seeing-eye passes, and that's paid-off for the Oilers, who are one point out of first place in the Northwest Division.
His linemates, Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle, are on the All-Star ballot, where's "Nuge?"
No. 2: Johan Franzen, Detroit Red Wings
Johan Franzen is one of just two players in the last 14 years to score five goals in a game. He's also scored four goals in a playoff game.
He's inconsistent and tends to get injured quite often, but make no mistake, Franzen's a gifted player.
"The Mule" has nine points in his last four games and 16 (nine goals, seven assists) through 15 games this season. He's been red-hot and should've been on the ballot.
No. 1: Tyler Seguin, Boston Bruins
You'd think a top-five scorer in the NHL would be on the All-Star ballot.
Tyler Seguin's racked up 20 points (11 goals, nine assists) in 15 games. He's showed just why he was so highly sought-after at last summer's Entry Draft, and with every goal he scores, Brian Burke slumps further and further down on his desk chair.
He's an exceptional skater with excellent hands and vision, and he's been a heck of a lot better than a number of players who were nominated. This league has to do a better job marketing their young talent, and keeping Seguin off the ballot isn't going to help them in that department.
It's an absolute head-scratcher.