Injuries, Bad Decisions Leave NHL All-Star Game Sorely Lacking Stars

Dave Lozo@@davelozoNHL National Lead WriterJanuary 23, 2015

Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby (87) prepares to take a face-off during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Chicago Blackhawks in Pittsburgh, Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio — With Thursday night's announcement that Sidney Crosby was pulling out of the NHL All-Star weekend with a lower-body injury, the league's marquee promotional event that's already short on stars took yet another hit.

Evgeni Malkin also withdrew because of injury, while Pekka Rinne, Jimmy Howard, Sergei Bobrovsky and Erik Johnson were all in varying degrees of poor health and chose not to attend.

That doesn't include other genuine stars—P.K. Subban, Nicklas Backstrom and Erik Karlsson, for example—who aren't here either as casualties of the league's silly need to take one player from every team, organizations quietly telling the league they don't want their players taken or players not wanting to be here.

COLUMBUS, OH - JANUARY 23:  Ryan Getzlaf #15 of the Anaheim Ducks speaks during Media Availability for the 2015 NHL All-Star Weekend at the Nationwide Arena on January 23, 2015 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf doesn't have all that much sympathy for players in Crosby's situation.

"I think it's important that we're here," Getzlaf said. "As much as some guys need the break and stuff, it is important that you be here. This is a big event for the league that you want to have all the superstars. And at the same time, your loyalties lie with your hockey team and being able to perform in the second half, and at some point you do need that extra three or four days' rest that can make a big difference down the road."

It's not that injured players should be expected to play a meaningless exhibition game, but pulling out on short notice hamstrings an event already hamstrung by the selection method. And when the face of the league says no thanks, it's some damaging PR for a weekend that isn't exactly well-revered by many players and fans.

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

"Crosby's not coming? I'm not watching this."

There were a few players at NHL All-Star media day who had plenty of excuses to duck out of three days of obligations in a cold-weather city.

COLUMBUS, OH - JANUARY 23:  Drew Doughty #8 of the Los Angeles Kings speaks during the Media Availability as part of the 2015 NHL All-Star weekend at Nationwide Arena on January 23, 2015 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)
Dave Sandford/Getty Images

Drew Doughty has averaged 29:22 of ice time per game this season for the Los Angeles Kings, a team that's reached the Stanley Cup final in two of three seasons and the Western final in 2013. If anyone could use four days to recharge his batteries, it's him.

"I'd rather be part of the All-Star Game than not," Doughty said. "If I was left off the team, I'd be a little upset. Yeah, I'd be having fun somewhere hot and just relaxing, which would be a good thing, definitely. But when you come here, it's not like you're playing hard hockey or practicing, so I'm going to get some rest here. 

"The only thing that sucks is coming from L.A. It's a pretty long travel day."

Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators, much like Doughty, logs big minutes for his team (26:24). But unlike Doughty, this isn't his first All-Star Game—it's his fourth. So if anyone had a reason to skip this, it was Weber.

"It's such an honor just to able to come here," he said.

When asked if he'd ever concoct an injury at the last minute to get out of an All-Star Game, Weber replied, "I hope not. Maybe if I'm over 40. Then I might ask for a pass."

COLUMBUS, OH - JANUARY 23:  Filip Forsberg #9 of the Nashville Predators speaks during Media Availability for the 2015 NHL All-Star Weekend at the Nationwide Arena on January 23, 2015 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

If the NHL wants the All-Star Game to be a worthwhile, promotional event that shines a light on the league's best players, something has to change. Catering to teams that don't want their players involved for whatever reason needs to stop. It's a little trickier when players announce last-second injuries, as it's not as though the league can perform a rushed diagnosis to check the validity of the claim.

It's not as though all players want to avoid the responsibility of this event. Filip Forsberg, who was promoted from the skills-competition-only rookie group to replace Malkin, had a pretty good attitude about the situation.

"You're sitting back home and watching TV and get that call, obviously I was real happy," Forsberg said. "Obviously it sucks that Malkin is not here, but I'll take that."

While Forsberg has the right mindset, if the NHL's biggest stars aren't coming, the league needs to invent something new that attracts both fans and players before this event lives out its usefulness.

Which it may have already.

All statistics via NHL.com and Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com.

Dave Lozo covers the NHL for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter: @DaveLozo.