NHL Leaves Itself With No Choice in All-Star Game Selections

Ah yes, the annual ritual is upon us today, complaining about the NHL All-Star Game selections

Well, at least we don’t have any worries about John Scott showing up and, you know, having fun this year.

But, as usual, we have complaints, lots of them. Mostly about who got snubbed, but also about Johnathan Toews, probably rightfully so.

Here’s the thing about the picks. By the time the NHL switched around the format, put more teams in some division than others, and tried to get one representative from each team, there’s not much they can do.

Take, for example, the division I follow most closely, The Metropolitan.

There are 8 teams in the division. Each team has to have one players selected. There are 11 spots on the roster. So, really, there are 3 spots that are up for grabs. Three….

There are over 160 “other” players in the division after you take one from each team, so yeah, go ahead and pick three.

Seriously, think about it, especially if you’re a forward in the division. Fans are going to want to see Crosby, Ovechkin and Malkin, so that’s three spots. John Tavares was always going to be the Islanders representative. So there’s really only 2 forward spots open. If your team has a legit defensemen or goalie who could be entered instead, or already has a forward spot taken, you have almost zero chance of being named an All-Star. I’m looking at you Phil Kessel, Nicklas Backstrom, Cam Atkinson, Michael Grabner (Seriously, Michael Grabner?), Nick Foligno, Chris Kreider, Jeff Skinner, and so on. There’s simply no way for any of those guys to get squeezed onto the team. This year, the get squeezed out by Taylor Hall and Wayne Simmonds. Not because those guys are having demonstrably better seasons, but because the Devils and Flyers have to have someone, and their own teams already have someone else in.

It’s that simple. In the current format, the NHL isn’t being mean, it just doesn’t have a choice. It’s not rewarding the best players of the first half of the season, it’s giving the fans they “big names” they want to see, and making sure every fan base as someone to root for.

If you’re looking for fair, this is not the place.

Thoughts on Islanders and Hurricanes Home and Home Weekend

Islanders Crest
Photo: IslesPunkFan / Flickr

After catching both ends of the home and home with the Carolina Hurricanes this weekend, I can happily report that the Isles are 2-0. Given recent history with the Canes, that is saying a lot. Of course, as many have pointed out, the Canes came in without Jordan Staal and Jeff Skinner, and lost Eric Staal part way through the second game tonight, and it’s not like they are predicted to be world beaters with those guys. Still two wins in two games is good news and we’ll take it!

Other thoughts:

  • 1. You can’t complain about the offense or the PowerPlay. Tavares, Boychuk and Nelson have been producing a ton of points with the man advantage, and let’s face it, the Isles haven’t had a booming shot like that on the PP in awhile!
  • 2. The other lines have been a little less consistent and haven’t domianted play, but they’ve gotten goals from Grabovski, Conacher and Bailey in these two games, so that’s a good sign that there might actually be some secondary scoring this season!
  • 3. The penalty kill, meanwhile, seems to be a mess. 4 PP goals given up to this CArolina lineup? Ugh. I hope this isn’t a result of missing Grabner and is more just a unit that needs to figure out playing together, but it needs to happen soon. Poor penalty killing hurt the Isles last year and it’ll hurt them again.
  • 4. The struggles of the third defensive pairing, Strait and Reinhart is not that surprising. Once DeHaan and Visnovsky are healthy, these guys can go back to playing the roles they are suited to right now, Strait as the extra defender playing with a strong partner when he does play, and Reinhart in Bridgeport playing 25-30 minutes a game and honing his skills.
  • 5. I can’t hep but feeling like Clutterbuck would be better suited to playing on the third line. How good could that line be with Neilsen centering Kulemin and Clutterbuck in terms of being a good defensive matchup and annoying the hell out of the first line of other teams? The problem, of course, is that Bailey and Kulemin seem to be very similar players. Neither is suited to play alongside Cizikas and Martin. So Clutterbuck is back there, for now.

Anyway you look at it, it’s good to see the Islanders winning games they should win. Now it’s on to MSG and a good measuring stick game against the Rangers, who are coming off a feisty loss in Columbus.

What has impressed you the most so far this young season? What has you worried?


How the Skills Competition is Shaping the NHL Wildcard Races

I’m not a fan of the shootout, let’s go ahead and get that out of the way. It’s not that I don’t see the entertainment value of it, sure it can be exciting. (Though many times it really isn’t) My complaint is that it’s a contrived way to end a hockey game that has very little to do with the actual game play itself. I feel the same way about going to penalty kicks in soccer as well, though I do see the validity there that as players tire, there is less likelihood of anyone ever scoring, since they aren’t taking shifts like hockey players are.

Still, the many supporters of the shootout hype the fact that it adds an entertaining conclusion to what would otherwise be a tie game, so that’s a good thing. The problem with that argument is that rewarding the winner of the shootout two points, as if they had won the game, is problematic in a league where playoff spots come down to a point here and there. Take a look at the current wildcard standings for the Eastern Conference, from Yahoo! for example. They are kind enough to include the ROW column (regulation and overtime wins), so we can clearly see the difference being made by the “extra” shootout point.

wcstandingsDetroit is currently sitting in the first wildcard spot, despite the fact that they have only the 4th most non-shootout wins. If we sorted the wildcard chase by the teams who have managed to win the most actual hockey games it would look very different: Continue reading