Today the NHL will announce the pool of players that will participate in this season's whacked out All-Star Game featuring teams assembled by the players themselves. You probably know that the captains for the two teams are picking their teammates on Jan. 28, a day before the skills competition and two days before the actual game. There are a few wrinkles to explain before we talk about who could represent the Bluenote.
First, every team will have a player at the festivities, but that might be limited to a group of 12 rookies that are picked just to participate in the skills competition. The fans voted the first six players into the game, but they were limited to Penguins and Blackhawks. So the other 28 teams in the league will be represented by 36 additional all stars and those 12 rookies.
The definition of the rookie participants is limited to just players eligible for the Calder Trophy. That means the Blues Alex Pietrangelo is not eligible for that group. That also means the Blues really don't have a player who could be considered for the 12 rookie spots as Pietrangelo is the only young player making his mark on the team.
To illustrate what the league thought of the Blues at the beginning of the season, when they unveiled the all-star ballots, the Blues were one of only a handful of teams to have just two players on the ballot, T.J. Oshie and Jaroslav Halak. So that might point to Halak being the player. And while Blues fans have been coo coo for Cocoa Puffs over Halak, his numbers are kind of pedestrian.
His 15 wins are 13th in the NHL, his 91 percent save percentage is 26th. He's allowing 2.54 goals a game, 16th in the league. He does have four shutouts, fourth best in the league, but that's the only number that puts him among the top six goaltenders in the league.
Of this list of NHL goalies, how many will be chosen before Halak:
- Tim Thomas (1.84 GAA and five shutouts)
- Jimmy Howard (22 wins - leads NHL)
- Ondrej Pavelec (stopped 93 percent of shots faced - second in NHL)
- Jonas Hiller (21 wins, stopped 92.9 percent of shots)
- Carey Price (21 wins, plays for Montreal, was kept instead of Halak)
- Roberto Luongo (one of most popular goalies in Canada)
And remember, Marc-Andre Fleury has already been chosen, so realistically they're only picking five more goaltenders. Of that list above, Pavelec will probably be the lone Thrasher, Hiller the only Duck chosen. That only leaves three slots left. I can't imagine them not picking Price and Luongo on the strength of Vancouver and Montreal fan bases. So that might leave one goaltender spot open for Howard, Thomas and Halak. While you could argue that Halak has been the most important player on the Blues this year, I don't think he can overcome those other two.
That would leave the Blues either a selection on defense or at forward. Eric Brewer and Erik Johnson can go ahead and make vacation plans for that weekend because David Backes will add NHL All Star to his resume this season.
His 33 points are best on the Blues even though he's ranked just 44th in the NHL in scoring. But he has more to his game than just scoring. He's previously led the league in hits, he has a propensity for physical play and his history of taking on members of the Canadian Olympic team provide a bit of drama for the television broadcast. He was a Silver Medalist for the American team last year at the Olympics. He's got the Inglorious Backes buzz built on the Internet. He's just entering the prime of his career and inked a long-term deal with the team. And if Brewer isn't around in the near future when his contract expires after this season, he could be the next captain of the Blues.
Agree? Disagree? Tell us down below in the comments.
And yes, in the grand scheme of things, the NHL All Star Game is usually not very interesting and runs a distant second to a long nap the last Sunday in January. But it's still worth talking about and is a gauge of what the league thinks of the Blues.