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Did they get it right? Six questionable NHL All-Star Game selections

NHL All-Star
Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

The National Hockey League recently announced the first 32 skaters for the upcoming NHL All-Star Game in Miami, Florida, on Feb. 3 and 4, 2023. Significant announcements like this allow fans across the league to overtake social media and debate the merits of the players headed to the mid-season classic. 

After examining the players on this list, it can be challenging to gauge the standards for being named an All-Star. Historically the game has always been a popularity contest, with fans voting in their favorite players, overlooking those who genuinely deserve the recognition. 

This year, the NHL altered the selection process and announced a representative from every team to ensure each franchise has a player at the festivities. Now, everyone can vote for their favorite players in the “fan vote,” which will give a handful of other deserving All-Stars a chance to head south in February. 

Despite the league’s best intentions to include someone from every team, their current selections caused an uproar because a handful of the decisions need to make more sense. Consequently, the league stirred up the debate (again) about their flawed selection process, something fans have been struggling with for years since social media became a centerpiece in the voting procedure. 

Let’s look at six questionable NHL All-Star Game selections and see if the league made the right call.

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Islanders’ Brock Nelson earns first NHL All-Star Game selection

NHL: New York Islanders at Calgary Flames
Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Islanders advanced to the conference final in back-to-back seasons in 2020 and 2021, exceeding expectations in both years. Their core, which featured Brock Nelson, came together under then-head coach Barry Trotz to stir the pot in the playoffs with a handful of upsets. However, the team kept winning thanks to outstanding goalie performances from Semyon Varlamov and a rookie named Ilya Sorokin. 

Nelson, 38 points, is the Islanders’ second-leading scorer, behind teammate and former All-Star Mathew Barzal. Currently, he’s pacing the team with 15 goals and has 23 assists and a plus-five rating. He’ll make his first appearance at an All-Star Game this season, which is a surprise given the other names on the Islanders’ roster. 

Historically, Barzal has been the de facto All-Star selection, with two games already on his resume. After back-to-back appearances in 2019 and 2020, Adam Pelech stepped in as the Islanders representative in 2022, showing there are other star players on the island. However, this year’s choice of Nelson is quite puzzling because he is not the team’s best player; that honor belongs to a goalie. 

Halfway through the 2022-23 season, Ilya Sorokin is considered one of the best young netminders in the league. Despite a 14-13-1 record, his statistics are eye-popping and among the league leaders. He ranks 10th with a 2.35 goals-against average (GAA), and 6th with a .924 save percentage (SV%), which is not bad considering his team is battling for a wild card spot. Right now, the league’s reigning Vezina winner, Igor Shesterkin (New York Rangers), is across the river in Manhattan; however, there’s been discussion that Sorokin is the city’s best Russian goalie. 

The NHL failed the Islanders’ supporters by selecting Nelson over Sorokin, depriving the rest of the fans across the league of the opportunity to watch two of the game’s brightest young netminders go head-to-head in the breakaway competition. 

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After nine seasons, Flyers’ Kevin Hayes finally gets an All-Star nod

NHL: Colorado Avalanche at Philadelphia Flyers
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The NHL swung and missed with another Metropolitan Division selection involving a team located along the I-95 corridor in Philadelphia. As of this writing, the Flyers are still rebuilding and fighting off the Montreal Canadiens and Columbus Blue Jackets to avoid finishing last in the conference. 

On Thursday, the league announced that Kevin Hayes would represent the Flyers in Miami at the All-Star Game, the first honor of his nine-year career. Interestingly, Hayes earned the nod despite being the second-leading scorer on his team behind Travis Konecny, a young right-winger who had already reached the 20-goal mark for the fourth time in his career.

These selections are not based on past performances but on what players accomplished thus far in 2022-23. Hayes may lead the team with 25 assists; however, he is a minus-nine, one of the worst ratings on the roster. Recently, he notched his 10th goal of the year, which is third best, behind Konecny and Owen Tippett. 

Now that franchise icon and seven-time All-Star Claude Giroux has departed, there’s an opening for someone new to represent the franchise at these games. Unfortunately, the lineup doesn’t have a star player to be their unanimous selection, and any decision besides their leading scorer, Konecny, seems questionable. 

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Blackhawks’ Seth Jones heads back to NHL All-Star Game for the fourth time

NHL: Chicago Blackhawks at Carolina Hurricanes
James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

A decade ago, the Chicago Blackhawks were the toast of the league, winning three Stanley Cup championships from 2010-2015 with stars like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Together, the pair have played in a combined 13 All-Star Games. However, the franchise is in the basement of the Western Conference, and neither player made the All-Star roster. 

Instead, the honor went to Seth Jones, who joined the team in July 2021 and will participate in his fourth career All-Star Game. His selection is curious, to say the least, considering he is the seventh leading scorer on his team as a defenseman. Through 28 games thus far, he’s got two goals and ten assists for 12 points, with a minus-24 rating, the second-worst mark in the lineup. 

Now, Kane and Toews could have approached the NHL and informed them that they would not attend the All-Star Game, which would have forced the league’s hand on finding someone else to represent the Blackhawks. However, neither player is currently lighting it up, with Kane leading the pack with just 27 points and Toews chipping in 21. Jones’ selection is questionable because he’s already been an All-Star on several occasions, and Max Domi, second in team scoring, has never been. 

Domi would have been the logical choice for the Blackhawks because he will be the team’s future once Kane and Toews leave. Yes, Jones will be there too, with a lengthy contract extension; however, Domi was already the team’s biggest offensive threat in 2022-23. He’s tied for first in goals (11) and second in assists (15) and hasn’t missed a game yet this season. The NHL had a golden opportunity to showcase the future of a team who has had some bad press lately but dropped the ball by selecting a familiar face instead a rising star. 

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Injured Blues’ Vladimir Tarasenko heads back to the NHL All-Star Game

NHL: St. Louis Blues at Vegas Golden Knights
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Before anyone gets upset reading why Vladimir Tarasenko is a questionable All-Star selection, the only reason he made this particular list is because he will miss the next four weeks with a hand injury. If anyone was keeping track of dates, the All-Star Game is exactly four weeks away, so if Tarasenko encounters any setbacks in his rehab, he may miss the festivities altogether.  

If healthy, Tarasenko will participate in his fourth All-Star Game, which isn’t a bad accomplishment, considering he’s currently the Blues’ fifth-leading scorer with 29 points. Only six players in the lineup have reached double digits in goals and collected over 20 points, with Tarasenko’s totals among the lowest out of the six. 

Realistically, the NHL should have selected Jordan Kyrou as the Blues’ representative; however, they may have been scared away by his minus-18 rating, which is third worst on the team. The plus/minus rating is a hot-button topic across the league since many people don’t believe it’s a reliable statistic and should not be considered when judging a player’s overall performance. Based on that assessment, Kyrou, who represented the Blues last season, should have been the hands-down choice for the second consecutive year because he’s leading a struggling team in scoring. In 36 games, he’s collected 19 goals and 19 points, ranked first and fourth in the lineup. 

If Tarasenko doesn’t make it to the game and Kyrou doesn’t earn the chance to replace his teammate, Robert Thomas may be the substitute. Coincidentally, whatever direction this situation goes in, the move would continue to stir the debate on who truly deserves to be the St. Louis Blues representative in Miami.  

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Ducks’ Troy Terry earns second consecutive NHL All-Star Game selection

NHL: Anaheim Ducks at Montreal Canadiens
David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports

In 2021-22, Troy Terry led the Anaheim Ducks in scoring thanks to 37 goals and 67 points while finishing second in assists (30) behind rookie sensation Trevor Zegras (38). Lucky for Ducks fans, they had two players at the event since the NHL brought Zegras to participate in the skills competition. It was a brilliant public relations move by the league since he’s made the “Michigan Goal” popular and would eventually be the cover athlete of NHL 23 with EA Sports. 

Terry is once again leading his team in scoring, this time producing the best numbers in all three categories, goals (12), assists (21), and points (33). Surprisingly, Zegras is right behind him with an 11-19-30 stat line, which begs us to question which player deserves to go to Miami. 

The NHL has been busy promoting Zegras, 21 years old, as a future star, yet selected his teammate (Terry) because he’s the leading scorer. Of course, Zegras could earn his spot during the fan vote; however, if he doesn’t, and the league brings him along anyways, it would be a confusing situation for the casual fan. Those people may look at the situation and question what Zegras achieved to merit the inclusion, and if he was that talented from the beginning, why didn’t he get selected in the first place? 

Terry earned his spot at the All-Star Game; however, his participation will always be overshadowed by Zegras if and when he attends. The problem here isn’t whether a particular player deserves a nod; it’s the potential mess the league creates for itself when they want to promote a young star over another. 

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Kadri will attend his second straight NHL All-Star Game, this time with the Flames

NHL: Calgary Flames at San Jose Sharks
Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

In one of the most questionable selections regarding the 2022-23 All-Star Game, the NHL picked Nazem Kadri to represent the Calgary Flames. For those who need a refresher, last season as a member of the Colorado Avalanche, Kadri participated in his first All-Star Game and finished the year with his first Stanley Cup championship. As one of the biggest free agents in 2022, he signed a massive deal (seven years) with the Flames.

Calgary fans celebrated his acquisition because he’s a gifted goal scorer and now brings a championship pedigree to the dressing room. Furthermore, he recently had his best season as a professional hockey player, scoring timely playoff goals and playing a physical game that kept opponents on edge. 

At the start of 2022-23, his contract looked like a bargain since he scored points in six games, leading the Flames to a 5-1 record. Then the team embarked on a seven-game losing streak, and Kadri’s production dropped to just three points over that span. Moreover, the Flames continued to drop contests, and Kadri’s offense disappeared, allowing other players to set up and lead the team. 

Two-time Stanley Cup champion Tyler Toffoli leads the Flames with 15 goals while ranking second in points with 32. His plus-nine rating is third-best on the team; however, Toffoli has never been to an All-Star Game despite six 20-goal seasons on his resume. Ultimately, the Flames are fighting for a playoff in a tightly contested Western Conference and would not be where they are without Toffoli’s production. 

Kadri has had a subpar season in his new home and earned his selection based on his name recognition. As a Stanley Cup winner and big-name free agent signing, people will tune in to watch him play with other All-Stars. The NHL made a questionable decision to name Kadri on the roster when other players were more deserving of the honor. 

Fans will be happy to watch any player at the NHL All-Star Game because of the highly anticipated 3-on-3 format, which usually results in plenty of open ice for stars to show off their talents. However, whether or not their favorite player(s) attend the festivities is where the conversations and debates start and end. Realistically, not everyone gets a chance to participate in these events, which is sad because some players deserve the opportunity. Hopefully, the fan vote helps a few achieve their dreams; however, fans can always find something to debate regarding the topic of selections, no matter what the final roster looks like.

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