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Tag:2012 All-Star Game
Posted on: January 26, 2012 2:17 pm
Edited on: January 26, 2012 2:29 pm
 

What to look for in tonight's All-Star draft

Kessel was the last one left last year. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

I only speak for myself -- obviously -- but the draft has already become my favorite part about the All-Star weekend. It's entertaining, fun and even has some suspense. The game itself that finishes the weekend might not have any of those three features working for it.

Last year's inaugural draft in Carolina was clearly a success, that's why it's coming back this year. It's just like sitting at home plate waiting for the kickball on the mound to call your name in elementary school recess. Who doesn't look back at those days fondly (don't answer that)?

Unfortunately, some of the suspense of the event is taken away though as there are some predictable elements to the draft. You already know that captains will stick to their real-life teammates. For example, Daniel Alfredsson has already made it very clear that his first pick will no doubt be his defensive teammate with the Senators, Erik Karlsson.

The draft will take part on Thursday night at 8 ET on NBC Sports Network (here's a guide to the whole weekend courtesy of Puck the Media). It was moved up one day this year to take place on Thursday instead of Friday. Don't forget that.

With all that said, here's a guide of what to look for in the draft.

Sens will go fast: This one is a guarantee. One of them is a captain. Another one will go to Team Alfredsson likely on his first pick. The others (Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek) could very well be headed to Team Alfredsson early too. It's the hometown team with a hometown captain, he's not going to let those guys sit in the pool for very long.

Same goes for the Bruins: I'm going to take a stab in the dark here and say Tim Thomas will be the first goaltender picked, and he'll go to Team Chara. That's especially the case when you consider Team Alfredsson already has a goaltender in assistant captain Henrik Lundqvist. Tyler Seguin isn't going to last long with Chara picking either. You have to take care of your own, you know?

Kessel won't go last: There was a chance when the captains were named that you thought Phil Kessel could possibly fall to the bottom of the draft again and be Mr. Irrelevant even with the solid season he's having. But then Maple Leafs teammate Joffrey Lupul was named the assistant to Zdeno Chara and he'll likely lobby for Chara to forget some old feud and select Kessel for their team.

But one of these guys will: The pool for guys going last is pretty easy to narrow down. It's going to be a forward (rules require goalies and defensemen to go by a certain round) who is the lone representative from his team and is on the lower-profile side. That knocks out big scorers (Steven Stamkos, Corey Perry) and veterans (Jarome Iginla). That leaves five guys (not burgers and fries) to choose from -- placed in my order of least likely to go last to most likely.

John Tavares -- I think he's easiest to cross off seeing that he plays center. He's safe.

Logan Couture -- A couple weeks ago he was my pick when the teams were announced but some later additions make him safe in my mind.

Jason Pominville -- Some think he wasn't even the right Sabres player to pick, instead it should have been Thomas Vanek. Certainly good odds of going last.

Jamie Benn -- The only Stars player, the All-Star Game will actually be his first game in a couple of weeks after an appendectomy. That could actually garner him some sympathy. But he's a quiet guy, so we'll see.

Jordan Eberle -- The Oilers forward was one of the late additions because of injury. He's only 21 and in just his second season. There are ingredients for him to be the last one sitting. But as last year showed with Kessel, that can result in a nice parting package.

For the record, the oddsmakers at Bovada (formerly Bodog) have Scott Hartnell the favorite to go last at 6/1, but I think he's safer than the guys above.

Disinterested players: Of course there will be guys who look like this is one of the worst things they've had to do as a professional hockey player. That's pretty much inevitable. It's a distinct possibility the captains could look that way. Sorry, but Alfie and Chara don't exactly scream exuberance.

Boo birds: The battle of Ontario is regaining steam this season, so no doubt Lupul and Kessel will hear some boo birds (and cheers from those Leafs fans who snuck in). Poor Kessel, guy can't catch a break at this thing.

Sedin twins: Will Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin be split up again? Is it possible that Brian Burke was able to keep them together against 29 other teams but the captains can't do it against one other team? This is as good of a chance as any year ... would Chara actually pick a Canucks player?

Hazing: I'm not talking about anything serious here, but remember the things like Alex Ovechkin taking a picture of a lonely Kessel in the seats? Yea, there will be some fun being had among the players. I'm putting money down on Hartnell pulling a prank on somebody in some fashion.

Better yet, it would be better if Hartnell tripped himself after he is picked, like at least one kid does at every graduation ceremony ever hosted. It would add to the legend that is Hartnell Down.

Enjoy the show everyone. It only goes downhill from there this weekend.

More from Eye on Hockey

Full All-Star Game coverage
NHL.com: Full All-Star list

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: January 25, 2012 11:15 am
Edited on: January 25, 2012 11:16 am
 

Neal named to All-Star Game in place of Ovechkin

Neal has 27 goals this season, 13 on the power play. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

It took way too long in almost everybody's estimation, but James Neal was finally named an All-Star on Wednesday. He was given a spot in the game thanks to Alex Ovechkin abstaining after his suspension.

From the moment the All-Stars were announced, people immediately wondered why the Penguins' leading goal scorer wasn't on the list. As of Wednesday, he's only tied with Jonathan Toews for the second most goals in the league with 27.

"We thought he was an All-Star when they first named the team," coach Dan Bylsma said on Tuesday.

Better late than never, I suppose.

It's funny to me how people feign disinterest in the All-Star Game but then get worked up when players don't get the nod to play in it. Neal's exclusion put that whole idea on display.

Neal gets the late addition to the game the day after Scott Hartnell had the same happen with him, replacing Jonathan Toews. Both players are in the top 10 in goal scoring this season and were seen as probably the two biggest omissions to the initial list. Circumstances allowed that to be corrected.

Neal will now join Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang as representing the Penguins in Ottawa.

More from Eye on Hockey

Ovechkin withdraws from All-Star Game
Hartnell replaces Toews for game
More All-Star Game coverage

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: January 24, 2012 1:14 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2012 1:17 pm
 

Hartnell named to All-Star team in place of Toews

Hartnell down? More like Hartnell up. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

We knew it was only a matter of time before some of the obvious snubs of the All-Star Game were corrected and named to the team. It comes through the guise of injury replacements, but that's just semantics. Scott Hartnell is an All-Star!

Yes, the Philadelphia Flyers' colorful scorer was named to the team on Tuesday morning, replacing the injured Jonathan Toews from the Blackhawks. In the case of Hartnell, it's no "well he doesn't really deserve it" situation (imagine the most annoying friend you have saying that, works for the effect).

"It definitely was a surprise to get the phone call late [Monday] night and be selected," Hartnell told NHL.com. "I just had a smile on my face. It's our father's trip here, so he was sitting here with me. A real special night."

Since he wasn't named an All-Star, Hartnell has been on a tear. He had a natural hat trick on Sunday against the Bruins, scoring three straight goals, all in the second period. The game before that he had two goals in a win against the Devils. That recent spurt has brought his season total to 25 goals, five behind his career high.

While he isn't replacing him, Hartnell makes a nice fill-in for Alex Ovechkin, who pulled out of the game on Tuesday. They are both power forwards who will lay some lumber and Hartnell has a big personality that helps hide the absence of one of the games better players and bigger names.

"I had something lined up to get away for a few days, get away from hockey," Hartnell said, "but in the back of my mind I had my fingers crossed, maybe I'd get a call. There's a lot of good players in the NHL these days, and if it wasn't me it could have been two or three other guys. I feel pretty fortunate and pretty lucky. Going there, I was thinking about the skills competition. Hopefully I don't get too nervous out there. I can't wait. I'm super excited."

From Toews' standpoint, don't get too concerned, Blackhawks fans. His injury isn't thought to be serious, although he will miss Tuesday's game against the Predators.

By my count that leaves the most egregious snub count at two; James Neal and Patrice Bergeron. After them it's probably Radim Vrbata.

More from Eye on Hockey

Ovechkin withdraws from All-Star Game
Toews out with upper-body injury
More All-Star Game coverage

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: January 24, 2012 12:24 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2012 1:28 pm
 

Ovechkin skipping All-Star Game after suspension

Ovechkin has 20 goals and 19 assists. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

It was going to be seriously awkward if Alex Ovechkin, a suspended player, were to take up the honor bestowed upon him and attend the NHL All-Star Game this weekend in Ottawa.

Well, awkwardness avoided. The Washington Capitals announced on Tuesday that he will not attend the All-Star Game, instead staying home after being handed down a three-game suspension from league disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan on Monday.

"My heart is not there," Ovechkin said on Tuesday. "I suspended, so why I have to go there?

"I'd love to be there, but I'm suspended. I don't want to be a target. I feel I'm not deserving to be there."

Caps GM George McPhee released the information, saying that Ovechkin's heart is not in it and that the team supports him.

McPhee also took it as a chance to make a little statement regarding Ovechkin's suspension.

"I was surprised and disappointed, I didn't anticipate he would be suspended for three game," McPhee said.

It was also the first time the Washington media had a chance to ask Ovechkin for his opinion on the hit since the suspension. Unsurprisingly, he didn't like the ruling much.

"I don't think it was a bad hit or dirty hit," he said. "Yeah, I jumped, but he don't get hurt, I don't get two minutes."

Speaking of suspensions and fines, will Ovechkin be facing one now for skipping the festivities in Ottawa? Remember, players in the past have, including Nicklas Lidstrom.

Well according to Darren Dreger of TSN, the NHL is disappointed but won't punish Ovechkin.

In a way, this sort of rights a wrong if you ask me. I objected to Ovechkin's nomination based on merit this season, there were other guys who deserved it more. I understand the marketing value and name recognition with Ovechkin and completely understood why he was named an All-Star, but on merit alone I didn't think he deserved it.

It was a tough situation for Ovechkin, who said that he didn't deserve to be there after being suspended and didn't want to be a distraction. He was certainly not prohibited from playing in the game because of his suspension, but as I said, it would have been a bit awkward.

However, I don't like Ovechkin skipping the game. It really comes across as being sulky more than anything else. I really don't think he would have provided much of a distraction to the All-Star Game by being there. Suspensions are pretty common these days in the NHL.

I didn't rip Tim Thomas for his decision not to visit the White House yesterday in a form of protest. I was perfectly fine with his decision. But Ovechkin is just passing on this because his heart is not in it? I don't like it all that much. It's obvious people like to watch him play.

A replacement will be named to fill his spot and there's one very notable snub still sitting out there: Penguins forward James Neal. I'd be very surprised if he's not the one to get the call to replace Ovechkin.

On an interesting side note, that means that Dennis Wideman will be the only Capital in the All-Star Game. What do you think the odds would have been on that at the beginning of the season?

More from Eye on Hockey

Ovechkin given three-game suspension
Ovechkin raps in Russian and dances
Dissecting the All-Star picks

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: January 18, 2012 1:04 pm
Edited on: January 18, 2012 1:08 pm
 

Alfredsson, Chara named All-Star Game captains

By Brian Stubits

We're another step closer toward determining the All-Star lineups as the captains were announced for the game to be played later this month in Ottawa. Remember, they will be in charge of actually selecting the teams like a schoolyard kickball match, something the NHL first tried last season.

One of them was the lock of the century in Daniel Alfredsson. The longtime Senators captain will be the boss for one of the two teams and will have the task of being his own GM -- minus salary cap constraints, of course.

The other spot was a battle that likely came down to three names: Dion Phaneuf, Jarome Iginla and Zdeno Chara. It was eventually Chara who got the honor, a really good choice. First of all, he was a member of the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins a season ago and won the Norris Trophy for his efforts. Secondly, he was an Ottawa Senator once upon a time. So that Project Mayhem won out a little in the end after all.

“It’s gonna be interesting. It’s another honor on top of being selected as an All-Star. I found out this morning, so I’m a little bit surprised,” Chara said on Wednesday (via CSN New England). “I’m going to at least try to see how it is to be in the position that some GMs are in, or people that are making those decisions. In a group of players that are being selected I don’t think you can make a wrong choice.

“I’m not going to do too much research, but I’m going to do the best job I can to build the best possible team.”

The possibilities abound. The biggest question mark that we'll have to watch for in the draft is Chara and Phil Kessel or Chara and the Canucks. First with Kessel, the two didn't seem to have the best relationship while they were together with the Bruins, but Chara doesn't think that will matter when it comes to draft (again from CSN).

“I don’t know. We’ll see how it goes. Somebody has to go last,” said Chara with a smile on his face. “I don’t know if they’ll have a car for him or something else ... we’ll see how it goes.”

I would say with the season Kessel is having, the other team will take that problem off Chara's hands and select Kessel, but remember, we're talking about a member of the Maple Leafs here. The Battle of Ontario is picking up some steam again and Alfredsson might not be all that crazy about having a member of the Leafs on his team either.

Could another Mr. Irrelevant car be coming Kessel's way? I'll still say no.

I don't know about you, but this draft might have become my favorite part of the All-Star Weekend last year. It's fun and a good chance to see the players interacting. It's certainly better than the game itself (other than Cam Ward on the goalie mic, that was entertaining).

Previously at Eye On Hockey

Dissecting All-Star selections; predictions

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: January 15, 2012 6:47 pm
Edited on: January 15, 2012 6:51 pm
 

Stars All-Star Benn out after appendectomy

By Brian Stubits

It started off as such a good week for Jamie Benn. The Dallas Stars forward was named an All-Star for the first time in his career, the only member of the Stars elected to go to Ottawa for the game at the end of this month.

Well now he might not make it because his week didn't end as well as it began.

Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News reported on Sunday evening that the young star is going to miss 10 days to three weeks after he was sent to the hospital for an appendectomy.

If he is out on the long side of that projection, he'll miss the All-Star Game in Ottawa on Jan. 29. If that's the case, his teammate Loui Eriksson could possibly be called on to replace Benn in the game to represent the Stars.

On a more important level -- you know, where the games matter -- the Stars will be without not only Benn for a little bit but also Mike Ribeiro until after the All-Star Game. Head coach Glen Gulutzan released that information earlier on Sunday.

The Stars have five games until the All-Star break hits including back-to-back games this upcoming week against the Red Wings and Blues.

On the season Benn is the Stars' leading scorer with a total of 42 points in 43 games (13-29=42) and has taken more shots than anybody on the team. His absence won't be easy for Dallas to overcome.

"I'm excited about the challenge,'' Gulutzan said. "I've been dealt worse hands than this before and we came through just fine in those situations. Hopefully we'll be a better team in February for having gone through this.''

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: January 12, 2012 1:43 pm
Edited on: January 12, 2012 4:24 pm
 

All-Star Game: Dissecting the picks; predictions

By Brian Stubits

The NHL announce its full list of All-Stars on Thursday in about as poor a way as it could have. Remember when Mario Lemieux called the NHL a garage league? Maybe he was thinking of days like this.

The NHL had ample opportunities to put this front and center. They could have announced the selections on Wednesday night using NBC Sports Network and TSN. Heck, they could have made the announcement using the NHL Network instead of running a replay of a game from last night.

All of that would have been better. Instead, the All-Star selections started leaking one at a time. The first was the Florida Panthers announcing Brian Campbell would be representing them. Then the Blackhawks followed with the Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. The leaks continued until the NHL finally released the entire list of players about an hour later.

It's almost like it wasn't planned.

Anyway, on to the guys who were selected. These are the guys who will head to Ottawa for the All-Star Game and will be part of the second NHL All-Star Fantasy Draft, much like the way you would pick teams for kickball at recess with two captains selecting players until they're gone.

As usual, there are a few head-scratchers in here.

Forwards

Jason Spezza (Senators), Milan Michalek (Senators), Daniel Alfredsson (Senators), Jamie Benn (Stars), Pavel Datsyuk (Red Wings), Marian Gaborik (Rangers), Claude Giroux (Flyers), Marian Hossa (Blackhawks), Jarome Iginla (Flames), Patrick Kane (Blackhawks), Phil Kessel (Maple Leafs), Mikko Koivu (Wild), Joffrey Lupul (Maple Leafs), Evgeni Malkin (Penguins), Logan Couture (Sharks), Alex Ovechkin (Capitals), Jason Pominville (Sabres), Daniel Sedin (Canucks), Henrik Sedin (Canucks), Tyler Seguin (Bruins), Corey Perry (Ducks), Steven Stamkos (Lightning), John Tavares (Islanders), Jonathan Toews (Blackhawks).

Defensemen

Erik Karlsson (Senators), Dion Phaneuf (Maple Leafs), Dustin Byfuglien (Jets), Brian Campbell (Panthers), Zdeno Chara (Bruins), Alexander Edler (Canucks), Dan Girardi (Rangers), Shea Weber (Predators), Keith Yandle (Coyotes), Dennis Wideman (Capitals), Ryan Suter (Predators), Kimmo Timonen (Flyers).

Goaltenders

Tim Thomas (Bruins), Brian Elliott (Blues), Jimmy Howard (Red Wings), Henrik Lundqvist (Rangers), Carey Price (Canadiens), Jonathan Quick (Kings).

For those wondering on the breakdown, that's 24 players from the Eastern Conference, 18 from the Western. The six vote-ins all coming from the East helps with that bit of disparity, though.

Now, on to the superlatives ...

Biggest snub

You never know who actually said no to the invite. That's the caveat here. But if nothing else the players should get the honor and then decline to appear (I get the murkiness of it, but they deserve the honor).

With that said, wow, where do I begin? Teemu Selanne? Nicklas Lidstrom? Well they asked out, so no use getting bent out of shape there. So moving on ...

I understand that Nicklas Backstrom (the Capitals center, that is) is injured at the moment, but he's day to day and the game isn't for another few weeks. There is zero doubt that he has been the Capitals' best player this season, not Ovechkin, who made the roster ahead of a long list of players that probably deserved it more.

I scratch my head a little with the selection of Byfuglien on defense. Not that he is bad by any stretch, but I probably would take a few guys over him. From the Jets perspective, I would have liked to see Evander Kane more.

You could make a case -- probably not a great one, however -- for Florida's Jason Garrison, as well. He leads defensemen in goals with 11 and has a slap shot that might possibly stand a chance in the hardest shot competition against Chara and Byfuglien.

There are a few more in the forward role who seem to be more deserving. It's going to continue to come back to Ovechkin because he's the high-profile name with mediocre numbers. Thomas Vanek in Buffalo? Scott Hartnell in Philly? Kris Versteeg in Florida? Patrik Elias for the Devils? Patrice Bergeron in Boston? Patrick Sharp (who was reportedly not picked before injury concerns) Or even Radim Vrbata from the Coyotes? The lists goes on.

It goes to show how even when the fans aren't voting, star power is a big factor. It's always about a little more than just performance.

Least deserving

To make room for the snubs you obviously have to decide who shouldn't be on the list, otherwise they aren't a snub, right? Well that is pretty tough to do.

I do not think Ovechkin deserves his selection based on merit alone. But again, there's more to it than just the stats. Ovechkin gets in based on the star power and marketing more than anything else. I don't necessarily like that, but I can accept that. I think Kane falls into this category to an extent, too. All things being equal, a few of the snubs probably deserve the honor more than Kane this season, but he has a little star power that, say, Versteeg doesn't have.

I'm not terribly high on the other Caps pick of Wideman either. He's had a good season offensively, which is what this game values most, so in that regard it's OK. But even he admitted he was surprised when he was told, he thought he was getting traded.

After them (not counting the guys voted in) it gets pretty tough. Not any wholly undeserving guys (not even the above mentioned).

Keeping in mind that every team gets represented through the All-Star Game or the rookie selections, some guys are safe. That makes it tougher.

Who will be Mr. Irrelevant?

We know this much: It won't be Kessel again. Absolutely no way to predict this accurately, so my stab in the dark is going to say Couture. He's the only member from the Sharks, he is young and plays at the position with the most players, on the wing.

Who will be the captains?

The official announcement will come in a week, so for now we're left to speculate. Alfredsson is a given seeing how the game is in Ottawa. Take that one to the bank. The other was likely going to be Selanne, but now ... Iginla? Maybe you go with an old Senator in Chara? I'd take my chances it's Iginla.

Or maybe Kessel? That would be interesting.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: January 5, 2012 11:26 am
 

Four Sens part of six voted into All-Star Game

By Brian Stubits

Like other sports, the NHL allows fans to vote players into the All-Star Game. Like other sports, the fans get it horribly wrong.

The NHL announced the "starters" for this month's All-Star Game in Ottawa, and not surprisingly it is very Senators friendly. While they aren't really starters for the game, they are all voted in for six guaranteed spots. The vote-ins are as follows:

Forward: Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson, Milan Michalek, all from the Senators.
Defense: Erik Karlsson (Senators) and Dion Phaneuf (Toronto Maple Leafs).
Goaltender: Tim Thomas (Boston Bruins).

That's some impressive ballot-stuffing by the fine folks of Ottawa.

In all honesty, none of the four Sens voted in are completely undeserving of their place in the game. Karlsson has a legit claim to being a vote-in, he leads all defensemen in points and is second in the NHL with 32 assists. Michalek (19 goals) and Spezza (40 points) are both having quality seasons and Alfredsson, well, let's say he sort of deserves a spot at this point when the game is played in Ottawa. But the guaranteed spots? I'm not so sure about that.

Look at it this way: None of the league's top seven goal scorers or top 10 in points was voted in.

Of course, this isn't a big deal. It's the fans voting in six of 42 spots on the team and the hometown fans putting their players in the game. If that's their prerogative, then so be it. They're going to be the ones buying the tickets to the game. If they want to see guys they can watch at home 41 times a season for one more game, that's their right.

At least the fans got it right on Thomas. Craig Anderson was just too tough to vote in to the game, even if he tends for the Sens.

But have no fear. Claude Giroux, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Steven Stamkos, Phil Kessel, Marian Gaborik, Jonathan Toews, Jimmy Howard, Evgeni Malkin ... they'll all get put in the game if they want to play. They'll be in the draft that will be held once again as captains will pick sides like a schoolyard kickball game.

However the first thought I had when I heard the list (OK, second after remembering to not get all hot and bothered by the hometown players getting in) was to remember the Project Mayhem and how well that worked. Remember the idea where fans were going to vote in all the former Senators tearing it up in the NHL to show Ottawa what they've been missing? Guys like Zdeno Chara -- who should still make it regardless -- and Dany Heatley? How'd that work out?

I don't think these vote-in results will have much of an impact on the All-Star Game viewership. It's hard to find people who actually like it to begin with.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com