The Toronto Maple Leafs have every right to be angry right now as two of their top players, John Tavares and William Nylander failed to make the All-Star team cut.
Tavares and Nylander (among other members of the Toronto Maple Leafs) join a growing list in an abundantly talented Atlantic division that misses the All-Star game through no fault of their own.
The obvious headlines in Toronto focus on Auston Matthews, the face of the Toronto Maple Leafs and one of the premier faces of the NHL, being named captain of the Atlantic Division All-Star team. Matthews was voted in by the fans in recognition of being one of the best players in the game, and only two goals back of the scoring lead in the league.
The Arizona native deserves it, and there was no chance he would miss the league’s showpiece attraction. The same can be said for goalie Jack Campbell who will be making his 1st All-Star appearance and is playing himself into Vezina contention with his 18-5-3 record and .935 save percentage.
Toronto Maple Leafs and the All-Star Game
Campbell will share the crease in Las Vegas with Andrei Vasilevskiy, the dominant force in the Tampa Bay Lightning net. Even though Campbell has a higher save percentage and lower GAA, Vasilevskiy leads the league in wins and thoroughly deserves his All-Star nod.
In the rest of the Atlantic Division team there are a few understandable inclusions, in the form of Jonathan Huberdeau of the Florida Panthers and Tampa’s Victor Hedman. Boston’s Patrice Bergeron is set to make his 3rd All-Star appearance while Buffalo’s Rasmus Dahlin, Montreal’s Nick Suzuki and Ottawa’s Drake Batherson will join Campbell as first-time attendees. Detroit’s Dylan Larkin rounds out the team with one spot left for the ‘Last Man In’ role.
The NHL maintains that every team must be represented at the All-Star game but in doing so, there are a number of notable and very deserving names that have been left off this Atlantic Division roster.
Starting with Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares and winger William Nylander, who have 15 and 17 more points respectively than Nick Suzuki. Tavares has 5 more points, and Nylander 7 more than Drake Batherson. Tavares sits 11 places over Larkin in the scoring charts, Nylander sits a further 10 spots above Tavares.
The snubs don’t stop at Tavares and Nylander, as Steven Stamkos and Brad Marchand both miss out despite being 6th and 7th in the league in scoring with 45 and 41 points respectively. There can be some understanding as to why Patrice Bergeron was given the Bruins spot for the ASG.
Bergeron is 36 years old, turning 37 in July and this very well could be his final chance at the showpiece mid-season event which makes sense since the ASG is more spectacle than substance. However, the case for Rasmus Dahlin over Aaron Ekblad is far less convincing.
They Got the Goalies Right
The only position that was correctly selected was between the pipes. Looking further afield to the other divisions, the snubs become even more glaring.
Former Toronto Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri, who sits 4th in the league in scoring, misses out as does Mikko Rantenen despite being 8th in scoring and playing only 30 games. To show just how stark those snubs are, Rantenen and Kadri have each only played 30 games; no one in the top 26 point getters in the league has played 31 games or fewer.
Igor Shesterkin could feel slightly aggrieved to miss out but Calgary’s Jacob Markstrom certainly has a case to be disappointed as he has a better record, save percentage and GAA than Anaheim’s John Gibson who is on the plane to Vegas.
Though there will always be some controversy, the NHL’s division-centric approach, combined with the one player per team rule really keeps the game from truly showcasing the league’s best players.