The Toronto Maple Leafs will host the 2024 NHL All-Star Game, a thrilling event for the city of Toronto. However, unfortunately, the festivities still fall short.
The requirement for one player from each NHL team to be represented at the All-Star Game seems absurd. Several Toronto Maple Leafs players deserve a spot in the game, yet as of now, the only guaranteed player is Auston Matthews. While Matthews is undoubtedly deserving, so are some of his teammates.
For instance, Tom Wilson, with 19 points in 36 games, is guaranteed to play in the All-Star Game, overshadowing William Nylander, who has an impressive 51 points in 36 games. This discrepancy is due to the Washington Capitals needing a representative. Not only does this decision defy statistical sense, but it also seems counterintuitive, considering the game is in Toronto, where having as many Leafs representatives as possible would enhance the event.
Moreover, Wilson isn't even the best player on the Capitals; Alex Ovechkin still leads the team in points. However, Ovechkin is inexplicably excluded from participating in what could be his last All-Star Game.
NHL Must Change All-Star Game Criteria
Other deserving players like Cale Makar, J.T. Miller, Mikko Rantanen, and Leon Draisaitl were not initially named to the All-Star team. Instead, players like Clayton Keller, Nick Suzuki, and Oliver Bjorkstrand received nominations ahead of them. Notably, Bjorkstrand has never scored 60 points in a season, yet he's chosen over Draisaitl, a top-five player in the NHL who has scored 50 goals three times.
Makar, a former Conn Smythe Trophy winner at only 25 years old, is on pace to win his second Norris Trophy this season. Despite his outstanding performance, the NHL fails to effectively market the game around him.
While fan voting may rectify some of these oversights, the All-Star Game selection process should not devolve into a charity contest for players having a good season on weaker teams. Invitations should be extended to star players or those having exceptional seasons, making the event a true representation of the league's best players at that specific time.
The NBA All-Star Game offers a model for success, avoiding fan-vote pitfalls and prioritizing the inclusion of the league's top players at that moment.
If four players from one team make the cut, as seen in the 2015 NBA All-Star Game with the Atlanta Hawks, it reflects the reality that they were the best players at that time.
Reflecting on past experiences, such as when Leo Komarov represented the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2016 NHL All-Star Game, it's clear that fans don't tune in to see their own players but rather to witness the best players in the world competing together. The NHL needs to acknowledge that reality.
Hopefully, more Toronto Maple Leafs players will be voted into the All-Star Game soon. It would be a significant miss for the league, particularly with the game taking place in Toronto.