Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
With the NHL All-Star Starters being announced on Friday, it's time to take a look at who should have been named a starter based on their fantasy play through the first half on the NHL season and not on the popularity contest which most leagues now use to determine such things.
Guys like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the Chicago kids, Jonathan Toews (9 G, 20 A, 87 SOG, 27 PIM) and Patrick Kane (16 G, 25 A, 106 SOG, 26 PIM) belong there. Their performance thus far has earned them a trip to Montreal this month and they are deserving starters.
Guys like Alexei Kovalev, Mike Komisarek and Carey Price on the other hand, well, not so much. They were elected to start the game because they are Canadiens and the game is on their home ice, so fans put together a voting campaign to try and see if they could get all six Eastern Conference starting positions filled by the "Habs."
Thankfully, it was not big enough to overcome the landslide of votes that a player of Crosby's ilk can count on year after year.
But there is no excuse for Kovalev being elected to start. None.
He ranks 37th in the league in scoring, tied with Travis Zajac of New Jersey and Alexei Ponikarovsky of Toronto with a "scalding" 28 points. His plus/minus rating of +6 through 38 games is right around the league average. Honestly, there really is nothing about his stat line that screams "All-Star" and he even went a span of 19 games this season without scoring a goal.
Who should be a starter over Kovalev you ask?
How about Phil Kessel in Boston who has recorded 40 points, which is tops among right wingers. His +16 ranks in the top-10 in the Eastern Conference and his seven power play goals tie him for fifth most.
Or how about Nikolai Zherdev from the New York Rangers. His 35 points may not look too impressive on paper, but when you take into account that he has been the lone offensive bright spot on a Rangers team that has struggled to score goals (only five players have over 20 points), that point total looks a lot better. Add in the fact that he is one of only four regulars to have a positive plus/minus ranking and Zherdev should be a lock for the All-Star top line.
The fact that Tim Thomas is not the starting goaltender for the East may be the biggest travesty of all. All the Boston netminder has done is play the best hockey of his career and backstop the best team in the conference to an unbelievable first half. His .932 Save Percentage is second in the conference, while his 2.13 Goals Against Average trails only his teammate Manny Fernandez's 2.02. Thomas also has compiled three shutouts which is tied for the most in the East.
This isn't to take away from Price who has had a solid year in Montreal. He just hasn't had the best year to date and doesn't deserve to be the starter. Heck, I'd give the nod to Scott Clemmensen in New Jersey over Price. What Clemmensen has done in the wake of the Martin Brodeur injury has been nothing short of fantastic.
Notice that I left off the fourth Canadiens' starter for the game, Andrei Markov, who was most deserving of his election with a solid first half of the season which saw him rack up 27 points, a plus eight to go along with his 82 blocked shots as of this writing.
I'm not even going to mention Komisarek, who may be the biggest joke of them all. One goal and two assists? A plus three in 22 games? In fantasy leagues he is owned less then 10% of the time. Disgraceful. Disgusting. Or as Daffy Duck says "Despicable."
I'm not saying the fans shouldn't have a say in whom the starters are for the All-Star Game. That's part of the fun. What I do think needs to take place is some kind of voting cap, a set number of times an e-mail address or IP address can vote, to prevent fans from stuffing the ballot box for undeserving players.
The ramifications of this are wide ranging from a deserving player not receiving the recognition of starting an All-Star Game like he should have, to having a player who should have been on the team not there because his roster spot was given to an unworthy player.