Monday, January 26, 2004

Hey now, you're an All-Star/YoungStar 

Over the weekend, the NHL handed out its equivalent to the participation ribbons they used to give out in gym class. As you probably know by now, Jason Spezza (15G, 21A for 36 pts.) was passed over for the YoungStars game in favour of filling out the team with players whose teams didn't have any representation in the main game. The following forwards were named to the team ahead of Spezza (player, G,A,P):

Michael Ryder (14,22,36)
Trent Hunter (16,16,32)
Patrice Bergeron (14,15,29)
Ryan Malone (11,12,23)
Eric Staal (9,14,23)
Derek Roy (2,4,6)

A few things worked against Spezza. First, the fact that the Senators are well represented (though 6'9" short (no oxymoron intended) of the full representation they deserve) undoubtedly was a factor. This was the only chance to get Pittsburgh, Carolina and Buffalo into the All-Star weekend. However, the Bruins representation (Thornton and Boynton) on the main all-star team didn't prevent their deserving young stars in Bergeron and Andrew Raycroft from getting named to the game. Pittsburgh's representative could have been Marc-Andre Fleury (over Raycroft), thereby leaving Malone's spot for Spezza.

Secondly, while any player in their first contract is eligible, the team's composition favours pure rookies over those with some experience.

Finally, it doesn't help that the Eastern Conference has a stronger bunch of young forwards than the Western Conference. Spezza has less competition in the West.

BlackRedGold is furious about the matter, while Tom at Canucks Corner reminds us, "who cares?" After all, it's only the YoungStars game which is only an irrelevant subset of a game that's pretty irrelevant to start with.

On a related note, the selections in the main game also, as always, included some questionable calls ranging from the wistfully nostalgic (Messier) to the confounding (Boynton and Primeau). The NHL has its criteria and current performance has always been one of the minor ones. The YoungStars game is no different. In the end it's still enjoyable to watch (most of) the world's best hockey players play shinny for an afternoon.