Wild Wild West: Who Are The Early Favorites For The All-Star Game?

By Amanda DiPaolo

This year’s ballot for the All-Star game has been released, with fan voting set to begin today. Changes have been made to selection of the teams. No longer will the game revolve around a Western Conference vs. Eastern Conference match-up. Instead,

Captains for each side will select from a pool of players chosen by a combination of fan balloting and the NHL Hockey Operations Department. The change in format is a joint effort by the League and the NHL Players’ Association.

Here’s how it will work. There will be 42 players participating in the All-Star weekend. Fans will pick six players, consisting of three forwards, two defensemen and one goalie. Voting is open until January 3rd. The remaining 36 All-Stars will be named by NHL Hockey Operations. Once the group of 42 players are selected, the players will then vote on who will be the two captains.

Once the captains are chosen, the captains will pick their own respective teams until all 42 players have been chosen.

Even though the Conference teams are no more, which Western Conference players on the ballot deserve to be there? Who was snubbed? And who was unceremoniously left off the ballot?

Goalies

You would have to expect that Jaroslav Halak and Jonathon Quick are the front runners to be chosen out of the pool of goalies from the Western Conference.

Quick was played 11 games and has 10 wins. With a gaa of 1.52 and a .944 save percentage, Los Angeles leads the entire Western Conference in the standings.

But Halak is tough competition for Quick. In 12 games, Halak is 8-2-2. St. Louis had the best start in franchise history because of Halak’s strong play. Halak has a 1.79 goals against average and .932 save percentage.

St. Louis Blues goaltender Jaroslav Halak stretches before a game against the San Jose Sharks at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on November 4, 2010. UPI/Bill Greenblatt Photo via Newscom
(photo: Yardbarker.com)

There is one name on the ballot that stands out as the outcast. The goalie who has no business attending an all-star game based on his record, forget playing in it. Antti Niemi has only played 6 games and has all but lost his starting status in San Jose. In six games, Niemi has 2 wins and 4 losses. His goals against is a whopping 3.73 and his save percentage is .878.

Jimmy Howard is the Western Conference goalie who has been snubbed from the ballot. In 11 games, Howard is 9-1-1. His goals against is 2.15 with a save percentage of .921. Howard isn’t putting up Halak or Quick numbers but he is keeping pace with them on the wins and he is certainly more worthy than Niemi.

Defense

The Western Conference has a lot of solid defensemen who will be nominated for the Norris Trophy for years to come. Just consider this, Duncan Keith, Drew Doughty, Dan Boyle, Brent Seabrook and Shea Weber are all Canadian Olympians.

While it is hard to pick just two, right now Duncan Keith and Nick Lidstrom seems to be the locks for a Western Conference starting lineup on the blue line, though Drew Doughty might also receive considerable attention.

Lidstrom has 2 goals and 15 assists in 15 games played. While age should never be a consideration for voting on All-Star status, it is hard to ignore that Lidstrom is playing fantastic hockey at the age of 40 years old. Lidstrom is also averaging 24:10 minutes in ice time and is a plus 5 on the early season.

DETROIT - OCTOBER 21: Nicklas Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings reacts during a game against the Calgary Flames on October 21, 2010 at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
(Photo: Yardbarker.com)

Duncan Keith, last year’s Norris Trophy winner, has 1 goal and 11 assists in 19 games. Keith is a minus 6 on the season so far, despite being on the ice for 12 goals, but does average over 28 minutes per game. Does Keith deserve the All-Star spot over say a Dan Boyle-type player? Probably not, but since fans get to vote in 6 players, my money is on Keith being one of the two defensemen chosen by the fans.

As for players who shouldn’t be on the list, while I’d like to stay in the Western Conference, one name jumped out. Mark Streit is on the All-Star ballot. Streit is out indefinitely after having surgery on his left shoulder and is expected to miss the entire season for the New York Islanders. He hasn’t played one game during the 2010-2011 season.

Absolutely snubbed was Lubomir Visnovsky. The Anaheim defenseman has 3 goals and 12 assists in 18 games for the Ducks. Visnovsky is played over 25 minutes a game and has a plus 3 rating.

Forwards

With so much talent found in the Western Conference it is hard to pick just three forwards.

My first selection would be one of the Sedin twins, other would do. Daniel Sedin has 11 goals and 9 assists for 20 points in 16 games played. Henrik Sedin has 2 goals and 18 assists for, you guessed it, 20 points.

VANCOUVER, CANADA - NOVEMBER 6: Henrik Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks tries to control the puck while being pressured by Valtteri Filppula of the Detroit Red Wings during the first period in NHL action on November 06, 2010 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
(photo: Yardbarker.com)

Teemu Selanne should also make the All-Star team. Like Lidstrom, Selanne is ageless and has 19 points in 18 games with 7 goals and 12 assists.

Finally, a toss-up between Brad Richards or Ryan Getzlaf for that third slot. Just like Selanne, both players have 19 points with 7 goals and 12 assists. They both average around 20 minutes a game.

Left off the ballot was Patrick Sharp. Sharp has 8 goals and 10 assists in 18 games. Contrast Sharp’s average of a point per game with Columbus Blue Jacket RJ Umberger. Umberger has 6 goals and 3 assists in 15 games. His numbers are not unimpressive, but Sharp’s are simply more deserving to have his name on the ballot.

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Every Monday I will tackle issues important to the Western Conference. You can follow me on twitter @Predlines

For those interested in the Central Division, check out my main blog at www.predlines.com

If you have any ideas/issues you want to see covered email me at [email protected]

Topics: Chicago Blackhawks, Daniel Sedin, Duncan Keith, Henrik Sedin, Jaroslav Halak, Jimmy Howard, Jonathan Quick, Nick Lidstrom, San Jose, Teemu Selanne

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