The NHL All Star Game got a makeover for 2016 and on Wednesday, January 6 the rosters for all four divisional teams were announced. To no one’s surprise, the Penguins will be represented in Nashville by two players. Neither is named Sidney Crosby and perhaps more surprising, neither is named Marc-Andre Fleury.
Evgeni Malkin was selected to the All Star Game for the sixth time. This selection surprises no one. The Magnitogorsk native has 37 points in 39 games played so far this season and has looked reminiscent of his 2011-2012 self, a welcome sight after being plagued by injuries for much of the time in between. Joining Malkin will be smooth skating defenseman, Kris Letang. Letang, who has only played 30 of 39 possible games due to injury, is averaging .80 points a game ranking him fourth among defensemen.
The alleged snubbing of Crosby is not a snub at all, though. Considering how slow 87 started this year it’s no shock that he wasn’t chosen. Of course, you would think the NHL would want their best players there but we’ll get to that in a little bit.
There is another reason he may have been left off though. His choice not to attend the 2015 All Star Game. Last year, Malkin was known to be injured heading into All Star weekend, but Crosby unexpectedly chose to stay home and rest a banged-up body. He was forced by NHL rules to sit out the game following the All-Star break because of this decision. While it’s more likely he was overlooked due to his abysmal early season numbers, it’s not out of the question that the NHL chose to skip 87 as they feared he would back out again.
Though the decision, no doubt made weeks ago, does look pretty comical as Crosby has been the best player on the planet of late. He’s flourished under new head coach Mike Sullivan and broke the first game of a back-to-back with the defending Stanley Cup Champs open with a goal that had Corey Crawford saying there’s nothing you can do.
But Crosby isn’t the snub here let’s remember. Because there are reasons he wasn’t picked. No, the snubs for this years All Star roster, due to the new format, are many and varied and the biggest one for the Penguins is, once again, Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury, who has been the Penguins steadiest player over the last year and a half, has been overlooked for the second time in two seasons by the All Star Selection committee, but this time it was because of a silly rule. Flower wasn’t going to beat out Braden Holtby for the Metropolitan starter job, but he’s definitely made more high danger saves than the lions share of the NHL’s netminders.
However, the NHL has a rule about the All Star game in that every team must be represented and though this rule looks more and more pitiful by the year, it’s still a rule. After all, why should Columbus, a team as abysmal as they come this season, get to send a player while someone like Evgeny Kuznetsov sits at home? Why should Ryan McDonagh represent the Rangers when Lundqvist is the obvious choice? There’s really no reason to keep the actual stars of the league home just to be fair.
Remember boys and girls the NHL is not fair, something any team can be reminded of on any given night when their favorite player gets hurt on a missed call. So why should the selection be forced into a fairness that’s ignored the rest of the season? Bottom line, Malkin and Letang going while Crosby doesn’t was the right choice. However, the selection process could probably use as much of an upgrade as the competition format got.