Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Zednik Incident: A Scary Moment For The NHL

Apologize for the delay in this post, hopefully my disappearance won't be as long next...

There have been many major injuries over the years in sports and the NHL is no different. Back in 1989, a Buffalo Sabres goalie by the name of Clint Malarchuk was cut in the throat/neck area by a skate blade, leading to a profuse amount of blood pooling in his crease. He would survive that terrible incident and come back shortly after. It is the only documented case in NHL history of a skate blade cut to the neck, that was until this season.

On February 10th, 2008, Olli Jokinen of the Florida Panthers moved into the offensive zone for a check against a Buffalo Sabre. As I watched my favorite team play live on TV in the HSBC Arena in Buffalo, I had no idea what was coming next. Jokinen's hit attempt got him upended, enough that his skate blade flew into the air. Normally this wouldn't be a big problem, even though it rarely happens anyway, but at that moment fellow teammate and linemate Richard Zednik skated directly into that blade. What was resulted next was a blur of shock and confusion.

The camera moved away from the situation as the puck and play moved back into the neutral zone, but one could see a hint of Zednik going down. It wasn't clear until the announcers started yelling for the play to stop and shouting with worry and dismay. Richard Zednik had skated over to the bench, behind him a huge trail of blood was left. The Panthers trainer Dave Zenobi placed a towel against the neck of Zednik and with the help of teammate Jassen Cullimore, carried him in each arm to the dressing room. Halfway down the hallway, Zednik lost the power to move and had to be nearly dragged to the back. The crowd had at first been struck with awe, as a loud "ooooooh" could be heard. Then there was silence, the game had been stopped, a player was no longer on the ice, and the only memory of him having played a moment ago was the plasma trail he left behind. He had skated to the bench in a matter of seconds and in that time, had dropped nearly one-third of his blood onto the white ice.

It had become clear at this point with replays that Zednik was cut by Jokinen's skate blade in the neck, his carotid artery or jugular having been nearly severed, and a terrible injury had just occurred in front of thousands of fans in person and watching at home. The replays kept going and for 15 minutes the game was stopped with no word on Zednik's condition. It was at this point that the in-rink announcer alerted the crowd that Zednik was in stable condition, on his way to a Buffalo area hospital.

The game would continue in a Panthers loss, a game that probably should have been stopped. Of course this was the last meeting between the teams that season in the 3rd period and would be difficult to make up at this point. Many of the Panthers were simply not in the game anymore, especially captain Olli Jokinen, who continued to be haunted by what he had done. His actions, though not intentional, scarred not just Zednik but him mentally as well, which had some effect on his lackluster play to finish the season in long shot attempt at the playoffs.

Thankfully, Zednik recovered just fine and with Zenobi, the trainer who saved his life, were both honored at a Panthers game later in the year. The fact that Zednik had the presence of mind to immediately skate to the bench may have saved his life. Moreover, the amazing thing was that again, it happened in a Buffalo arena, both incidents of this type in the NHL ever happened in Buffalo. It was a moment I know I'll never forget as both a Panthers and general hockey fan. Luckily, Zednik will be just fine, and looks forward to returning to play next season. Yes this did spur talks of neck guards in the NHL, but they don't always have enough effect and may not have even stopped this incident.

One thing is for certain, it was still a freak accident and the fact that Zednik is OK is all that matters. The NHL moved on from the incident as it should due to the immense rarity of it. That's the game of hockey, you take a risk with every shift and sometimes bad things happen. With the intelligence of the players and staff, the chances of anyone sustaining permanent injury or even death is highly unlikely. So I salute you Mr. Zednik and Mr. Zenobi and the Florida Panthers team/staff for all you've done. Not that anyone should want to relive the incident, but if you so choose, the original broadcast is in a video below. Watch at your OWN discretion, please.

And with that, I look forward very much to seeing Richard Zednik back at the red line next season. Here's to you, Z.

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Loser Point: The NHL's Consolation Prize

My oh my it's been awhile hasn't it? Busy busy on this side of the world but there's some free time to burn so let's light those candles and see where the wax falls shall we?

Today's topic is much debated in hockey today. It involves what's known as the "loser point". Basically, if you make it to overtime, each team automatically gets one point in the standings. The team who manages to win in overtime or shootout if necessary, gets the second point, meaning a possible 3 points total are at stake. As a reminder, a win is worth 2 points normally and a loss in regulation is worth zero points as it should be.

So let's first look at the history of this, why are there points at all? This idea doesn't really exist in other main sports because they generally haven't had or essentially don't worry about ties. In the past before the lockout of 2004-2005, if the two teams were tied after both 60 minutes of regulation hockey AND 5 minutes of overtime, they would split the two points, each getting one for a tie. However, a trend started to develop where certain defensive minded teams would start playing FOR the tie if it got that far, just to guarantee a point. See at this time, if you lost in overtime, you got nothing, so it could be considered risky to lose that point. In order to try to influence going for the win, two changes were made; the first involved making overtime 4 on 4 hockey to open up more ice for better scoring opportunities, and the second was automatically granting the first point to each team upon reaching overtime, even if one team scored in sudden death. Now with the lockout and new CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement), the concept of ties was nixed. Should the game still be tied after overtime, you go to a shootout. Thus in today's NHL, there are only winners and losers, someone MUST win the game, an outcome that is far preferable in my mind than what ties were and far more intriguing to general sports fans.

The problem with this concept of the loser point is that it was created to encourage going for the win, but that's not needed now because one of the teams has to win no matter what. So what's occurring now is that a team is going to be rewarded for losing, so long as they made it the extra mile. In one essence it's a nice consolation to say "well at least we got a point for our hard work". But then again, why should that be acceptable? Sure the team may have fought hard to tie it up (of course they may have also given the game back to the opponent), but you didn't win the game, so why get anything? The idea should be you either win or lose, it's not a novel concept in sports but the NHL continues to bump up teams that actually have losses, thus altering the standings completely. In fact if not for this rule, points wouldn't even be needed, simply Win-Loss records like the MLB or NFL.

Of course this debate is made even tougher in the advent of shootouts. That's a debate all by itself, whether they should exist or not. Personally I think they should, they add much needed excitement and guarantee a winner. Many purists argue that winning a game in this fashion isn't the same as winning in regulation or overtime, you aren't playing real hockey just penalty shots. Then again penalty shots are the most exciting play in hockey and shootouts do not in fact happen all the time, though there is likely at least one a night. To be fair though, scoring is the hardest in hockey compared to the other 3 major sports, so overtimes are more likely in general.

It's been proposed that perhaps you get the loser point if you lost in overtime but not if you lost in the shootout. Another idea for change would be 3 points for a regulation win, 2 points for an overtime win, and 1 point for a shootout win. While this would encourage winning early, it also takes away from a game that had a hard fought battle of two good teams evenly matched. The real issue with the loser point isn't just awarding a loser, it also creates havoc in the divisional matchups and even the inter-conference ones. Winning the game is great, but giving a point to your opponent is hardly good, especially if in a neck and neck race to the playoffs, which with current parity is often likely. It's unfortunate to have won a huge game, only to realize you only gained a single point over your rival.

The solution to this problem is not simple, there are many ways around it. In general though, it seems fairly obvious that the loser point simply needs to be removed. The shootout needs to be regarded as a legitimate way to win a game, but there's simply no better way other than eternal overtimes to solve the game. As unlimited playoff overtimes can show you, it can take quite a while for that kind of game to end, but the shootout usually takes no more than 4 or 5 rounds before it's over on average. It's time to get in line with the other sports, NHL. Sure, it's not good to be forced to copy the more popular sports since hockey is so different and is a bit niche and needs to exist on its own; however, this is one area where the NHL is simply using an archaic rule that rewards survival rather than victory.

It's good to be back and I hope to write many more. Merry Christmas and see you at the red line.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Are The Nashville Predators Doomed?

After June 30th, the end of the Nashville Predators could be near. That's how long the NHL has to approve a deal that will sell the team to Jim Balsillie, inventor of the blackberry device. The rich mogul has wanted a team for a long time now. He had tried to secure the bidding rights for the Pittsburgh Penguins after the Isle of Capri casino deal fell through. It wasn't until Pens owner Mario Lemieux found out first hand that Balsillie intended to move the team for profit that Lemieux refused the sale. Now the Penguins have an agreement with the city for a new arena to keep them around.

But things aren't that simple in Nashville. The Penguins are a beloved team with history and championships, including two of the greatest modern day players in their past with Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr. Not to mention the possibly next greatest player in the making, Sidney Crosby. Nashville however, isn't quite as lucky. The team is young, created in 1998 as one of the first teams to be a part of the last NHL expansion effort. While some questioned the expansion of the early 1990s, almost all of those teams have garnered success at one point or another. In fact, the Senators, Ducks, Panthers, and Lightning, all created in either 92 or 93 have all seen the Stanley Cup Finals. The last expansion includes the Preds, Blue Jackets, and Thrashers, teams that are still a little young to pull off much but show some promise.

It takes time to build a fan base, especially in an area where hockey is not a top sport. Columbus fans were drawn like flies to the game and even though they've had a terrible history, the fans still come. Nashville isn't so lucky. The draw is much harder, but worse is the inability to get local businesses to buy luxury boxes, something a team thrives on. At the least, recent history has shown the team has great promise. They made the playoffs last year, only to be ousted in the first round in 5 games, due to losing their #1 goalie Tomas Vokoun. This year, became one of the best teams in the NHL, going so far as to add 2 time cup winner Peter Forsberg to the mix. However, they once again suffered a 1st round exit at the hands of the Sharks, again in 5 games. The season before the lockout, they managed to make it to six games before the Red Wings took them out in the first round.

But without a strong enough fan base and luxury boxes selling, the team is in real danger. The team is preparing to be sold and while other teams might be in worse situations, such as the Blackhawks not even showing home games on TV and still drawing poorly, Balsillie is the x-factor. He has such a strong desire to move a team, he made a deal with Hamilton, Ontario to promise a relocated team there. All the pieces are fitting together rather quickly. The 2007-2008 season could be the last for the Predators in Nashville.

If this all happens, you may ask why Hamilton? Well they would certainly support a team if given it, though it's hard to say if the money would be strong enough. They are equidistant from Buffalo, NY and Toronto, Ontario, meaning they are in a hockey hotbed area...but it also means trying to compete with the #1 hockey town in NA: Toronto. It would also mean a realignment of both divisions and the conferences. The Western Conference is strange enough as it is with teams, losing Nashville would only complicate things more. Moreover, it's all about the fans, and those that have supported this team for nearly 10 years may lose out on everything they cared about.

Moving a team is never easy or a popular thing to do. Balsillie buying a team with the sole reason being to try to make money by moving them is just a dastardly thing to do to a fan base. Especially one that, while somewhat lacking, is still taking its time to grow. A team that is flourishing well, and has made the playoffs for the last 3 straight years, regardless of outcome. The question is, will Nashville and its people fight hard enough to keep them, or will we see the inevitable creation of a 7th Canadian team? Only time can tell, and frankly, it's not on the side of the Predators.

With any luck, I hope to see the Nashville Predators and their fans at the red line, for a long time to come.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Right And Wrong

Oh it's been a while, that's for sure. But I'd like to look back at where I think I was right and where I think I was wrong in respect to each team's placing and likely finish this regular season. Shall we?


Buffalo - I figured they'd do really good this year, they did not disappoint. Kudos, Mr. Ruff.

New Jersey - I thought they might drop off with the talent issue, but truth be told they are almost identical to last year, and that got them about just as far. Still, it won't work in the playoffs.

Atlanta - I knew they'd improve, but they currently lead the division and that's impressive. They are poised to make the playoffs for the first time in their history

Ottawa - I wasn't sure what they'd become, but I knew their goaltending would suffer. It did until they realized Emery was the solution. I'm still iffy on how well they can do in the playoffs.

Pittsburgh - Out of nowhere, one of the worst teams for years will definitely make it and could surprise people, amazing story and hopefully they don't move.

Tampa Bay - If not for some good games by Holmqvist, they'd be done. They still aren't a lock to make it but I don't imagine they can last past the first round with that defense.

NY Islanders - I thought Snow's move would ruin this team, yet they challenge for a spot now. Way above expectations.

Toronto - Not much different from last year, just more impressive with mostly youth, still not guaranteed to make it.

Carolina - They're gonna have to be strong to get back in, and it would be amazing if the Cup winner couldn't return.

Montreal - Things were going good but injuries have changed their fortune for the worse.

NY Rangers - Shanny should have elevated this team, but without him they are a shell of no leadership.

Boston - Not surprised they haven't pulled it off yet. They're at least a year away from making it again.

Florida - So much should have gone better, but it did not. The Luongo trade totally backfired and it has kept them down again.

Washington - Ovechkin was a show. Semin added to it. But that's it, no real team around them exists, and until it does they'll go nowhere.

Philadelphia - Wow, I thought they might do worse but not THIS bad. They're in major rebuilding mode now.


Nashville - Most impressive. Figured they'd be even better with their additions but they're really not messing around.

Anaheim - Picked up where they left off, when you acquire Pronger, you will be this good.

Vancouver - I knew Luongo would help them but he's done more here than he ever did in Florida. Without him, they are nothing.

Detroit - A favorite every year, they never quit and I never count them out. Fantastic drafting ability.

San Jose - The team that actually outdrafted Detroit, maybe only in 2003 but what a year it was. When the "vets" fail, the youth comes alive.

Dallas - Still in there, I'm waiting for some kind of collapse next year, I just don't see them keeping it up.

Calgary - Still in its window of opportunity but still refuses to score goals.

Minnesota - Well done to return to the playoffs, glad to see a fan base this good get it back.

Colorado - Again I knew they might drop off but they will likely miss this year for the first time ever since moving to Colorado, it almost feels wrong.

St. Louis - Not bad for a team that finished horribly last year, they have a bright future.

Edmonton - Knew Pronger's loss would hurt but not this much, they won't make it this year and without Smyth, their heart is gone.

Columbus - Nothing out of the ordinary. Never been good and I wonder when they ever will be.

Chicago - Had such promise with Havlat but it's not enough, really needs to overcome this.

Phoenix - Another dismal year, moreso than before. Gretzky is destroying this team.

L.A. - Pathetic, they lost it all but still have bright future ahead as well, still surprised to see them at the bottom.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

NHL Lacks Skills Against TV Competition

Last night was the 2007 NHL Youngstars Game and the Skills Competition, the first of two broadcast nights for the All-Star game festivities. Tomorrow night will be the actual All-Star game. Now I'm not that excited over the game itself, especially since only one of my Panthers, Jay Bouwmeester, will be represented. But the NHL is going to have to quickly realize that what they did last night was a huge faux pas.

Case in point, for the first time in a long time, the All-Star festivities are on during the week, Tuesday and Wednesday. This stuff usually takes place on Friday/Saturday. Now granted TV ratings aren't very good on the weekend and are better during the week, and that might matter if this was being shown on network TV, but it's not. The NHL is partnered up with VS., the cable channel that most people don't get without ordering it (usually not on standard/basic cable) and even less actually watch. It wasn't until last year that they joined forces with VS. (then OLN) to have a new post-lockout network after ESPN dropped them like a bad habit. It's safe to say ESPN was done with hockey and we've been through that before, it's both good and bad.

Since the season started, VS. has gotten slightly better at their coverage but are of course nothing compared to the Canadian stations or probably even as good as NBC. But if there were any questions if things had progressed at all on VS. and with the NHL's TV smarts, it was made extremely clear last night that they had taken at least two steps back if not more. So the Skills Competition was on last night, but against what? Every major network had the U.S. Presidential State of the Union Address last night. While not the most riveting television, it is still going to pull in the ratings every single year without a doubt, especially when it's on all the major channels and news networks. Tomorrow night, the All-Star game, gets to go up against the likes of American Idol. Now granted those who like AI are not those who follow the NHL usually but clearly the ratings will be shot to hell on that game.

So does the NHL have a good reason for doing this? There is at least one good reason. That the NHL GMs didn't want to lose a weekend of home games for their clubs. This is very rational at least, as weekend games bring the most revenue per team and this weekend all games will resume without missing a beat. But then you have to remember that the ASG itself would have gone up against no other major sports (Saturday ASG is usually during the day), not even the NFL.

What really sent me over the edge last night was the VS. production of the Skills Comp. It was incredibly deplorable. Coming back from breaks, they would do interviews or talk over things while an event had already started. Some camera angles made it impossible to see the action, especially during the accuracy shooting event. Other times, the announcers themselves were totally lost. Either they didn't know how the event really worked or they forgot how to call the game entirely. Mike Emrick, I am so sick of hearing you on my TV on this channel.

But the real moment I knew this thing was a joke? During the fastest skater event, each skater is to go around the rink once with their stick as fast as they can. They are clocked with a speedometer/speed gun or some such device for the best possible accuracy. Except, this device wasn't working at all last night. So they used a human element by having someone hit a stop watch. A stop watch, are you kidding me? This is not soccer people, this one of the oldest sports leagues in North America and this is what we get?

I think it's safe to say the NHL didn't win over any fans last night if they were even trying. Everything that could go wrong did. Even the interaction from some of the more interesting players fell flat, maybe only Ovechkin's interview held my true interest. But even the crowd in Dallas had little to yell about. I will likely give the ASG a chance tonight, but my hopes are very down. The players will likely not go all out and it is not the honor it may once have been to be selected. Frankly I can't wait to get back to the real hockey, the stuff that everyone should be watching to see the spirit of the sport, not this lame excuse for an exhibition of how NOT to display and play the game.

There's no Smash Mouth to be found at this red line.

Monday, January 15, 2007

All-Star Reserves: Big Names MIA

Here's part two of the coverage of the 2007 NHL All-Star game, the first one in 3 years no less. On Saturday, the NHL released the rest of the All-Star rosters, as were chosen by the respective coaches of each side. We've got a lot of players to get to so let's jump in shall we?

EAST RESERVES - As selected by coach Lindy Ruff

  1. Jason Blake - Having a great year on the Island, understandable pick
  2. Simon Gagne - Terribly underachieving on an awful team, makes little sense
  3. Dany Heatley - Has his team going strong again with 58 points
  4. Marian Hossa - Very deserving, outplaying superstar Kovalchuk
  5. Vincent Lecavalier - Hate his guts but have to admit he deserves it
  6. Martin St. Louis - Has just as many crazy points as Lecavalier, only in miniature form
  7. Brendan Shanahan - Way outdoing himself in the late 30's
  8. Eric Staal - Not truly deserving compared to teammate Whitney, having a slumped year
  9. Justin Williams - Not quite as good as Brind'Amour thus far but good player (read: diver) in his own right
  1. Jay Bouwmeester - Great choice (yes biased sorry) but still one of the best young defensemen in the league and possibly the best skating one there is
  2. Zdeno Chara - Not quite lighting the world on fire but keeping his Bruins in there and as the captain no less
  3. Tomas Kaberle - Nice to see them pick the much better Toronto defenseman
  4. Brian Rafalski - I'm not overly impressed by him but the East's defense is left wanting anyway
  1. Martin Brodeur - Total no-brainer, should have been the starter
  2. Cristobal Huet - Many might be confused by this pick but he is quietly making an amazing season for himself
WEST RESERVES - As selected by coach Randy Carlyle

  1. Bill Guerin - Having a pretty good season but not so sure if he's worthy
  2. Martin Havlat - Though oft-injured he certainly does have point per game potential
  3. Patrick Marleau - Nice to see him recognized in the shadow of Thornton
  4. Rick Nash - Seriously? I know what he's done before but he's SUPER underachieving, for a guy who won the Rocket Richard trophy not so long ago
  5. Yannic Perreault - This one really reeks of desperation. I know he's done great stuff since signing a month into the season but is he really an All-Star?
  6. Brian Rolston - Yes, thank you for not ignoring the Wild's real star (ahem Mr. Gaborik)
  7. Teemu Selanne - What can I say, having a ridiculously good season, he's still got it
  8. Ryan Smyth - Numbers aren't amazing except that he's missed at least 10 or more games with almost a point per game pace himself
  9. Henrik Zetterberg - No offense to him and his talent, but his awful start to the year has made him only above average
  1. Phillipe Boucher - Hell of a season and virtually outdueling Sergei Zubov
  2. Dion Phaneuf - The first of many, a force to be reckoned with
  3. Kimmo Timonen - A captain now and rising above partner Zidlicky
  4. Lubomir Visnovsky - Once again let's the new NHL flourish with him
  1. Miikka Kiprusoff - Pretty good season, Vezina winner, finally gets here
  2. Marty Turco - A good season but nothing like Giguere or Hasek
Well there you have the rosters completed. What's ultimately shocking is that players like Jagr, Kovalchuk, Pronger, Iginla, Hasek, Giguere, Afinogenov, Jokinen and more were not invited, and some especially in the West are very questionable choices. To say the least many of these are puzzling although to be fair some of those that would be chosen will be injured like Pronger. The game should be very interesting and I also look forward to the skills competition. I hope to have my thoughts on the game's result after next week.

See you at the red line, questionable All-Star choices.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Rory Fitzpatrick, The All-Star: Methinks Not

The spectacle of hockey is coming up soon and all shall rejoice for the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs! Oh wait, no, that's the best of hockey. The spectacle of hockey is the NHL All Star Weekend! What's that? It's not on the weekend anymore you say? Ludicrous! No competing with the NBA All Star Game? What's to compete with anyway? Well on January 24th, a Wednesday no less, the 2007 NHL All Star Game will in fact be played, live from Dallas, Texas.

There was a large campaign this year to vote in one Rory Fitzpatrick, an everyman of the NHL, who has 1 point all season and is generally a useless player, on the Vancouver Canucks. This started as a joke from a website but became a battle cry for those wanting to both represent anyone they choose in the game and messing with the incredibly flawed voting system the NHL used this year. Voting was completely electronic (hey if it half-ass works for the U.S. government, why not right?) but it was also unconditional; vote as much as you want, whenever you want, online, anonymous if you like. Hell, forwards weren't even chosen by position, just 3 forwards, 2 defensemen, and 1 goalie per conference (East VS. West) and one write-in allowed per conference. Now Fitzpatrick got a lot of press for the craziness and was fairly embarassed by it. What's even funnier is how Wayne Gretzky and Don Cherry got up in arms over this stupidity, as if the All Star game really means that much.

Well the other day, the NHL announced who would be starting for the All Star game rosters. Again, Rory didn't make it, he was 3rd in defensive voting and only the first 2 make it, how sad. Before anyone cries "rigged" at the NHL, let's take a look at who got chosen to start the first All Star game for the NHL in 3 years:

  1. Joe Sakic - Unequivocally one of the best in the game, probably the best captain there is right now. Burnaby Joe still makes magic on the ice for the Avalanche each night and makes his 12th All Star appearance. Kudos on this one.
  2. Joe Thornton - The man who was overpressured in Boston was traded to San Jose and immediately won himself the Art Ross trophy for most points last season. The trade still stings for Boston and yet another Joe is quite deserving of starting the game.
  3. Jonathan Cheechoo - Here's where I have issue. Cheechoo made big noise last year for using Thornton to get the Rocket Richard trophy for most goals. Yes he did an excellent job but this year has only 13 goals and 14 assists. That's hardly what you call an All Star starter and San Jose fans stuffed the ballot well here.
  1. Niklas Lidstrom - In my mind, the best defenseman in the NHL. How else do you explain a Detroit team that averages around 20 shots allowed a game, that's phenomenal. Oh and he's great in the offensive zone too.
  2. Scott Niedermayer - Another no brainer, I'm no fan of his but he still deserves this spot. Incredibly consistent and hard to play against.
  1. Roberto Luongo - My issues with him aside, Luongo is still not quite good enough to start this game. Why? The West is home to some of the best goalies in the league. This year, Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Dominik Hasek have made career resurgances that have been far more impressive. Do they have better teams? Yes, but Luongo's numbers don't even rival Vezina-winner Kiprusoff, except in wins.
  1. Sidney Crosby - No brainer, at 19 years old he leads the entire NHL with over 60 points. That's just nuts and he could do what Gretzky couldn't, winning the Art Ross trophy before hitting 20.
  2. Alexander Ovechkin - Yet another no brainer. These two will dominate for years to come. Like Pavel Bure combined with a power forward, Ovechkin has to be seen to be believed.
  3. Daniel Briere - This is a fairly sketchy pick here. I like Briere because many of the Sabres are strong players, but I don't know if he's a starter or not. He's certainly made himself worthy of that $5 million contract, but my money would have gone to Rod Brind'Amour, who at his age after winning the cup is playing ridiculously good hockey. Either him, or Hossa or Shanahan.
  1. Sheldon Souray - Here's where the East can't compete much with the West. That's no fault of Souray's, who leads all defensemen with 14 goals at the halfway mark, very impressive. He might not be great in his own end but there are few offensive defensemen doing what he is doing.
  2. Brian Campbell - Some may be skeptical of this one. Campbell is an excellent defensemen, though, and shines on a Sabres team full of some good D. My pick here, however, would either have gone to Bouwmeester or Tomas Kaberle. Either way, Campbell should get in.
  1. Ryan Miller - As much as I like Miller as a goalie, I can't agree at all with this pick. Miller should be in the game, but not the starter. There's no way he can supplant Martin Brodeur at this time, if he ever will. Brodeur is hands down the best the East has in goalies and Miller must bow down to that fact.
Some interesting picks, and the rest will be revealed next week. I'll be chiming in on those as well, hoping against hope that at least one of my Panthers is chosen. The All Star game may be a bit superfluous and I may enjoy the Skills Competition the night before more than I do the actual game, but at least it's an excuse to let some injured players heal for an extra week. Plus, at least the NHL All Star game doesnt decide who gets home ice advantage in the Stanley Cup Finals.

See you at the red line, All Stars.