The reserves for the National Hockey League’s somewhat annual All-Star Game will be announced later this week. As we saw last year, the NHL is sending contingents representing each of its four divisions to Los Angeles for a three-on-three tournament for bragging rights. Each division has a roster featuring two goalies, three defensemen and six forwards, and the league ensures every team has a player at the event when the rosters are announced.
Last season, the Pacific Division (featuring Calgary Flames representatives Johnny Gaudreau and Mark Giordano) captured the All-Star championship. With Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers already voted the Pacific’s captain, we’ll handicap which Flames players will represent Calgary at the event.
Why: Has there been a more consistent positive on-ice presence for the Flames this season? Backlund has never played better hockey and he’s never been selected to an All-Star Game. Sounds like a great fit for one of the two guys tied for the team lead in scoring and the center of one of the top shutdown lines in hockey.
Why Not: Bless his heart, but Backlund is currently tied for ninth in the Pacific Division in points. It’ll be tough to get Backlund to fit into one of the five non-McDavid forward spots at what’s basically a marketing event for the NHL. If it’s the NHL’s choice, they might err on the side of giving a spot to Johnny Gaudreau due to the marketing potential rather than sending Backlund. (Gaudreau is tied with Backlund for the team scoring lead, in fewer games, so that decision would be defensible.)
Why: Firmly entrenched on the top pairing for the Flames, Hamilton has been a consistent offensive presence for the Flames and a rock-solid possession defender. He’s second in the Pacific Division in defensive scoring. He skates like a deer, whatever that means.
Why Not: Aside from perhaps a preference by the league to send captains or established stars, such as teammate Mark Giordano, there’s really no good reason to skip over Hamilton.
Why: Tied for the Flames scoring lead with Backlund, and having done it in fewer games, Gaudreau’s one of the most dynamic, dangerous offensive players in the NHL. He hasn’t taken over a game yet this season, but he’s been pretty good for the Flames overall.
Why Not: Honestly? Because Backlund’s been better this season and more crucial to the team’s success. Gaudreau’s been quite good, but Backlund and his line have been the straw that stirs the drink for the team. Like Backlund, Gaudreau’s tied for ninth in the Pacific in scoring and will also be in tough to get one of the non-McDavid forward spots.
Why: When Brian Elliott struggled in October and November, Johnson took the reins and did his best to keep the Flames in the playoff hunt. He leads all Pacific goalies in save percentage. One of the most underrated players in the league, an All-Star Game berth for Johnson would be like an achievement award for all the league’s hard-working secondary players. Plus, he’d probably get a new mask made for the event and that would be fun, too.
Why Not: Johnson’s numbers are good, but most aren’t quite top two or three in the Pacific. Four guys have more wins. Two guys have comparable shutout numbers. Two guys have better goals against averages. And with every team needing representation at the event – until they trade their All-Star, right Arizona? – it’ll be tough to fit him in.