There was hope that this NHL season would be a "return to normalcy" after two consecutive seasons were impacted by COVID-19. In the early days of 2022, it's clear the pandemic isn't going away.
A litany of NHL games have been postponed due in large part to the omicron-fueled surge of COVID-19 across the continent, the schedule impacted to the point where players will not be going to next month's Winter Olympics. But one league mainstay of the before-times is set to make its return in February: the NHL All-Star Game.
Rosters were announced Thursday for the celebration of the NHL's best players that was scuttled during the shortened 2021 season. The All-Star Game's return also means it's time to argue about the players who didn't make the team.
Here are the most egregious snubs for the 2022 NHL All-Star Game:
Few players in the NHL have been hotter than Marchand, who has eight goals and two assists in his last five games. He's in the top 10 in NHL scoring and has 10 more points than anyone on the Bruins. Beyond his statistical accomplishments, Marchand at the All-Star Game would be fun! Few players in the NHL are more hated – and few lean into that fact more.
Look, we get it. On a statistical basis, Crosby does not deserve to be at the All-Star Game this year. Due to injuries and COVID-related absences, he has appeared in just 24 of the Penguins' 36 games and is operating at exactly a point per game – great for most players but a pace that is the worst of Crosby's 17-year career. But come on. This is Sidney Crosby we're talking about! You'd really rather watch Tristan Jarry or "Last Man In" nominee Jake Guentzel (no offense to those players) than one of the best players of all time in the latter years of his career? This is supposed to be a hockey celebration. Crosby should be part of it.
Igor Shesterkin, New York Rangers
It's hard to quibble too much with the Metro goalie selections, as Carolina's Frederik Andersen and Pittsburgh's Jarry are both having great years. But save percentage is the single most important statistic for goaltenders and no goalie in the league has a better mark than the Broadway Blueshirts' netminder. Yes, the Rangers have a lot of solid players – reigning Norris Trophy winner Adam Fox and forward Chris Kreider both made the Metro's All-Star team – but their best player this season should be honored as such.
He's not the leading rookie scorer (that would be the Red Wings' Lucas Raymond) and he's not the leading scorer on his own team (that would be Troy Terry), but no player transcended the hockey world this season like Zegras did. His stunning, over the net pass-turned-assist became the rare NHL highlight that led "SportsCenter" and spawned actual discussion about the league on sports talk shows – including classic "old man yells at cloud" discourse about the future of the game from one John Tortorella. But more important for the league, the highlight was heavily shared on Instagram and TikTok, platforms frequented by a younger generation of fans the NHL has frankly been horrible at courting. A three-on-three tournament low on defense seems like a perfect stage for the creative 20-year-old up-and-coming star to try to create more magic.
Honorable mentions: It was a bit surprising that Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos and Colorado Avalanche forward Nazem Kadri were not on the All-Star Game rosters. Both players are in the top six in the league in scoring and have helped their teams weather significant personnel losses this season. But we leave them in this space for now as there's still a chance they make it onto their division's teams via the "Last Man In" voting. Defenseman Roman Josi, the leading scorer (at over a point per game) for the division-leading Nashville Predators, is another notable name on the "Last Man In" ballot. Consider these three egregious snubs if they don't make their respective teams – and either Kadri or Josi is guaranteed to miss.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NHL All-Star Game: Biggest snubs for 2022 event in Las Vegas