While the rest of the league focuses on the All-Star Game weekend in Carolina, here’s a look at the all-stars – and non-stars – on Canada’s six NHL teams.
The All-Stars: Where to begin? The Canucks are cruising atop the Western Conference and look very much like a Stanley Cup hoister. The Sedin twins, obviously, for their two-headed prowess and continued ascension to the top of league’s scoring charts, deserve a double helping of stick taps. Ryan Kesler(notes), who’s joining the Sedins in Carolina at the All-Star Game, has elevated his game – and is making a claim as the game’s best two-way player. Roberto Luongo(notes) hasn’t lost in regulation time in nearly two months. He’s surrendered just one goal in nine of his past 16 starts, and just two goals in three other starts. Defenceman Alex Edler was having a career season before the back surgeon called. Now, he’s out indefinitely. Fortunately for Vancouver, Kevin Bieksa(notes), Dan Hamhuis(notes) and Christian Ehrhoff(notes) can pick up the slack. And so can Keith Ballard(notes), and Sami Salo(notes) is on the road to recovery, too.
The Non-Stars: More was expected of wingers Mikael Samulesson (nine goals in 49 games) and Mason Raymond(notes) (nine goals in 39 games), but a couple of two-goal games and they’re right back on track. Raymond missed most of December with a broken thumb and is still feeling his way back.
The All-Stars: Well, Carey Price(notes) didn’t waste any time making everyone forget about Jaroslav Halak’s(notes) playoff heroics, did he? The past month hasn’t been as smooth as the first 30 games or so, but Price’s pedigree has been on display all season. Given the season-ending injuries to key defencemen Andrei Markov(notes) and Josh Gorges(notes), the likes of Roman Hamrlik(notes) and Jaroslav Spacek(notes) – and really, the rest of the defence corps, too – merit a pat on the back. Nobody’s lighting it up offensively, but Tomas Plekanec(notes) leads the club 40 points in 49 games. And hey, how about hardworking depth player Mathieu Darche(notes) with nine goals and 20 points? Must be the local McGill support…
The All-Stars: Hmmm, overachievers in Calgary this season. It’s a short list. Jarome Iginla(notes) soldiers on, with 22 goals and 47 points in 51 games. Veteran Brendan Morrison(notes) is contributing with 27 points, and is the rare Flame to be on the positive side of things at plus-4. Who else? Mark Giordano(notes) leads the blueline with 25 points, but is minus-11. First-year backup Henrik Karlsson(notes) has been solid in relief of starter Miikka Kiprusoff(notes), who is struggling as bad as he ever has in Calgary. Maybe all those 70-plus game seasons are catching up.
The Non-Stars: Pick a Flames forward, any Flames forward, and he’s probably underproducing. Matt Stajan(notes), with a measly three goals in 45 games, is the poster boy, but Olli Jokinen(notes) and Niklas Hagman(notes) need to pick it up, too. On defence, Jay Bouwmeester(notes) does not add up to the sum of his parts. Too bad, because if he did, he could be great.
The All-Stars: Erik Karlsson(notes), step up. Everybody else, step off. Karlsson, 20, is Ottawa’s lone representative at the All-Star Game. And deservedly so. He’s tied for team scoring lead with captain Daniel Alfredsson(notes); not bad for a second-year defenceman. Of course, this doesn’t say much for the rest of the Sens.
The Non-Stars: Take your pick. It’s been a washout of a season in Ottawa.
The All-Stars: Mikhail Grabovski(notes) has been Toronto’s best player since the start of the season; he leads the team with 20 goals and should be the one in Raleigh this weekend, not Phil Kessel(notes) (whose goal total, 19, is matched by his minus-19 rating). Clarke MacArthur(notes) has been a nice addition, pacing the Leafs with 40 points in 49 games. Other than that, nobody has overachieved.
The Non-Stars: Here’s the thing: Nobody has grossly underachieved, either. Certainly, more was expected of Kris Versteeg(notes) and Dion Phaneuf and Mike Komisarek(notes), and many others. But they’ve been decent as often as they’ve been disappointing. OK, that’s damning them with faint praise, but how much could realistically be expected of Versteeg, a third-liner in Chicago last season, or Komisarek, a stay-at-home defenceman? Depth defender Brett Lebda(notes) is an awful minus-19 in 22 games, and backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson(notes) is losing his goalie-of-the-future tag to upstart James Reimer(notes).
The All-Stars: Oilers defenceman Ryan Whitney(notes) was having a career season until an ankle tendon injury that will likely sideline him for the rest of 2010-11. Ales Hemsky(notes) was a point-a-game player until concussion problems. He’ll be back, but injuries have plagued him the past couple of years, a disturbing trend. Captain Shawn Horcoff(notes)? Ditto. Nikolai Khabibulin(notes), at least, has been healthier this season, and stellar on many nights. Rookie Taylor Hall(notes) is tied with Dustin Penner(notes) for most goals (16); Penner is elading the Oil in points. Jordan Eberle(notes) was rolling along until, guess what, he went down with an ankle injury. Sam Gagner(notes) and the surprising Ryan Jones(notes) have 11 goals apiece.
The Non-Stars: For a team that sits dead last in the league, the Oilers have been hurt more by injuries than poor performances. Andrew Cogliano(notes) has fallen off the radar, and Tom Gilbert(notes) and Kurtis Foster(notes) need to be better to earn top-four minutes. But really, this is a young, rebuilding team. Unlike the Flames, Sens and Leafs, it’s easy to see the Oilers taking some big strides forward in the next couple of seasons.