Ramblings: A Better All-Star Lineup, the Flames Second Line Brilliance (Jan 12)

by steve laidlaw on January 12, 2017
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: A Better All-Star Lineup, the Flames Second Line Brilliance (Jan 12)

Laidlaw constructs his own All-Star lineup, and looks at surging Flames like Tkachuk, Backlund, Frolik and more.

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The All-Star rosters are out, which is an opportunity for everyone to get spun into a tizzy over who got snubbed and who is overrated. At the end of the day, I don’t hear too many people taking All-Star appearances into account when thinking about things like Hall-of-Fame inductions or other discussions of historical importance so it’s probably not worth getting too worked up over these things.

If we did want to take these things seriously, we’d first have to eliminate the rule that every team needs a representative because it messes everything up. We’d also have to get rid of some of the star-mongering that takes place in an attempt to appeal to the fans. For instance, I don’t think you’ll ever see an All-Star weekend where Alex Ovechkin, Jonathan Toews or PK Subban aren’t named. They are among the few truly marketable players in the league. The NHL will miss no opportunities to include them where possible. I don’t disagree with this approach for the league. It makes perfect sense. You just can’t then use All-Star appearances as a barometer of who was actually playing the best.

Even the rule where each division gets the same number of All-Stars impairs our ability to accurately represent who the best in the league have been. There’s no way that the Metro division has the same proportion of the best players of this season than do any of the other divisions. It boasts perhaps four of the best five teams in the league!

The All-Star draft was fantastic and it also had the effect of eliminating the artificial constructs that are divisions and conferences. It’s an All-Star game, we don’t need these things. I’d bring back the All-Star draft but have celebrities draft the teams instead. Celebs are natural entertainers and wouldn’t be bound by the same awkwardness that the players were in having to pick between their peers. Plus, celebrities would add to the star-mongering theme the NHL already has in place.

You can’t tell me you aren’t tuning in to see Vince Vaughn, Jon Hamm and a couple of other celebs jaw at each other through a draft and as the weekend unfolds. Hell, put the celebs on the bench with the coaches during the games.

Take away the meaningless constructs and the All-Star weekend could provide meaningful historical context. Just put out the top 24 forwards, 12 defensemen, eight goalies and four coaches. Here’s who would make my All-Star weekend:


Sidney Crosby

Evgeni Malkin

Phil Kessel

Connor McDavid

Patrick Kane

Artemi Panarin

Auston Matthews

Vladimir Tarasenko

Tyler Seguin

Jakub Voracek

Johnny Gaudreau

Joe Pavelski

Jeff Carter

Ryan Kesler

Nikita Kucherov

Patrik Laine

Mark Scheifele

Alexander Wennberg

Cam Atkinson

Alexander Radulov

Max Pacioretty

Alex Ovechkin

Nicklas Backstrom

Brad Marchand



Brent Burns

Erik Karlsson

Zach Werenski

Victor Hedman

Ryan Suter

PK Subban

Shea Weber

Kris Letang

Drew Doughty

Duncan Keith

Dustin Byfuglien

Ryan McDonagh



Braden Holtby

Tuukka Rask

Carey Price

Devan Dubnyk

Sergei Bobrovsky

Corey Crawford

Cam Talbot

Martin Jones



Bruce Boudreau

John Tortorella

Darryl Sutter

Barry Trotz


There is plenty of room for outrage and quibbling over this method as well and I’d certainly note my bias towards scorers due to the fantasy hockey lean but that’s my list!


Connor Hellebuyck is on the yo-yo plan. Of his 33 starts, 16 have been quality so he’s basically .500 on the year. That’s not the kind of dependability you want. I blame the Jets’ defense but the bottom line is that he can pitch a shutout on Monday and then get shredded for three goals on seven shots in one period on Wednesday.

I’m not satisfied with that conclusion, however. This is mostly because I’ve stuck my neck out for Hellebuyck on a number of occasions and have him on two-thirds of my one-year league rosters.

I love to look at goalie splits and Hellebuyck’s favour using him at home:




















Splits wouldn’t have saved you last night as the Jets get brutalized on home ice but as a simple heuristic it’s a way to get more out of Hellebuyck and other less dependable goaltenders.


Drew Stafford is indeed taking advantage of filling in for Patrik Laine. He has points in three straight. The Jets have two more games this week so he could be a helpful pickup.

My preferred pickups are Vincent Trocheck and Matthew Tkachuk. I’ve talked about Trocheck ad nauseum, but he picked up his ninth point in the last eight games.

Tkachuk, meanwhile, continues to help the Flames second line to challenge as one of the top second lines in the league. He had a goal, an assist, one PPP, five SOG, two PIM and was plus-two last night. He is an absolute terror in multi-category leagues and with 17 points in 18 games he is valuable in every format.

The other two members of that line: Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik are rolling as well. I’ve talked about Backlund’s excellence plenty. Frolik only recently got in on the fun but now has five goals and 10 points in his last nine games. Welcome to the party, pal.

Three straight starts for Chad Johnson, two of them wins and all three were quality starts. Brian Elliott did not do enough in his run of creampuff opponents to wrestle the starting gig back. I still think Elliott remains involved but Johnson’s holding up nicely after tanking December with a .905 save percentage in nine appearances.

Both Dougie Hamilton and Mark Giordano are producing despite being relegated to the second PP unit. Hamilton has eight points in the last 10 games, while Giordano has seven in the last nine. I’m sure Glen Gulutzan doesn’t want to mess with happy but Johnny Gaudreau only has two points in the last seven games so you wonder when they’ll move one of Giordano or Hamilton back to the top PP unit to give that group some spunk. TJ Brodie is not the answer.

Dennis Wideman has seen significant PP time in only one of the past 13 games and has just four points in that span. Waiver fodder.


Ovechkin has now hit 1,000 points. What a gem. He’s the best goal-scorer of his generation and it’s not particularly close. He’s the only bet worth making to win the Rocket Richard. After two goals last night, he’s now tied for third in the league with 21 and is on pace for 42. What would you bet he gets to 50 and finishes as the league leader? He’s five back of Crosby.

For what it’s worth, I think he’ll fall short of 50 because of his reduced usage but I wouldn’t bet against him leading the league. I did, however, make this a Twitter poll so toss in your vote! Check in tomorrow for the results.

TJ Oshie returned to the lineup after a game off due to a shoulder injury. He had three assists but only one SOG. I don’t like shoulder injuries. Oshie had three goals in five games before taking a game off. Not concerned yet but we’ll have to monitor his goal production to see if there’s any slippage.


Matt Murray has been activated off injured reserve, Marc-Andre Fleury just got smacked around by the Caps and the Penguins play again tonight in Ottawa. Looks like Murray is primed to wrench the starting gig back. Let’s see how things shake out.


Ben Bishop is also ready to return:

If you watched the Lightning over the past couple of weeks, you should be cautious in your approach to rolling Bishop back out there. Tampa Bay has not been playing good hockey. Andrei Vasilevskiy was torn apart so many times he’s basically confetti. And now Bishop is rolling back into this situation. Good luck. The Lightning have the Sabres tonight. They better not take any penalties.


Can someone tell Phillip Danault that jet propulsion is illegal?

Danault scored a pair last night. He’s in a great spot centering Pacioretty and Radulov. That could end if Alex Galchenyuk returns soon so keep an eye on that situation. Five points in the last four games for Danault.


You’ve got to like when a player responds to getting scratched with a run of production. Mikkel Boedker has five points in three games since being scratched, including a hat-trick on Tuesday night. Kudos to Mr. Boedker. I’m still not buying him in a fantasy league, however. He remains on the fourth line and second PP unit. The Sharks’ second unit is junk and the fourth line is the fourth line. Boedker can score in a hurry because of his wheels but I wouldn’t even put him at the level of Michael Grabner in terms of microwave offense.

More interesting on the Sharks: Patrick Marleau and Timo Meier.

Marleau isn’t what he used to be but I’ll take someone getting time on the Sharks’ top PP unit any day. Meier, meanwhile, is skating with the Joes on the top line, which is a great spot. Meier may not last unless he starts producing, he has just two points in 12 games but he’s averaging nearly three SOG and three hits per game. Potential multi-category gold mine here.


Anders Lee is starting to cool off. He has just one point and three SOG in the last five games. The usage is still where it needs to be but he’s at risk of demotion with any stretch of poor production.


My latest for Puck Daddy looks at what to expect from workhorse goaltenders going forward. I didn’t necessarily reach any firm conclusions but I think I answered some questions that I’m sure folks have about guys on pace for a huge number of starts like Cam Talbot and Sergei Bobrovsky.


Thanks for reading! You can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.