Print and Go Back ESPN.com: New York Hockey [Print without images]

Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Staal, Lundqvist are All-Stars; Isles snubbed?

By Mike Hume

The NHL released the full rosters for the upcoming All-Star game in Raleigh, N.C. on Jan. 30, with the New York Rangers' Marc Staal and Henrik Lundqvist both included on the list.

It's the first selection for Staal, the Rangers' first-round pick in the 2005 entry draft. The blueliner has truly blossomed this season, contributing six goals and 11 assists while tasked with shutting down the opposition's top offensive threat night in and night out. Lundqvist (.923 save percentage and tied for the league high with five shutouts this season) returns to the game for the second time after being selected in 2009.

Meanwhile, the New Jersey Devils' Patrik Elias will make his third appearance in the game and first since 2002. The Czech winger has scored nine goals to go with 21 assists, leading the foundering Devils in points.

Isles fans will be less happy to see their team is one of just four franchises that won't be represented in the All-Star game -- though they will have a player participating in all-star weekend events. The Islanders, Phoenix Coyotes, Buffalo Sabres and Florida Panthers will only send rookie representatives, with New York's Michael Grabner (nine goals, four assists) competing in the Honda SuperSkills challenge only.

There's plenty to debate with these crowded, talent-rich rosters, but the selection of Elias over John Tavares, the Islanders' leading scorer with 28 points in 37 games, is a little curious. Yes, Elias has more points and no, Tavares isn't setting the league on fire. But you could argue, as I'm about to, that Tavares makes a better selection if only for marketing reasons.

One of the game's top young players and the No. 1 overall selection in the 2009, isn't it better to help Tavares's star rise rather than give another nod to Elias, whose status as his team's leading scorer is largely due to an injury to Zach Parise and the ineptitude of Ilya Kovalchuk? And would it really be so bad to throw a bone to a team looking to secure public approval for a new arena and remain in one of North America's largest TV markets?

In the grand scheme of things, the decision is probably meaningless, but I think it would have been in the league's best interest to pump up the young Islanders center a little bit.

I'm not saying Elias doesn't deserve the selection. He's a great player and it's nice that the Devils get some good news amid this dismal season, but to me, there's more to gain if Tavares gets the nod.