Voted in by the fans as the starting goaltender, well, one wonders if that would have actually occurred had fans known of his White House-snub intentions. Luckily for him, the All-Star Game is in the other nation’s capital across the border, so you wouldn’t think the Ottawa folks would care too much. Still, given his refusal to talk about the topic with Boston media after Thursday night’s game in Washington, the story will continue to have legs in Ottawa with the massive media assembled for the weekend. Word is Thomas will continue to refuse to talk about it, but it won’t stop the media from trying to get him to answer its questions.
2. The surprising Senators
When the season started, the All-Star hosts were predicted to be toast by the All-Star break. Not so. Paul Maclean’s men instead are the toast of the town in Canada’s capital, the league’s most surprising team of the season, sitting sixth in the Eastern Conference. With All-Stars Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, Erik Karlsson and Milan Michalek all voted in by enthusiastic, ballot-stuffing locals, it’s going to be a weekend love-in for the Sens.
3. The no-shows
Well, the best of the best aren’t quite in Ottawa, are they? Not when arguably the top three players in the world -- Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and Jonathan Toews -- won't be there. Add in Nicklas Lidstrom, Teemu Selanne, Mikko Koivu and Dustin Byfuglien and you’ve got quite the list of absentees. Will that mar the weekend? Probably not, but the absences of Crosby and Ovechkin will especially be felt. The fact that Ovechkin, suspended by the league, opted out without further punishment from the league will also continue to be a watercooler item.
4. The expiring collective bargaining agreement
As many of the game’s top players gather in one place for a few days, hard to believe some of them won’t be asked about the upcoming labor talks in their sport. Given the disagreement between the NHLPA and NHL over realignment, it’s a topic that is just beginning to take over the front and center. Labor talks are expected to begin sometime after the All-Star break in February.
Whether it’s really an epidemic or not, with the game’s top player still sidelined by a concussion and a slew of other players afflicted this season, concussions will continue to generate needed debate, and the All-Star gathering provides a perfect platform for some of the game’s top players to voice their opinion/concerns on the matter.
Scott Burnside covers the NHL for ESPN.com. Before joining the website in 2005, he was a reporter for The Windsor Star and Toronto Sun. Burnside also co-authored the best-selling true crime book "Deadly Innocence."
Pierre LeBrun covers the NHL for ESPN.com, joining the website in Sept. 2008 after spending 13 years with The Canadian Press as its national hockey columnist. He is also a regular panelist for TSN of Canada.