Through five game suspensions and everything else, Brad Marchand is still going to represent the Boston Bruins at this weekend’s NHL All-Star Game festivities in Tampa Bay. Clearly he’s earned it with his play on the ice with 21 goals and a massive 50 points in 38 games, and not even an ill-conceived elbow to Marcus Johansson’s head could take that away from him.
But the sad truth is Marchand should have had more company in terms of Bruins players at the NHL All-Star game weekend.
When Victor Hedman went down with in injury it created an opening on the Atlantic Division All-Star team, and the early speculation was that 20-year-old Charlie McAvoy would have been a wholly appropriate replacement. Clearly that all went out the window when McAvoy underwent his heart procedure earlier this week, but the Bruins rookie D-man was one of several players suitable for All-Star honors.
It only makes sense there would be a handful of candidates on a Bruins team that’s second-best in the Atlantic Division and has been the NHL’s best team over the last two months. Instead the NHL announced that second-year Tampa Bay Lightning forward Brayden Point was replacing his Lightning D-man teammate, and would keep it a decidedly Lightning-heavy roster with Tampa Bay hosting this season’s All-Star proceedings.
Clearly the 21-year-old Point is having himself a strong season with 20 goals and 44 points in 49 games and there should be plenty of All-Star honors in his future. But isn’t NHL All-Star weekend about inviting the game’s star players to showcase their abilities, and to celebrate the game’s household names and best players?
Shouldn’t the first invite, especially if it was going to be a forward replacing a D-man, have gone out to Patrice Bergeron, who is beginning to build up momentum for Hart Trophy consideration at the midpoint of the season? Bergeron is poised to break the record for Selke Trophies in an NHL career, and is on pace for 36 goals, 76 points and a plus-43 while centering the best forward line in the entire league. Bergeron is a star in the numbers that he pumps out offensively, he’s a star for the example he sets in playing a hard-working, 200-foot game with a gentlemanly manner on the ice and he’s absolutely an All-Star in every sense of the word.
Put it this way, if Bergeron isn’t an All-Star with the season he’s having then it’s an NHL problem and not a Bergeron problem. There’s little doubt most hockey fans would rather have a household name like Bergeron than a second-tier Lightning up-and-comer like Point, and that’s no disrespect to a talented young kid playing in the shadow of Steve Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov.
Or if the NHL wanted to go the defenseman route then why not invite 40-year-old Zdeno Chara for one last kick at the All-Star can.
Chara’s offensive numbers aren’t anything spectacular while on a pace for seven goals and 23 points this season, but he’s still averaging a team-high 23:26 of ice time while logging Herculean ice time on Boston’s highly-ranked penalty kill. The Bruins captain is still a defensive marvel, and remains one of the wonders of the NHL world with his ability to play big minutes and remain so effective at an advanced hockey age.
But wouldn’t it have been a draw at All-Star weekend to have Chara there for one more time defending the NHL’s hardest shot during the skills competition? The 6-foot-9 D-man winding up and blasting away was always one of the iconic moments of NHL All-Star weekend in the six times that he was invited in previous years. Once again Chara is an iconic, future Hall of Famer and the very definition of a star player that could have elevated the proceedings in Tampa this weekend.
The word on the street was that both Chara and Bergeron would have been interested in participating if they had been asked to be All-Star replacements after not being chosen to go in the first place. Unfortunately the NHL decided to go with the theory that more Lightning players – four of the 11 roster spots are Lightning players -- will somehow make for a better NHL All-Star weekend product in Tampa Bay. This humble hockey writer is going to go ahead and beg to differ on that one.