If you hadn't heard, the NHL has tweaked the All-star format, as they like to do every few years, and now it will be 3v3 and a tournament style series of games based on divisions for the Jan 29-31 weekend in Nashville.
From Puck Daddy:
The league will have a 3-on-3 tournament with four teams based on divisions. The Metropolitan Divison will face off against the Atlantic Division and the Central Division will play the Pacific Division.
Each side will feature 11 players: six forwards, three defensemen and two goalies.
Fans will vote for one player from each division regardless of position. The top vote-getter from each division will be that division’s team captain. The remaining 40 All-Stars will be chosen by the NHL’s Hockey Operations department with the goal of getting all 30 teams represented.
The games will be 20 minutes in length with the teams switching side after 10 minutes. Games that are tied after 20 minutes will be decided by a shootout.
11 players from a 8 division league like the Metropolitan means if one team sends 2 players it will be lucky. Sending 3 would be unrealistic in this format.
18 games in, the Penguins all-stars, on merit should be Marc-Andre Fleury and Evgeni Malkin.
But where does "face of the league" Sidney Crosby fit in? On one hand, yeah he's on pace for just 41 points this season, and yeah he's been held off the scoreboard for 13 of the Pens 18 games...But check the title of the game. All-Star. There's no bigger star today than Crosby. Is that enough to get him in? Unless he gets voted in for the popularity contest, probably not. And if Crosby does get named to that spot, it could spell doom for a more deserving teammate this season like Malkin, who has a very limited shot at getting in with every team needed to be represented.
Here's our stab at a potential Metro division team on merit alone, with the understanding that everyone has to have a representative. The vote to make the captain could throw a wrench in things, but for right now a possible Metro AS team could look like:
Forwards (6): Alex Ovechkin (WSH), Malkin (PGH), Claude Giroux (PHI), John Tavares (NYI), Brandon Saad (CBJ), Mike Cammalleri (NJD)
Defense (3): Justin Faulk (CAR), John Carlson (WSH), Keith Yandle (NYR)
Goalies (2): Henrik Lundqvist (NYR), Fleury (PGH)
I chose that team based off the start of the season. Also wanted to take into account the 3v3 situation and chose above-average skaters that would thrive. Thus we end with a very mobile defense as well as an athletic goalie like Fleury who's usually good at situations like the shootout and has the numbers to be there.
As for Crosby, well it's the least of his or anyone's worries but since there's only 6 forward spots and every team has to be represented, he's way behind the 8-ball to be an all-star this season with his sluggish start, magnified by Malkin being the best forward on the team this year.
3v3 is a raw deal for player participation - guys like Kris Letang and Phil Kessel are usually perennial participants that probably will be outside the bubble. It's also not inconceivable that Fleury could be bumped as well. Lundqvist, deservedly, will be there for sure so there's only one goalie spot open. If Cory Schneider continues to play well, he could earn the NJD spot and open up another forward spot for any number of guys off to a good season (Nicklas Backstrom, Mats Zuccarello, Kyle Okposo or Kessel to name a few).
Regardless, there should be a good shot that with all the skilled players that the Pittsburgh Penguins have, they have a good shot of having 2 all-stars this year. In a normal year, that's not very good, but with only 11 spots on the squad (and 8 teams to accommodate) that's actually impressive.