With the NHL Season firmly underway, it's already time to discuss All-Star candidates. This time, however, the NHL is attempting something completely unique amongst major sports All-Star games. They have created a system very similar to how you pick teams at recess during elementary school.
SBNation contributor Michael Tunison gives a brief recap of the new selection process:
The NHL will reportedly arrange for two captains to assemble squads by choosing players from either conference in the league. This means that no only stars from the same conference could be pitted against one another, but potentially players from the same team.
Unlike the MLB All-Star game, which inexplicably determines homefield advantage for the World Series, the NHL All-Star game has always been about skill and talent. But this new wrinkle makes it stand out in the sports world. Who wouldn't like to watch Evenki Malkin face-off against Sidney Crosby? Or Roberto Luongo blocking shots from the Sedin brothers?
You can submit your ballot here and help select the pool of candidates from which the team captains will select. Only three Colorado Avalanche players made the ballot: Craig Anderson, Paul Stastny, and Milan Hejduk.
Craig Anderson? He has potential to be an elite goaltender, but this season has been a struggle for Anderson when he's been healthy (never mind that he hasn't played a game since October 23 against the Kings..where he allowed six goals).
Paul Stastny? Well, he's been Mr. Consistent ever since entering the NHL in 2006, averaging a point a game. This season? 18 points in 17 games. He deserves to be on the ballot, but it's unlikely he makes the final team.
Milan Hejduk? This has to be an homage to an aging player who can't stay healthy and is past his prime, right? Think again. Not only is he healthy, but he's producing at a 2002 rate. It's as if Peter Forsberg was his linemate. The kicker? His shooting percentage is below 10%, implying that he will only get better this season.
If only one of these three could make the All-Star team this season, Milan Hejduk has quietly deserved it over his two teammates. But what about snubs? What players should be listed on the ballot and were inexplicably passed?
Chris Stewart -- I've already written at great length on why Stewart deserves mention as a great forward in this league, and yet he is left off the ballot? He's the leading scorer on a Top 3 offense, he can skate and play defense, and he's not afraid to be physical. In fact, he's one of only two players who are currently ranked in the NHL Top 20 for points without being named to the All-Star ballot. Chicago's Patrick Sharp is an equally grievous omission.
John-Michael Liles -- Liles has often been criticized for being soft, an average defenseman who would rather score goals than keep the opposing top line out of the zone. In the past, these criticisms have been accurate. This season, however, there appears to be a new player wearing #4 on the ice. He's been aggressive, physical, and a lifesaver to a battered Avalanche defensive core. Liles is on pace to double his previous season record for penalty minutes, and with his two goals against St. Louis, is one of the leading scorers for Colorado. His brash and energetic play this season has flown completely under the radar. That's a shame, because he's been one of the MVPs for Colorado.
Remember, Vote Early and Vote Often! Make sure that Colorado sends a few players into the pool of All-Star candidates in January.