|Francis Wathier at 2011 All-Star game|
At first glance when this was announced last summer, it seemed like an exciting way to promote the league. Färjestad's visit to North America will be the first for an SHL team. The fact that it had never been done before gave it a sense of novelty that masked some of the deeper issues, deeper issues that will affect the Texas Stars.
The most obvious issue with the game after you think about it is this: there will be half as many players named to the roster as in any prior year. Last year, the league named three goalies, eight defensemen and thirteen forwards from each conference to the game, a total of 48 players. It guaranteed that each team got at least one representative in the game and allowed several teams to have two or more players. Texas was one of those teams, getting Jamie Oleksiak and Matt Fraser into the game. Grand Rapids and Springfield each had three players.
I believe that if this were any normal All-Star year, Texas would get a whopping four players named to the roster. How can you ignore what Texas is doing? The Western Conference's top line should be copy-paste of Texas's top line: McKenzie-Morin-Sceviour. Chris Mueller, currently fourth in league scoring, would join them. If you think it's unreasonable for one team to get four players, consider that Hershey had five All-Stars in 2010.
But with half as many slots available, there's no way four players get named. There's probably little chance that three get named. That's a travesty, considering what Texas has done. Morin and Sceviour are tearing up the league on a nightly basis and a rookie, Curtis McKenzie, is joining them, currently ranking tenth in league scoring and second among rookies.
In any other year, would the first, third or fourth scorers be left out of the All-Star game? Would the conference's top scoring rookie get left out? Not a chance on either.
And so probably two of the four mentioned above will sit at home on February 12th, unrecognized by the league despite amazing play in the first half of the season. If the point of the All-Star game is to showcase the league's top talent and the future of the NHL, why is it being played against a playoff bubble SHL team?