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Phil Kessel Snubbed; Why the NHL Got It Right



By Michael Miller (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

The NHL finally got something right and it didn’t take long for the wailing and gnashing of teeth. Moments after the NHL announced the All-Star game rosters, complaints immediately filled Facebook, Twitter, talk shows, and shouts into the great abyss.  Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang are the Penguins All-Star Game representatives. Phil Kessel is not.

Kessel leads the Penguins in all offensive statistical categories; goals (18), assists (29), and points (47). Kessel also leads the Penguins with consistent 5v5 offensive production. He is a good hockey player and is having a great season.


It’s the All-“Star” Game, not the ” Having a Great Season Game”. Phil Kessel is a good player. Sidney Crosby is an all-time great. Crosby is also having a solid season, statistically, even if its not up to Crosby-like standards (15g, 28a).

In the past, the NHL has tried to better the All-Star Game and make hockey the star of the show. The game and its format have been tinkered with, blown up, redone, and blown up again.

Does anyone else remember North America vs. The World? The live schoolyard type player draft? Those ideas got in the way of the two essential elements of the All-Star Game: Fans and their favorite players.

Now, it’s 3-on-3 and hockey isn’t really on display. It’s the players who are on display.

When hockey fans tune in, they might want to see Phil Kessel. But, they certainly want to watch Sidney Crosby. When casual fans flip through the channels, will they stay for Crosby or Kessel?

Simply put, millions of fans want to see Sidney Patrick Crosby. His poster still adorns children’s walls filled with admiration across Canada and the US.

Of course, those fans who don’t know icing (ahem, Luke Bryan), or wonder what off-side means (ahem, Luke Bryan) also prefer to see Crosby, even if they called him a sissy in the Stanley Cup Final (ahem, hillbilly Luke Bryan).

Kris Letang

The Phil Kessel story is somewhat of a Pittsburgh phenomenon, but it hasn’t translated to league-wide interest. Absolutely, Kessel deserves an All-Star nod. In the old days of Eastern Conference vs. Western Conference or Wales vs. Campbell, it would have been a no-brainer. Instead, the NHL has cut the roster to 11 players from each division.

The same number of players. Much different result.

In fact, one of the results is Kris Letang in the game because he too is one of the marquee names in the Metropolitan Division. On paper, Letang has the necessary stats (3g, 24a) and for a league hoping to put its best foot forward (for once), that was good enough.

The other player who denied Kessel a spot is New York Islanders winger Josh Bailey. Bailey is having a better season than Kessel, playing on John Tavares’ wing. Bailey and Tavares have been among the league-leading scorers all season.

Given the divisional selection format, Kessel was boxed out by teammates and rivals.

Baseball gets it right, almost every year. The stalwarts of the game take the field after the red-hot first half players have their moment in the sun. The NHL is following suit.

And, for once, the NHL got it right.

NHL ALL-Star Rosters:

Metro Division

F Josh Bailey, NYI
F Sidney Crosby, PIT
F Claude Giroux, PHI
Taylor Hall, NJD
Alex Ovechkin, WSH
F John Tavares, NYI
Noah Hanifin, CAR
Seth Jones, CBJ
D Kris Letang, PIT
Braden Holtby, WSH
Henrik Lundqvist, NYR
Head Coach: Barry Trotz, WSH

Atlantic Division

Aleksander Barkov, FLA
Jack Eichel, BUF
Nikita Kucherov, TBL
Brad Marchand, BOS
Auston Matthews, TOR
Steven Stamkos, TBL
Mike Green, DET
Victor Hedman, TBL
Erik Karlsson, OTT
Carey Price, MTL
Andrei Vasilevskiy, TBL
Head Coach: Jon Cooper, TBL

Central Division

F Patrick Kane, CHI
F Nathan MacKinnon, COL
Brayden Schenn, STL
Tyler Seguin, DAL
F Eric Staal, MIN
F Blake Wheeler, WPG
John Klingberg, DAL
Alex Pietrangelo, STL
D P.K. Subban, NSH
Connor Hellebuyck, WPG
G Pekka Rinne, NSH
Head Coach: Peter Laviolette, NSH

Pacific Division

F Brock Boeser, VAN
Johnny Gaudreau, CGY
F Anze Kopitar, LAK
F Connor McDavid, EDM
F James Neal, VGK
Rickard Rakell, ANA
Brent Burns, SJS
D Drew Doughty, LAK
D Oliver Ekman-Larsson, ARI
G Marc-Andre Fleury, VGK
G Jonathan Quick, LAK
Head Coach: Gerard Gallant, VGK