NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick is penning a weekly blog for NHL.com this season. Look for new entries from, "World According to JR," every Wednesday. Roenick offers sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League.
All-Star Weekend is upon us, so naturally this blog entry has to do with all things All-Star related. There is so much to appreciate at this time of the year, but there's also one storyline this week that really disappointed me:
It is really cool that with Ottawa hosting the All-Star Game, the fans there really got behind their players by voting and getting four of them onto the rosters. That shows a lot of commitment and a lot of loyalty from the fans to their players, and you can tell that they're really excited about having the All-Star Game come to their city.
That loyalty, commitment and passion from the people of Ottawa and the surrounding area is something that I understand. I played in Hull (Quebec), which is right there, so I understand the passion for hockey that the city has, and my hat's off to the people there for embracing the event and wanting to see their best players play.
Unfortunately, we won't be able to see Jonathan Toews there. We won't be able to see Mikko Koivu there. I also would have liked to see Dustin Byfuglien and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, but injuries are preventing all of them from attending.
However, I am ecstatic that Jamie Benn is going to be there. I know he was questionable with his appendectomy and was put on injured reserve recently, but it's just awesome that he'll be there. He's one of the top young players in the game today.
And, as a result of the injuries, I'm thrilled to see Scott Hartnell going to his first All-Star Game. Hartnell plays the game the way it is supposed to be played. He plays it with grit, tenacity, heart and desire. He had a very tough start to the season, but the way he's turned his season around and really played so well with Claude Giroux and Jaromir Jagr, it's really great to see him get asked to go to the All-Star Game.
He has worked so hard for this, so my hat is off to him.
James Neal, the late addition, is so deserving of this honor. He really has come to the forefront in the NHL as a goal scorer, and is doing exactly what the Pittsburgh Penguins have asked of him. That is what I expected of him coming over from Dallas.
And then there is Logan Couture, a young kid who really has developed into one of the great up-and-coming players in the National Hockey League. I think he exemplifies the all-round, complete hockey player that is being put on display at the NHL All-Star Game this year.
It'll be interesting to see who they have in the skills competition. I'm going to predict Evgeni Malkin to win the accuracy-shooting contest. This guy is on fire. Seriously, is there a better player in the NHL right now? He can do whatever he wants with the puck night in and night out.
What's also going to be interesting is the fastest-skater competition. I really don't know who can win it this year because all of them seem to be lightning-quick, and I couldn't even get within half a rink from any of them. To me, fastest skater is going to be up in the air because they all have blazing speed.
It's going to be an extremely fun event. Having the All-Star Game in Canada always is a well-attracted, well-received and well-planned event. I look forward to celebrating the talents of the National Hockey League.
We're not going to see Nicklas Lidstrom, arguably the best defenseman to ever play the game, at the All-Star Game.
We're not going to see Teemu "The freak of nature, I will not get old, I can play until I'm 100" Selanne.
It's understandable that both Lidstrom and Selanne opted to turn down the chance to attend. They're both aging players -- even though it never looks that way -- and it's very important for them to take these four days of the All-Star break and get some rest to be ready for the second half of the season. That's a very smart move on their parts, to be prepared for their teams in the second half.
However, Alex Ovechkin deciding not to go to the All-Star Game really, truly disappoints me.
He says since he's suspended he shouldn't go to the All-Star Game, but to me that is a cop-out. This game is about having the best players in the world there. Alex Ovechkin is a young, energetic, strong guy, and one of the best players in the National Hockey League. He should be at the All-Star Game, giving the fans in Ottawa and the fans that travel in something to watch and some great entertainment.
Ovechkin is one of the most entertaining players in the world not only because of the way he plays, but also because of his personality. He is a much-wanted commodity for an event such as the All-Star Game and it's disappointing that he's not respecting the honor of being chosen to attend.
I understand he's mad at the NHL for his suspension, but this is not the proper way to deal with it. This is a celebration of talent. The city of Ottawa has worked hard to put on this game, a lot of man-hours and pride has gone into putting on the All-Star Game. This is a fan event, and unfortunately he has made a decision not to go.
It's disappointing to me and I'm sure it's disappointing to a lot of hockey fans that were looking forward to seeing one of the best players in the world.
Listen, I am a big Ovechkin fan. I have been since Day 1. But it doesn't matter that I'm a fan of his because I am disappointed with the way he has treated this situation. There has to be a little more loyalty to a League that has enabled you to make over $100 million.