If the All-Star Game was tomorrow, are there any non-perennials you think SHOULD make the team? Mathew Barzal? Clayton Keller? Plenty of other young guns looking good. Plenty of guys like Josh Bailey and Jordan Eberle wouldn't look out of place at the All-Star Game either. Flipside: What perennials SHOULDN'T make the All-Star Game roster? -- @mikeybox
I'm taking this opportunity to give you my current picks for the 2018 Honda NHL All-Star Game, using the guidelines -- division-based teams with six forwards, three defensemen, two goalies and at least one player from each team -- that will be used to select the teams that will compete at All-Star Weekend at Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay on Jan. 27-28.
By the way, the All-Star Fan Vote begins Saturday.
Forwards: Phil Kessel, Pittsburgh Penguins; Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers; John Tavares, New York Islanders; Josh Bailey, New York Islanders; Taylor Hall, New Jersey Devils; Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
Defensemen: Seth Jones, Columbus Blue Jackets; Kevin Shattenkirk, New York Rangers; Justin Faulk, Carolina Hurricanes
Goalies: Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets; Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals
This leaves out Penguins forwards Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin as well as defenseman Kris Letang, Flyers forward Jakub Voracek, Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh and goalie Henrik Lundqvist, Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom and defenseman John Carlson, and Islanders defenseman Nick Leddy .
Some are worthy of making it this season, some are not, but considering the parameters, I felt they had to be left off. I can't ignore what Bailey has done. I also can't ignore some of the struggles Crosby, Malkin and Letang have had.
Video: TBL@PIT: Kessel fires puck past Budaj on breakaway
Forwards: Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning; Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning; Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers; Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs; Mark Stone, Ottawa Senators; Evander Kane, Buffalo Sabres
Defensemen: Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators; Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins; Shea Weber, Montreal Canadiens
Goalies: Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning; Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings
I could have put more Lightning players on but I had to include players from the other teams. Weber made it for the Canadiens ahead of forward Brendan Gallagher because I didn't want to leave off Stone. I looked at it as Stone vs. Gallagher. Stone wins that one. I had to get Chara on for Boston's representative, which is why Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman and Detroit defenseman Mike Green didn't make it. I was thinking of putting Bruins forward David Pastrnak on, but, again, I didn't want to leave out Stone.
Video: TBL@LAK: Kucherov scores beauty on a breakaway
Forwards: Jaden Schwartz, St. Louis Blues; Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets; Brayden Schenn, St. Louis Blues; Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars; Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues; Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
Defensemen: Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues; Roman Josi, Nashville Predators; Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild
Goalies: Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks; Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets
This is heavy with four Blues, but they have been the most impressive team in the division. It was tough to leave off Jets forward Blake Wheeler, but how could I leave off the three Blues forwards? I couldn't do it. I wanted to include Nashville defenseman P.K. Subban and Colorado defenseman Erik Johnson, but I had to get on a Minnesota player, so Suter made it. I think Josi is a hair better than Subban, and Pietrangelo is a Norris Trophy favorite.
Video: ARI@STL: Pietrangelo finds the net on wrist shot
Forwards: Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames; Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers; Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings; Sean Monahan, Calgary Flames; James Neal, Vegas Golden Knights; Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks
Defensemen: Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings; Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Arizona Coyotes; Hampus Lindholm, Anaheim Ducks
Goalies: Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings; Martin Jones, San Jose Sharks
This was relatively easy, save for the Ducks. Even though Lindholm hasn't played the full season, he's their best defenseman. Ducks goalie John Gibson was in the running, but I couldn't pick him ahead of Quick or Jones, which left me with Lindholm because I couldn't put a Ducks forward ahead of the six I picked. The other tough choice was Neal or forward William Karlsson from Vegas. Neal got the edge because of his four game-winning goals. Karlsson was close.
Video: CGY@DAL: Gaudreau steals the puck and beats Bishop
Are the St. Louis Blues more serious contenders than in recent years because they finally have a legit top line and a deep and talented 'D' corps? -- @DSBerk
I have long thought of the Blues as a serious contender. However, the addition of Schenn; the full-time addition of forward Vladimir Sobotka; and the added responsibility given to Pietrangelo, especially on the power play and in an offensive role in general, have made them look like a greater threat than they have been in previous years. They're first in the Central Division with 35 points despite not having center Patrik Berglund and having defenseman Jay Bouwmeester for three games. In addition, forward Robby Fabbri is out for the season with a knee injury. Their depth is passing the test, and their top line of Schenn, Tarasenko and Schwartz has been outstanding. They have combined for 90 points (35 goals, 55 assists).
What does the next generation of leadership look like for the Detroit Red Wings? Your prediction for captain? -- @briantodd34
Let's not push Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg into retirement yet. He's 37 years old and has three more years on his contract. He was the Red Wings' best player last season and he's been one of their best forwards this season. However, to the point of your question, you should look at forwards Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou as the future key cogs in the leadership core. Larkin is 21 and in his third season. Mantha is 23 and in his second season. They're Detroit's top two scorers. Athanasiou is 23 and in his third season. All three can become a restricted free agent after this season. They're huge pieces. That said, I wouldn't be shocked if eventually forward Justin Abdelkader succeeds Zetterberg as Detroit's captain. He might be 33 or 34 years old when it happens, though (he's 30 now).
The Red Wings must take stock of the contracts they have in place beyond this season, including forward Tomas Tatar at $5.3 million for three more seasons, forward Gustav Nyquist at $4.75 million for one more season, Abdelkader at $4.25 million for five more seasons, and forward Darren Helm at $3.85 million for three more seasons. They might have to try to move one or more of those contracts to sign Larkin, Mantha and potentially Athanasiou while also dipping into the unrestricted free agent market to improve their defensemen.
Video: COL@DET: Abdelkader tips in Larkin's shot
Which top-nine winger could you see [Tampa Bay general manager Steve] Yzerman eyeing if he chooses to make a trade? James Neal? David Perron? -- @BoltsGuy04
You've mentioned two forwards from Vegas. I'm not sure that Vegas is going to be making the trades we initially thought they'd be making because they're looking more and more like a real Stanley Cup Playoff contender.
If Yzerman chooses to tinker because of an injury or thinks his lineup is going a bit flat, my guess is he looks at the rental market, which could be ripe with good choices even if Perron and Neal aren't available. One name that immediately comes to mind is Flyers center Valtteri Filppula, who Yzerman traded to Philadelphia before the NHL Trade Deadline last year. Filppula can be an unrestricted free agent after the season. He knows Tampa Bay and Lightning coach Jon Cooper. He could play a third-line role at either center or wing. Wouldn't that be interesting?
The bigger names who could potentially be on the market in February are Rangers forward Rick Nash, Sharks center Joe Thornton, Sabres left wing Evander Kane, and, depending on the trajectory of the Penguins' season, right wing Patric Hornqvist. Canucks left wing Thomas Vanek is an intriguing potential possibility.
Are the New Jersey Devils contenders or pretenders? -- @denniswilkins27
Two weeks ago, when the Devils were about to start a run of playing seven games in 12 days in five cities, including four on the road, I wondered what we'd learn about them, how they would fare, and if that would be the point when their season started to turn in the other direction. That's what happened last season at the same time. The Devils started 8-3-3 and went west to play at the Stars, Ducks, Kings and Sharks. They defeated Dallas in overtime but lost in regulation in Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose. They were never the same. They went 19-37-11 after starting 9-3-3. But the Devils seemed to handle the tough stretch this season. They were 3-2-2 in that stretch of seven games in 12 days to improve to 14-6-4. They looked tired in the first two periods against the Panthers on Monday but battled back in the third and nearly got the game to overtime before losing 3-2. I think they legitimized themselves in the past two weeks. I think they're for real.
Video: FLA@NJD: Hischier buries quick shot from the slot
With the Ottawa Senators losing six straight and dropping out of a playoff spot, do you see them making the playoffs this year? -- @NDeOreos
I didn't pick the Senators to make the playoffs when I did my preseason predictions. I thought three teams from the Atlantic Division would go because of the loaded Metropolitan Division. The Canadiens, because of goalie Carey Price, were my third team after the Lightning and Maple Leafs. I'm not changing my prediction, especially after seeing Price return to being the Price we expect to see in the past two games. I didn't expect the Devils to be in the mix, but now that they are it reaffirms my belief in thinking five teams from the Metropolitan Division get in. I predicted they would be the Penguins, Blue Jackets, Capitals, Rangers and Hurricanes. I'm not sold on the Hurricanes anymore, and the Islanders have caught my attention, although I worry about their goaltending holding up. The Penguins could be in trouble, especially with goalie Matt Murray out of the lineup and week to week with a lower-body injury.
If the Montreal Canadiens don't make the playoffs this year, do you see them trading Carey Price and/or Shea Weber? -- @DspotHFX
Price's new contract, which will pay him $10.5 million annually for eight seasons, starts next season. The time to trade him was before they gave him the contract with a full no-movement clause, according to CapFriendly.com. He's staying. In addition, they didn't trade Subban for Weber to then turn around and trade Weber after two seasons. He's staying too. The Canadiens aren't going to do a scorched earth rebuild if they miss the playoffs this season. They need to address their defensive depth beyond Weber.