Last season, there was only one Rangers representative at the NHL All-Star Game. This time around, onn Jan. 27 in Atlanta, there could be as many as five.
|Jaromir Jagr |
Rangers captain Jaromir Jagr is on the 2008 NHL All-Star Game ballot along with fellow forwards Brendan Shanahan, Chris Drury and Scott Gomez. All four were on the ballot last year as well, although Drury was with Buffalo and Gomez with New Jersey at the time. Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist
is also on the ballot for a second consecutive season and is on an early pace to be voted in as a starter.
It will ultimately be up to the fans to determine if Lundqvist and the other Rangers make it to the Eastern Conference roster as starters. Balloting began earlier this month and continues through Jan. 2, 2008. After the starting six for both conferences are selected, head coaches of the two teams will have an opportunity to add players, which could open the door for even more Rangers not on the ballot.
The write-in portion of the ballot also gives fans a chance to vote for Blueshirts players. Last season, defenseman Rory Fitzpatrick of the Vancouver Canucks nearly became the first write-in player ever chosen to start in an All-Star Game, as he was bolstered by an aggressive online campaign supporting his candidacy.
Fans have been voting for the All-Star starters since 1986, and over the years, fans from specific local markets have shown tremendous support for a given team by loading starting lineups with its players. Such strong turnouts in voting are often seen as evidence for a team's popularity throughout the league. Five Edmonton Oilers started in the 1986 game, three Los Angeles players in 1989, and three Pittsburgh players in 1992.
|Brendan Shanahan |
Of the five Rangers on the ballot, Lundqvist is perhaps most likely to earn a starting berth because of the remarkable season he has been enjoying in 2007-08. Among the league leaders in all major statistical categories, the two-time Vezina Trophy finalist is not just being mentioned for the All-Star Game, but also for the Vezina and Hart Trophy as the NHL's MVP.
Indeed, Lundqvist's appeal is so great this season that even former Islanders captain Denis Potvin, certainly no favorite of longtime Rangers fans, is singing the Swede's praises. Speaking on XM Satellite Radio over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, Potvin remarked that Lundqvist is probably "the best goaltender in the world right now" and said if he was choosing a league MVP for the first quarter of the season, the Blueshirts goalie would get his vote.
|Chris Drury |
Perennial All-Star candidates Shanahan and Jagr are also strong contenders to represent the Rangers in Atlanta, even if they don't get voted onto the Eastern Conference team.
A year ago, Shanahan was added to the Eastern roster for the game in Dallas, and in 2004, the last year in which an All-Star Game was played before the 2007 event, Jagr played on the Eastern Conference team just 16 days after joining the Blueshirts in a trade.
Shanahan and Jagr's legacy in the All-Star Game is so deep that the two players once started on the same line as All-Stars, along with Mario Lemieux, in 1996.
|Scott Gomez |
Gomez is also no stranger to the All-Star Game, having played in the 2000 game at Toronto as a rookie with New Jersey. Drury, however, is still looking for his first All-Star berth despite scoring 30 goals in each of the past two seasons, including a career-high 37 in 2006-07.
Since fan voting began, the record for Rangers players in the starting lineup of a conference team is two, with Brian Leetch and Wayne Gretzky both being voted into the 1997 game. No Rangers player has been chosen to start an All-Star Game since Leetch in 2003. The former Rangers defenseman, whose No. 2 will be retired just three nights before the All-Star Game takes place, missed the 2003 game due to injuries. Leetch is also the most recent Rangers player to be on the ice for the start of an All-Star Game, which happened in 1998 at Vancouver.
Once again, voting will be conducted only via the All-Star Fan Balloting link, sponsored by XM Satellite Radio, on NHL.com and via text messaging on the Verizon Wireless network in the U.S. and the Bell network in Canada. Balloting continues until 11:59 p.m. ET on Jan. 2, 2008.
The 2007 NHL All-Star Game ballot is currently available on the NHL.com website at: