Who Would Be on the Fan-Voted Lineup for the 2013 All-Star Game?
The recent history of the fan ballot
Imagine with me for a moment that the 2013 All-Star Game, the first time that the city of Columbus was scheduled to host the event, had not been canceled in the NHL's most recent round of schedule-snipping due to the ongoing NHL lockout. If the 2013 All-Star Game were still a go, it would soon be time to consider who to vote onto the fan-selected starting lineup. Though the 2013 ASG is no more, let's take a guess at who might make it into the lineup anyway.
Here's a rundown of the recent history of fan balloting. Last year, when the Ottawa Senators hosted the big party, the lineup was dominated by men playing for the hometown team. Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, Milan Michalek and Erik Karlsson all made it into the lineup. The other defenseman position was filled by Toronto's Dion Phaneuf. In goal was the only American and only player on an American-based team to be fan-selected, Tim Thomas. (My, how things change.)
But maybe to consider how 2013's balloting might have worked, it's better to look to the 2011 game, hosted in another 'nontraditional' hockey market. Raleigh, N.C. rolled out the red carpet for the 58th All-Star Game, but interestingly, no members of the hometown Hurricanes appeared on the fan ballot results. Instead, their ballot was dominated by Pittsburgh and Chicago players.
Obviously, the lockout has forced a little creativity in how I imagine the 2013 fan ballot looking. I base my imagined fan ballot off a few different factors, did not have more than one person representing a single team (unlike in Ottawa) and even threw in a selection that might cause a little awkwardness around Nationwide Arena.
Now, without further ado, the fan ballot for the 2013 NHL All-Star Game that is not to be.
Left wing: Gabriel Landeskog
Landeskog was stellar last season for the Avalanche, leading the team in goals, being the only Colorado player with perfect attendance and winning the Calder Trophy in recognition of an excellent freshman year. It may be hard to recall now because of the labor impasse, but over the summer, the Avs rewarded Landeskog's performance by handing him the captaincy. Not only is he a young prodigy with a scoring touch, he has a charming personality—as seen on his Twitter—that makes him popular among fans of many teams and could be really well-expressed through placing a microphone on him during one of the periods of the All-Star Game. If he scores, maybe he would do some more Landeskoging.
Center: Sidney Crosby
Crosby has had some pretty rotten luck of it in terms of actually being able to play in All-Star Games. He was selected in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011, but was only able to play in 2007, missing the other three years' festivities due to injury. Now that he appears to be in optimal health again, he should be able to make it to the party this time and the fans would very likely elect him to his fifth ASG. Like Landeskog, he's another young captain (though actually Landeskog beats him by a few days in terms of being the youngest captain ever at the time of his selection) and has stellar name recognition among NHL fans.
Right wing: Rick Nash
Ah, yes, here is what would cause the possible awkwardness in Nationwide Arena. Fans might decide to let out a little bit of the troll in electing Nash to the right-wing position just to see how he would be received by the Blue Jackets crowd as he takes the ice wearing a different team's blue, red and white sweater during the primary introductions. He has appeared at five other All-Star Games in the past, most recently in 2011, often the sole representative for Columbus. But he seems affable and good-natured, so he would have just smiled and enjoyed the experience no matter what the fans do.
Defense: Jack Johnson
Unlike in 2011, I felt that Columbus fans and others would be able to elect at least one hometown hero to the fan ballot. This would be the very first All-Star Game for Johnson, who was the first American-born NHL player to march in the Olympics opening ceremony back in 2010 (when there was no All-Star Game because of the Olympics). The energetic, personable Johnson—another fan favorite on Twitter—would have soaked up everything the ASG has to offer, shared it with fans and enjoyed doing it all in his home barn.
Defense: Zdeno Chara
Captain of one of the two All-Star teams last year, six-time All-Star Game participant, Hardest Shot competition winner for five straight years (again excluding 2010) and the tallest player in the league, Chara might not receive a lot of votes from Habs or Canucks faithful, but he does have pretty high name recognition and Bruins fans would be interested in seeing someone from their team on the fan ballot now that Tim Thomas is no longer an option. Chara is a gentle giant, though—he's septilingual, soft-spoken and a You Can Play Project supporter.
Goal: Jonathan Quick
One of the two All-Star teams would be coached by the coaching staff of the reigning Stanley Cup champion Kings, but for me there was no other choice than Quick as the goalie on the fan ballot. The Conn Smythe winner who notched 10 shutouts last season and an excellent 1.95 save percentage participated in last year's ASG, but this time he succeeds Thomas in yet another metric (Stanley Cup champion, Conn Smythe winner, Best NHL Player ESPY winner). So long as Quick minds his language while he's on camera, he'd be a fine selection. Plus, his adorable daughter Madison would be entertaining to watch too, like she was just after her daddy won the Cup.