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LCS All-Star Teams
by Michael Dell, editor-in-chief
Here at LCS: Guide to Hockey, we're not getting all swept up in this Olympic brotherhood garbage. Frankly, we think the whole North America vs. the World All-Star Game format is pretty lame. So when it came time for us to select our All-Star squads, we kept things old school by choosing Eastern and Western Conference rosters. Nationality didn't play a part in the decision making process. Although, as always, prescription drugs and cheap wine did.
Here now, are the mid-season All-Star teams we'd like to see take the ice in Vancouver on Sunday, January 18. We pick the guys that we think deserve to go based on performance, not by reputation. Unless, you know, we really like the guy, then reputation is plenty good enough. And we also don't limit ourselves to selecting at least one person from each team. Because, well, that rule's gay.
Jason Allison, Boston Bruins (44-16-26-42): While he isn't the most breathtaking skater in the world, Allison is improving. And while his wheels are suspect, he's definitely got some quality hands. Allison is leading the young Bruin squad in scoring (42 points), the league in shooting percentage (22.5%), and is tied for third in the NHL in game-winning goals (6).
Ray Whitney, Florida Panthers (41-18-19-37): Hey, don't laugh! The San Jose Sharks and Edmonton Oilers didn't want him, but Whitney has been scorin' like a chimp down in Florida. The second-ever draft pick of the Sharks, the diminutive center has sparked an anemic Panther offense and leads the club in scoring. Overall he has 18 goals and 37 points in 41 games, but he's notched 17 goals and 33 points in his 32 games as a Cat. He may not be a big-time player, but he deserves some recognition for his early success.
Shayne Corson, Montreal Canadiens (46-15-30-45): After scoring just eight goals and 24 points last season, Corson was all but written off for dead. But he trained extremely hard over the summer and came to camp in the best shape of his life. All the hard work has translated into a phenomenal first half which has seen Corson score 45 points and reclaim his stature as a premier power forward. He leads the league in power-play goals with 11.
Mark Recchi, Montreal Canadiens (46-22-25-47): Part of Corson's resurgence is due to playing on the same line with Recchi. The Recchin' Ball continues to roll up big numbers, posting 22 goals and 47 points. He's also shown some heart by playing through injuries to keep his iron man streak going.
Bobby Holik, New Jersey Devils (44-18-22-40): No longer just a checking center, Holik is having another swell goal- scoring campaign. He leads El Diablo with 18 goals and 40 points.
Randy McKay, New Jersey Devils (44-17-15-32): Yeah, it sounds nutty, but McKay deserves to be on the All-Star team. He's been an absolute force for the Devils since day one and has already matched his career high in goals (17) and is just one point shy of his best-ever scoring total (33).
Pat LaFontaine, New York Rangers (45-16-29-45): Forget about Wayne Gretzky, LaFontaine should be the Ranger All-Star. He's hit a bit of a slide lately, but Laffy has been somethin' special for the Blueshirts. In typical LaFontaine fashion, most of his team-high 16 goals have been of the highlight-reel variety. Laffy is still a bad man.
John LeClair, Philadelphia Flyers (44-33-21-54): We started the debate last season, but the question still remains: Who's better, Lindros or LeClair? With each passing game, more and more people are getting converted to the Church of LeClair. This guy is just unstoppable. He's tied for the league lead with 33 goals and is second in points with 54. But the best thing about LeClair is that even when he isn't scoring, he can still impact a game with his size, speed, and attention to defense. His mere presence on the ice is enough to give the Flyers the advantage in any game.
Eric Lindros, Philadelphia Flyers (43-19-33-52): While Lindros is no longer the lone superstar in Philly, he's still a dominant player. Earlier in the season he suffered through a prolonged goal-scoring drought and then snapped out of it in typical Lindros fashion with a hat trick against the Islanders. That's the kind of big-game effort that will one day bring a Cup to Philly. If, you know, they ever get goaltending...
Ron Francis, Pittsburgh Penguins (45-14-23-47): Left off the Olympic and All-Star teams, Francis continues to get no respect. All this guy does is go out every night and play his heart out while leading an incredibly average and inexperienced Pittsburgh club to the top of the Northeast Division standings. Listen, the Penguins were mud before Francis arrived in town, and they'll be mud once he's gone.
Jaromir Jagr, Pittsburgh Penguins (41-20-32-52): One guy who doesn't take Francis for granted is his good buddy Jaromir Jagr. The Czech Wonder Kid knows that if it wasn't for Francis, he'd be drowning in a pool of mediocrity in Pittsburgh. Together Jagr and Francis give the Penguins one of the best scoring tandems in the league. It took Jagr a while to get warmed up this season, but he's been a mission man since around the start of December. It won't be long before he's on top of the NHL scoring race. He's still the most dominant offensive force in the game of hockey. He's also clutch. Jagr is tied with Peter Bondra for the league lead in game-winning goals with seven.
Peter Bondra, Washington Capitals (42-27-15-42): Speaking of Bondra, he's run hot and cold with the Caps this season. So cold that coach Ron Wilson has even benched him on occasion. But when he's hot, he's Africa hot. Bondra is just a goal-scoring machine. Not many, perhaps only Pavel Bure and Teemu Selanne, can even come close to matching his straight ahead acceleration and shot power. Bondra's fun to watch.
Ray Bourque, Boston Bruins (44-8-17-25): Boston has been a surprise success in the standings so far. They're still boring as hell to watch, but they are winning some games. Yippee. The big reason why continues to be Ray Bourque. Despite turning 37 at the end of December, Bourque still sees 30+ minutes of ice time a night and leads the young squad by example. His real test will come after the Olympics, when the workload might catch up to him.
Robert Svehla, Florida Panthers (46-5-21-26): Svehla isn't exactly having his best season ever for the Panthers, but he's still damn cool. And he's quietly sneaking up among the defensive scoring leaders, currently tied for seventh with 26 points.
Vladimir Malakhov, Montreal Canadiens (41-7-17-24): It seems like Malakhov is finally starting to deliver on all the promise that made scouts giddy with anticipation when he first arrived in North America. The lanky Russian has been a pillar of strength along the Montreal blue line this season. He leads the club's defenseman with seven goals and 24 points, while playing at a +15 and earning the reputation as one of the better one-on- one defenders.
Scott Niedermayer, New Jersey Devils (44-7-26-33): Niedermayer is another guy that's starting to do what everyone always thought he could... namely lead the league's defenseman in scoring. Niedermayer is currently tied for fourth among NHL blueliners with 33 points. The improved scoring hasn't hampered his defense at all, either. This year he just seems to be more involved at both ends of the rink. He's probably been the East's best defenseman to this point in the season.
Scott Stevens, New Jersey Devils (44-2-12-14): Stevens continues to be a rock on defense for New Jersey. All Jacques Lemaire has to do is match up Stevens against the other team's top players and watch the opposing stars disappear.
Bryan Berard, New York Islanders (39-12-13-25): What sophomore jinx? Berard has stepped up his scoring and become a deadly point man on the power play, where he's tied for sixth in the league with eight power-play goals. The best thing about watching Berard anchor the man-advantage is that he isn't scared to shoot. When he gets the puck out high, he knows what to do with it. And he doesn't just rely on his slapper. He realizes a well placed wrist shot can be just as effective as a big rip.
Eric Desjardins, Philadelphia Flyers (39-5-11-16): Desjardins is the Ron Francis of defensemen. No one ever talks about him, but he just goes out night after night and plays incredible defense.
Darius Kasparaitis, Pittsburgh Penguins (43-2-7-9): Darius has had a few mental lapses, but overall he's been Pittsburgh's best defenseman. But that's not why we picked him. We just think it would be cool to watch Kaspar go buckwild and run all those high-priced Western All-Stars. Wow, could you imagine that? It would be like shootin' fish in a barrel. With so many easy targets, the wacky Lithuanian's head might explode trying to decide which one to hit first. And if you're scoring at home, Darius is still the coolest player in the NHL. The guy's just funny.
Calle Johansson, Washington Capitals (46-12-12-24): Here's another guy that never gets much attention. Johansson is one of the steadiest blueliners in the league. He earns a spot on the squad this season for ringing up 12 goals in his first 46 contests. That number ties him for second among NHL blueliners.
Dominik Hasek, Buffalo Sabres (14-16-6, 2.49, .919): Hasek went koo koo for cocoa puffs in December, tying an NHL record with six shutouts. See, that right there will get you on an All-Star team. He has seven shutouts overall, tying him with Ed Belfour for the league lead.
Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils (26-9-1, 1.89, .922): Brodeur leads the league in wins (26) and save percentage (.922), and is second in goal-against average (1.89). The boys over at the Hall of Fame are already polishing up his Vezina Trophy.
Tom Barrasso, Pittsburgh Penguins (17-8-6, 2.09, .918): The comeback player of the year, Barrasso has been his old Stanley Cup-winning self in net for Pittsburgh. While Brodeur is good with the stick, no one is better than Barrasso at playing the puck. And no one can control a game with his catching glove like Barrasso, either. Using a junior-sized mit, Tommy snags everything in sight like the staff of LCS at a complimentary buffet.
Teemu Selanne, Anaheim Mighty Ducks (46-33-15-48): It looks like Paul Kariya isn't the savior after all. With the Ducks still sucking even after Kariya returned to the flock, people are finally starting to realize that Selanne, who is tied for the league lead in goals with 33, is every bit as good as the young duckling. In fact, while Kariya may be the more dynamic scorer, Selanne is just the better overall player. Take in all aspects of the game, and it's really not even close.
Theo Fleury, Calgary Flames (47-16-26-42): No man is an island. Unless you're Theo Fleury. Well, he's a small island, but he's an island nevertheless. Theo has to get lonely being the only star in Calgary. If you were to take away Theo and then harness all the scoring talent in Calgary and turn it into energy, you just might be able to toast a slice of bread... like, a really thin slice. Even without help, Theo is having a swell year with 42 points.
Tony Amonte, Chicago Blackhawks (44-15-26-41): Amonte is another guy that isn't exactly overwhelmed with talented teammates. The Chicago speedster is off a bit from his 41-goal pace of last season, but he still brings the effort every night. Amonte's just developed into a tremendous all-around player. He's not your average goal-scoring superstar. To truly appreciate his game, watch him work without the puck. He forechecks hard, always finishes his checks, and never neglects defensive responsibilities.
Peter Forsberg, Colorado Avalanche (43-16-40-56): Petey leads the league in assists (40) and points (56). He still doesn't score as many goals as he should, and he seems to get a little too comfortable just playing defense at times, but he's still the game's most complete hockey player.
Joe Sakic, Colorado Avalanche (46-20-29-49): Sakic's numbers are a bit down, but whose aren't? And it's not like he's a slacker. Joe is sixth in league scoring with 20 goals and 49 points. He's also tied for second with nine power-play goals and leads the league in shots (185). It's just that a little bit more production would be appreciated. Of course, part of the problem is that he's been playing with a slumping Adam Deadmarsh on one wing and a rotation of below average scorers on the other. The return of a healthy Keith Jones would help. Put Joe between Claude Lemieux and Valeri Kamensky every game and he'd be the league's top scorer.
Mike Modano, Dallas Stars (34-16-26-42): Modano was at the top of the charts before a questionable hit from Bryan Marchment put him on the shelf with a knee injury. Originally expected to be out more than a month, Mikey Mo returned in about three weeks. Modano has since been finding the scoresheet at his normal pace and is the driving force behind the top team in the NHL.
Brendan Shanahan, Detroit Red Wings (42-19-18-37): Okay, so he'll always be remembered as the guy who stabbed the Whale in the blow hole. Shanahan is still having yet another All-Star campaign. With the possible exception of Brett Hull, Shanny is the best one-time shooter in hockey. He's absolutely lethal from the left circle on the power play, where's he's tied for second in the league with nine goals.
Steve Yzerman, Detroit Red Wings (47-12-25-37): He leads the Wings with 37 points. Aw, that's just Stevie Y bein' Stevie Y. Screw Mark Messier, Yzerman is the best captain in hockey. He wouldn't bail on his mates for some worthless stacks of folding green.
Doug Weight, Edmonton Oilers (45-15-27-42): With Andrei Kovalenko falling off the face of the Earth and Jason Arnott struggling mightily before his trade to New Jersey, Dougie Weight hasn't had many people to pass to this season. Yet he still has 27 assists and 42 points. This guy could make a bag of donuts a 20-goal scorer.
Jozef Stumpel, Los Angeles Kings (44-12-29-41): Stumpel is pretty special. He isn't a complete player yet, but he can do some nifty things with the puck. He's teamed up with Luc Robitaille to give the Kings at least some threat of an offense.
Keith Tkachuk, Phoenix Coyotes (45-28-19-47): How good as Tkachuk been? He just continues to establish himself as one of the most feared scorers in the league, currently ranking third in the league in goals (28) and eighth in points (47). He's the absolute best at working the front of the net. Shots don't get through without Inspector 7 giving his seal of approval, which usually takes the form of a deflection behind the goaltender.
Pavel Bure, Vancouver Canucks (45-26-25-51): Don't look now, but the Russian Rocket is back. Maybe it's the presence of Messier, or maybe it's the fact he has his old trusty number 10 on his sweater, but whatever the reason Bure is once again one of the most exciting players on the planet. Watching him in full flight is a sight to behold. And there may not be anything cooler than witnessing Bure on a breakaway. He comes in with so much speed and holds the puck so long, that by the time he makes his patented forehand move the goaltender doesn't have a prayer. Ask Stephane Fiset. The Los Angeles netminder is still recovering from the third-degree burns the Rocket gave him on December 15 when Bure scorched the Kings for a hat trick, including two breakaway goals.
Chris Chelios, Chicago Blackhawks (44-2-22-24): The Chicago captain had a miserable first few months of the season, but the poor play was the result of him still trying to get over the knee injury he suffered at the end of last season. Now pretty much fully recovered, Chelios has cranked it up over the past few weeks and is playing like his old self.
Derian Hatcher, Dallas Stars (42-5-15-20): Two words explain why the Stars are so good defensively: Derian Hatcher. The kid's phenomenal. Instructional tapes could be made from an average Hatcher shift.
Sergei Zubov, Dallas Stars (47-6-29-35): While guys like Hatcher, Richard Matvichuk, and Craig Ludwig provide the Dallas blue line with size and toughness, Zubov adds plenty of pep. The silky smooth Russian is simply one of the best skaters in the game. Combine his mobility with good vision of the ice and incredible hands, and Zubov can jump start even the most sluggish of attacks. It's a shame he doesn't shoot the puck more because he owns a howitzer from the point. But even his reluctance to shoot hasn't hurt his scoring numbers, as Zubie is tops among NHL defensemen with 35 points.
Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings (46-14-20-34): Right now, Lidstrom might be the frontrunner for the Hart Trophy. It was hard to imagine the Red Wings without Vladimir Konstantinov on defense. But instead of mourning the absence of his ailing comrade, Lidstrom took it upon himself to become the leader along the blue line. The steady Swede leads all NHL defensemen in goal-scoring with 14 and is second in points with 34.
Larry Murphy, Detroit Red Wings (47-5-29-34): Murphy has also picked up the slack left in the wake of Konstantinov's accident. Never known for his skating, Murphy's game hasn't really diminished due to his advancing years. Even at 36, "Stationary Larry" can still be an impact player because of his intelligence and veteran instincts. His point production certainly hasn't fallen off, as he is tied with Lidstrom for second place among NHL defenders with 34 points.
Rob Blake, Los Angeles Kings (44-8-13-21): Never mind that he's leading a quiet resurgence in L.A., Blake deserves to be an All-Star just for staying healthy for half a season.
Steve Duchesne, St. Louis Blues (47-6-27-33): Duchesne has been traded five times in his career, but he always enjoys success wherever he goes. This season, in his second stint with the Blues, Duchesne is once again putting up impressive numbers, currently tied for fourth among NHL blueliners with 33 points.
Al MacInnis, St. Louis Blues (38-12-14-26): The Big Daddy Mac just keeps on trucking. Even a separated shoulder wasn't enough to knock him off stride, as he returned looking good as new. Among NHL defensemen, he's tied for second in goals (12) and is sixth in points (26).
Chris Pronger, St. Louis Blues (47-6-14-20): Pronger rounds out the mighty triumvirate of St. Louis blueliners. While Duchesne and MacInnis provide the Blue Note with veteran smarts and experience, Pronger delivers the youthful exuberance and energy. He routinely logs 30+ minutes a game, excelling in all situations and beating the opposition senseless along the wall. He's currently tied for the league lead in plus-minus with a +24.
Patrick Roy, Colorado Avalanche (17-6-12, 2.32, .921): Roy could just stand in net and never stop a shot and he'd still make the All-Star team. He's just that cool. If you ever get a chance to see Roy play in person, take it. It's not often you get the feeling of being in the same arena with greatness. In fact, myself and the staff of LCS just saw him play about a week or so ago. During a commercial break, while all the other fans were milling around and the rest of the players were over near the benches, Roy turned around, placed his gloves on the top of the net, lifted up his mask, and stared up into the seats while taking a swig of water. As he looked up to my section, I leaned forward in my seat and gave a nice "hey, how's it goin'" wave. Roy did a quick double take, then took another hit of the water. Yep, me and Patrick shared a little moment there. We're tight like that.
Ed Belfour, Dallas Stars (22-6-8, 1.87, .910): Playing goal for Dallas is like being our accountant. There's not much to do, but it looks good on a resume. The Eagle considers it a tough night's work if he faces 18 shots. But lack of action aside, Belfour is still getting the job done. He leads the NHL in goals-against average (1.87) and shutouts (7). So that has to count for something.
Chris Osgood, Detroit Red Wings (20-9-8, 2.16, .916): While it's a lot like the Dallas gig, Osgood is providing the Wings with steady, if not spectacular, goaltending. It's just hard to argue with his numbers.
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