Thursday, January 5, 2012

All-Stars At Every Level

There's nothing worse than an All-Star game.  A single, meaningless game where the league's stars gather in one arena and skate around the ice at 3/4 speed on offense and 1/2 speed on defense while the games that are actually exciting are put on hold.  Yuk!

My disdain for the All-Star game notwithstanding, this year's game is providing some positive signs for Leaf fans. 

Dion Phaneuf has already made the All-Star team after getting voted in by the fan ballot.  Now this isn't exactly a reflection of a player's skill but Phaneuf's 26 points do place him 6th in points among the league's defensemen.  He probably shouldn't be a starter, but I would think he deserves to go.

Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul also appear to be likely participants, sitting 4th and 5th in league scoring, respectively.

The AHL All-Star game is also fast approaching and prospects Joe Colborne and Nazem Kadri both got the call for the minor league skill-fest.

But what does all of this mean for the Maple Leaf organisation?  Well, for one thing, the common narrative doesn't seem to be lining up with reality.

Turn on talk radio for an afternoon and count the number of callers (or hosts for that matter) who claim that the Leafs are thin in the top six, or that beyond Kessel, they've got no stars. 

The reality, for the time being, is that the Leafs seem to be doing just fine at the top of their lineup.  Lupul and Kessel have both been electric and Phaneuf has been among the better offensive defensemen in the league. 

"Star power", whatever that means, hasn't been the problem for the Leafs.

Having two AHL All-Stars is an indication that our prospect pool contains some guys with high-end potential (and value) as well.  Colborne and Kadri seem to have hit their stride in tandem this season, though they've rarely shared the ice at either the NHL or AHL level.

While I'm reluctant to say that Lupul is a bonafide star after only a half season of elite production, he's winning me over.  Phaneuf really looks like he's bounced back after some shaky seasons.  Kessel has genuinely become a better player this year and has looked every bit as good as his position in the league scoring race would suggest.

The rumour mill seems to have started spinning full steam over the past week with Rick Nash, Bobby Ryan, and Ryan Getzlaf all having their names tossed around.  Don't get me wrong, I'd be thrilled to have any one of those players skating with the Leafs, but the next time you hear someone say, "the Leafs have to trade for one of them or they'll never make the playoffs," it might be worth considering exactly what has been the problem for the Leafs this year; it hasn't been star power.


Mike said...

That's a lot of words to essentially say nothing at all.. Is anyone actually saying the Leafs need to get a star? They need an established #1 Center, which by definition is a star. Having 8 allstar wingers would not change that. Think, then blog.

Curt S said...

Connolly is in the top 20 centers in PPG. Grabovski is top 30.

Think, then comment.

Allan said...

I don't care how we do it, we just need a competent PK.

Curt S said...

I couldn't agree more. There's no excuse for being so far behind the rest of the league.