This Sunday, the NHL’s best and brightest will gather for the NHL All-Star Game in the city of LA. The format of the annual star-studded event has changed a handful of times over the past few years, but ultimately the NHL looks to showcase hockey’s biggest names, along with some of the NHL’s brightest up-and-comers. It’s a time-honored tradition and an obvious highlight in the middle of the NHL’s lengthy season.
It’s no wonder that such a prestigious event might come with some controversy, especially in the way of roster decisions. Every year it seems there’s a talented veteran player that falls to the wayside in favor of whoever has the hottest hand halfway through the season, or as often the case in the NHL, whoever has won over the hearts of the voting fans in the weeks prior. We’ve got plenty to talk about in the weeks leading up to and the months after the All-Star Game. Obviously, it’s fun to argue over who got snubbed, but years later it’s even more interesting to look at what players shouldn’t have been there in the first place.
The list we’ve compiled here offers insight on some of the NHL’s worst representatives at every All-Star Game over the past decade and a half. Most of the players on this list are good hockey players; good isn’t good enough when you’re among hockey’s cream of the crop. These players might have had solid seasons leading up to their ASG appearances, but their play either dropped back down to pedestrian levels or fell off so quickly that they couldn’t keep their footing in the league beyond a few more seasons.
Most (not all) of the players on this list are good hockey players. Having said that, hindsight is 20/20 and we can clearly see now that each one of these players were lucky to share ice with the NHL’s very best during their All-Star appearance. Important note, none of these players were participants in the YoungStars game; all of these players were selected as bonafide NHL All-Stars.
15 15. 1998 - Shayne Corson
The first few All-Star games around the turn of the century featured a North American team consisting of American and Canadian players, and an all-world team consisting mostly of players from Europe. You’ll see a theme developing here: most World teams struggled to put together a deep roster. 1998 was the exception to that rule. In fact, 1998 might have been the only year the North Americans had a less deserving candidate on the roster in one Shayne Corson.
Corson was already on his second extended stint with the Montreal Canadiens when he put together one of his best seasons in 1997-98, putting up 55 points for the Habs. Having said that, Corson is one of only a handful of forwards on the North America roster who wouldn't make the Hall of Fame in future years, so he was one of the least impressive faces on the team. He didn't manage to put up any points for his team in what would turn out to be an exciting 8-7 victory for the North Americans.
Corson's point totals dropped off the next season with Montreal and he never managed to put together the same stats over the final six seasons of his career, split between the Canadiens, Maple Leafs, and Stars. Corson is the only player on this list who played in multiple All-Star Games; it only goes downhill from here. You've been warned.
14 14. 1999 - Sergei Krivokrasov
Sergei Krivokrasov played on the right wing for the Predators back in 1998-99 during their inaugural season and put up some great numbers for the expansion franchise. He posted up 28 points before the All-Star break and was more than worthy to serve as the Predators' first All-Star Game representative. Krivokrasov, like many disappointing All-Stars before and after, failed to record a point in Tampa Bay during the game and had a pretty forgettable game as a whole.
Krivokrasov, who played for the Blackhawks before his two seasons with the Predators, was considered a decent role forward during his time in Chicago and appeared to be developing nicely during his All-Star season. Unfortunately, Krivokrasov's numbers dropped off drastically the next season in Nashville, and he never recorded more than 30 points during a season the rest of his career. Krivokrasov spent time with Calgary, Minnesota, and Anaheim before he called it quits on his NHL career and migrated over to the Russian Elite League for the rest of his career.
13 13. 2000 – Petr Buzek
It might sound a bit harsh, but it's pretty easy to see Petr Buzek might have been the worst all-star EVER, considering he only played one full NHL season. He was a Czech stay-at-home defenseman for the newly-formed Atlanta Thrashers. Atlanta did not impress during their first season, but the Thrashers needed an ASG representative and the World roster was desperately seeking help on the blue line. Buzek tallied five goals and nine assists leading up to the All-Star Game, decent numbers for a player on a struggling expansion franchise. He got the call to represent Atlanta in Toronto for the 2000 All-Star Game.
Buzek had a forgettable appearance during the All-Star Game, then put up five more points as he finished out the 1999-00 season. Buzek’s All-Star season, remarkably, would be his only extended taste of action in the NHL. Buzek would spend a few seasons as a frequent healthy scratch for the Thrashers and the Calgary Flames before returning to the Czech Republic to finish out his career.
12 12. 2001 – Marcus Ragnarsson
The Team World trend of selecting marginal defenseman would continue with Ragnarsson in 2001. Ragnarsson was a Swedish defenseman who spent nine seasons in the NHL between San Jose and Philadelphia. It’s not that Ragnarsson was a bad defenseman, he just wasn’t a very spectacular one. He only had one season where he put up more than 25 points and it wasn’t leading up to his appearance as an all-star in Colorado; Ragnarsson received a few Calder votes back in 1996 during his rookie season but that performance was behind him when he was selected for the Colorado All-Star Game in 2001.
The World team needed a defenseman to fill out the lineup and the shoe fit for Ragnarsson. He failed to put up a point in what turned out to be a 14-12 loss for the World squad. For an All-Star Game, merely selecting a steady defenseman doesn’t really seem to help too much. That’s fine for Ragnarsson, who would go and play another four years after his ASG selection and round out what could probably be considered a steady career.
11 11. 2002 – Espen Knutsen
Jere Lehtinen was injured in his leadup to the 2002 All-Star Game, so one Espen Knutsen was selected to take his place. Knutsen was a Norwegian-born centerman and, in being selected, became the first Norwegian player in an NHL All-Star Game. Knutsen was having a pretty decent season leading up to the All-Star Game and would end up tallying 42 points for the Blue Jackets during the 2001-02 campaign.
Knutsen put up a decent performance in Los Angeles, tallying a goal and an assist for Team World en route to an 8-5 victory. Things went downhill quickly for Knutsen after his ASG appearance. That March, Knutsen shot a puck that deflected off a defenseman’s stick and flew over the glass, striking and ultimately killing a 13-year-old girl. While the accident may have been the lowest point in Knutsen’s career, his play started to slip after 2002. Knutsen would only play portions of the next two seasons before retiring with just over 200 NHL games under his belt.
10 10. 2003 – Patrick Lalime
In 2003, the NHL All-Star Game abandoned the North America/World format and instead shifted back to the traditional format of pitting the East’s best against the West's. The change was pretty obviously noticeable as both the quality of the games and the rosters drastically improved over the coming years. The worst of the best got noticeably better and this is evident when talking about East reserve goaltender Patrick Lalime.
Lalime, who played for the Ottawa Senators in 2002-03, was brought in as a replacement goalie for Ed Belfour due to an injury. He had been a reliable yet unspectacular starting goalie for the Senators during the early aughts, so "replacement-level All-Star goalie" was about his ceiling. Lalime got the call in net during the third period for the Eastern Conference and only let up one goal in the third period to force a shootout. Unfortunately, Lalime would let three by him in the shootout as the East would fall to the West in an exciting 6-5 contest.
After another decent season as a starter with the Senators, Lalime came back from the 2005 lockout and began moving around the NHL as a steady backup, spending time with the Blues, Blackhawks, and Sabres before retiring in 2011. He was a steady goalie who had a successful career in the NHL, but Lalime never really reached the level of play you’d expect from an All-Star. In 12 NHL seasons Lalime never broke the .915 mark for save percentage.
9 9. 2004 – Nick Boynton
The 2004 All-Star Game might have the most well-rounded roster of every game on this list. It was difficult to single out one player who didn’t belong, but Nick Boynton might have been the odd man out at the ASG festivities in Minnesota. Boynton broke onto the scene as a defenseman with the Bruins back in 2001, combining sound defensive play with nice scoring touch. Boynton put up 30 points in his All-Star season with Boston and that's more than respectable for a defenseman. Joe Sakic put a hat trick up for the West but Boynton’s Eastern Conference took the contest by a score of 6-4.
Boynton struggled to find the same offensive capabilities after the lockout that he had during the early 2000s, but still managed to play six seasons as a dependable blueliner. Boynton moved around the league at will, playing seasons with the Bruins, Coyotes, Panthers, Ducks, Blackhawks, and Flyers towards the end of his career. Boynton might even fall along the definition of a journeyman defenseman, but at the end of the day he’s still a one-time NHL All-Star.
8 8. 2007 – Jonathan Cheechoo
Changes to the fan voting system in 2007 meant that NHL fans could potentially stuff the ballot box for whoever they wanted in the All-Star Game. Rory Fitzpatrick, an unimpressive grinder for the Vancouver Canucks garnered a lot of support early in the voting but ultimately fell just short of securing a spot on the roster. That opens a spot up on this list for a player who looked far more promising back in 2007, Jonathan Cheechoo, who benefited from a spike in voting that propelled him into a starting role for the Western Conference.
After posting solid numbers during his first two years in the league, Cheechoo exploded onto the scene in 2006 and won the Maurice Richard trophy, posting an astonishing 56 goals as the NHL’s most prolific scorer. Cheechoo had slowed down just a tad in 2007 but still played well enough to earn himself a spot on the starting lineup. Despite his prolific nature, Cheechoo only managed to tally an assist as the West managed to defeat the East by a score of 12-9.
The only thing more shocking than Cheechoo’s meteoric rise to stardom is how quickly his play dropped off afterwards. Cheechoo would only play three more seasons in the NHL after his all-star selection and his point totals drastically dropped off each season. In 61 games with the Senators in 2009-10, Cheechoo only managed to record 14 points, which effectively spelled the end of the winger’s career. Nobody fits the billing of “one-time All-Star” better than Cheechoo does.
7 7. 2008 – Rick DiPietro
This is one of those fun facts you can throw around next time you’re talking to a big hockey fan: Rick DiPietro was an NHL All-Star. One of the NHL’s most synonymous busts actually played well enough to earn him a spot on the East’s roster for the 2008 All-Star Game in Atlanta. Martin Brodeur, who was originally slated as the Eastern Conference’s starter, elected to rest over the All-Star break, leaving the space open for DiPietro to fill in as a representative of the Islanders. DiPietro’s numbers had been good during the previous season, but his selection was a bit more confusing taking into consideration that he finished the 2007-08 season with a .902 save percentage. DiPietro did record six assists that season, so maybe they wanted a boost on offense. DiPietro allowed a goal on a shot by Rick Nash 12 seconds into the first period, then shut down the Western Conference’s stars for the rest of the first.
Beyond that, you probably know the book on DiPietro. His play began to drop off drastically and the former first overall pick accepted a buyout from the Islanders just a few years later, one that will leave New York paying DiPietro through 2029. There was a time when DiPietro was one of the league’s more promising young goalies, but those days are long in the past for the former all-star.
6 6. 2009 – Mike Komisarek
A common theme you’ll see for All-Star Game selections that we haven’t really seen on this list yet is players from the hometown team getting selected for the All-Star Game who really don’t deserve to be there. Such is the case for Mike Komisarek, who played in front of his home fans when he was selected as an All-Star Game starter for Montreal in 2009. Komisarek was a reliable defenseman during his time in Montreal, but he never exceeded 20 points during a season and he certainly didn’t belong at an All-Star Game.
Not surprisingly, the career defensive defenseman didn’t record a point during his appearance in the All-Star Game. Komisarek left town to play for Toronto the next season and spent a few more seasons as a disappointing bottom-paring defenseman for the Maple Leafs (along with a year in Carolina) before he retired in 2014. It’s not all that much of a stretch to say that Komisarek’s all-star selection might be the highlight of his career.
5 5. 2011 – Jonas Hiller
On top of ditching the classic East/West format in the All-Star game in favor of a fantasy draft format, the 2011 All-Star Game had one of the more well-rounded rosters in recent memory. Jonas Hiller was a very good goalie in 2011 and, even yet, there’s a very convincing argument that Hiller might have been the least talented player to participate at the ASG in 2011, simply due to the sheer level of talent Carolina hosted for their All-Star Game. Hiller did post the best numbers among goalies during his period of play, allowing only two goals during the second period in what turned out to be an absolute shootout.
Jonas Hiller was a very solid starting goaltender for the Anaheim Ducks the year of his All-Star Game selection, posting a .924 save percentage in 2010-11. Hiller even played solid for a few years after his ASG until he relocated to the Swiss League this past season. 2011 was exactly how an All-Star game should be selected; even the worst player can still truly be considered among the league’s best.
4 4. 2012 – Dan Girardi
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a gritty, stay-at-home defenseman earns an All-Star game selection that they probably didn’t deserve. Dan Girardi is certainly a serviceable NHL defenseman, but another strong All-Star class in 2012 means Girardi was lucky not to be on the outside looking in. Girardi was defensively reliable, but he also put up one of his largest point totals of his career during the 2011-12 season with the New York Rangers. Girardi even managed to put up a primary assist on Team Alfredsson’s first goal on the way to a 12-9 defeat.
Girardi is another good example of a player who is among the NHL’s better defenseman, selected as a member of an extremely good All-Star class. He still plays solid middle-paring minutes for the Rangers, but Girardi’s play would have to drastically improve during the back end of his career for him to have any chance to add on to his one and only All-Star Game appearance.
3 3. 2015 – Zemgus Girgensons
After a two-year break from the All-Star Game due to a lockout and the Sochi Olympics, fan voting really started to get out of control in 2015, thanks mostly to Latvia. Zemgus Girgensons was at best a pedestrian young forward for the Buffalo Sabres in 2015, but a massive fan-voting campaign lead to the Latvia-born centerman leading the NHL in All-Star Game votes. Girgensons actually put up decent numbers during his All-Star season, averaging almost half a point a game, but surely there were still more deserving candidates. Despite all the hope garnered by the Latvian, Girgensons failed to put up a single point during his appearance.
Girgensons might not have been the most deserving candidate at the time, but he’s still only 23 years of age and definitely has the promise to become a very productive center over the next few years. It’s by no means a guarantee that he does so, but there’s a chance that Girgensons might earn himself another All-Star selection in the years to come, so the jury is still out.
2 2. 2016 – John Scott
Important note, 2016 was the first year of the newest All-Star Game format, splitting the All-Stars into teams by division and turning the game into a three-on-three tournament. Fans got to vote on each division’s captain, which enabled 2016’s most surprising All-Star to participate…
What can be said about the John Scott All-Star Game story that hasn’t already be said? The at-the-time Coyote was the beneficiary of a truly massive fan voting campaign aiming to put an enforcer into the All-Star Game. Their efforts paid off, only to see Scott get traded to Montreal and assigned to the AHL in the weeks leading up to the All-Star Game. After much frustration from the fans, the NHL decided to allow Scott to play and what a game it was. Scott scored two goals and earned MVP honors as he led his Pacific Division to the victory.
John Scott retired this season, with a grand total of 11 points in 286 games. Those numbers alone should go to show that Scott should have been nowhere near the All-Star Game in the first place, but in playing he became the center of one of the All-Star Game’s greatest stories. The NHL will take steps in the future to prevent similar players making the roster, so it’s unlikely we’ll see anything like the John Scott story any time soon.
1 1. 2017 – Frans Nielsen
2017’s All-Star Game will take place at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. We know that, and we know the rosters, but beyond that we obviously don’t know what’s going to happen in the game. The very best we can do is guess which player doesn’t belong at the game right now and let the cards fall as they may in LA.
Frans Nielsen has put together a decent season so far on a struggling Detroit Red Wings team, so he’ll be the representative for Detroit at the All-Star Game. It’s common sense that a team performing poorly might offer up a marginal All-Star, and that very well could be the case with Nielsen, whose two-way game doesn’t necessarily suit extended three-on-three play. Nielsen’s only managed slightly more than half a point a game this year, so he’ll likely need to get help from his teammates to produce on offense.
Ultimately though, everything’s still up in the air. Nielsen is certainly a decent player right now, but that could change in the future regardless of how he plays in the All-Star Game. Likewise, Nielsen could prove to be a disappointment in the All-Star Game and then break out as one of the NHL’s premiere players soon. It’s ALL speculation at this point. It’ll be interesting to see, come summer, who deserved their All-Star Game selection this year and who misled everyone like so many players in years past.
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