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Backstrom, Holtby and Carlson: Who’s the Biggest All-Star Snub?

When the NHL converges on Columbus this weekend for the All-Star festivities, Alex Ovechkin will be among the stars taking to the ice, the fifth time in his career that he’s participated (and the sixth time that he’s been named to the ASG). And yet while he is certainly worthy of being the Caps’ representative, he’s also certainly not the only Cap who could have earned an invite this year.

In fact, one could make the argument that a trio of Caps were overlooked for a spot – Nicklas Backstrom, Braden Holtby and John Carlson, all of whom are having All-Star seasons and yet somehow weren’t asked to join the rest in Ohio.

So which one was the worst snub? Let’s break it down.


The Snubbed: Braden Holtby

There’s no question that Holtby has been among the best players, if not the best player, for the Caps over the last two months. After an admittedly rough start to the season in which he lost six of his first nine games (and boasted a save percentage of just .891), he seemed to turn a corner in early November after turning aside 38 of 40 shots en route to a 3-2 victory in Chicago.

Since then… well, he’s been okay. All he’s done is put up a record of 18-6-6, a GAA of 2.16, a save percentage of .928 (.936 at even strength) and three shutouts.

So how does that stack up against the netminders who did get the nod for this year’s game? Take a look:

Since 11/7/14 2014-15 Season
Name Team Gm Sv% GAA ES S% Sv% GAA ES S%
Carey Price MTL 25 0.939 1.80 0.949 0.929 2.15 0.939
Pekka Rinne NSH 26 0.930 2.00 0.942 0.931 1.96 0.944
Braden Holtby WSH 31 0.928 2.16 0.936 0.921 1.97 0.928
Roberto Luongo FLA 26 0.923 2.32 0.925 0.923 1.92 0.932
Marc-Andre Fleury PIT 26 0.918 2.46 0.912 0.921 2.21 0.922
Sergei Bobrovsky CBJ 24 0.917 2.80 0.924 0.915 2.50 0.919
Jimmy Howard DET 22 0.916 2.19 0.927 0.920 1.92 0.926
Corey Crawford CHI 22 0.915 2.53 0.917 0.921 2.26 0.923
Jaroslav Halak NYI 26 0.915 2.17 0.928 0.910 2.01 0.921

By any standard, Holtby has put up very good numbers this season; held up against the All-Star netminders, he’s among the best.

The Snubbed: John Carlson

Carlson is having a phenomenal year so far, at least as far as offense is concerned (and let’s not kid ourselves, that is a huge factor in selecting All-Star blueliners). Since the start of the season, Barry Trotz has encouraged his defensemen to get involved in the play – and Carlson is leading that push, with 34 points through the season’s first 46 games. That’s just three points shy of his career high (set in 2010-11, and repeated last season), and a whopping twelve more points than he put up in the lockout-shortened 48-game campaign two years ago.

That scoring has been pretty consistent all season; only twice has he gone as many as three games without a point. And after never having more than six multi-point games in a single season prior to this year, he’s already got nine such games in 2014-15 (including another two-assist performance against the Oilers Tuesday night).

So it’s no surprise that he currently leads all Caps’ defensemen in scoring, or that he’s third among all Caps, trailing only Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. But he’s also among the League’s best right now, his 34 points tied for fourth among all NHL defensemen – and with 22 of those points accumulated at even strength, only Mark Giordano has been better this season at five-on-five than Carlson.

And yet… not an All Star. Go figure.

The Snubbed: Nicklas Backstrom

Alex Ovechkin is a pretty potent and consistent producer of offense… so if you can keep up with him, you’re probably pretty good. Nicklas Backstrom is more than pretty good.

His 47 points in 46 games not only lead the Caps (besting Ovechkin by four at the break) but put him into the League’s top-ten in scoring. He’s on pace for his best goal-scoring season since 2009-10, with 14 of his 15 goals scored at even strength. He wins faceoffs (53.6%, one of the top 30 in the League), runs one of the League’s best power-play units (picking up 17 points with the extra man), and makes one of the League’s best goal-scorers even better on a nightly basis.

Amazingly enough, that doesn’t get him to Columbus. In fact, he’s the only player among the League’s top-20 scorers who also leads his team in scoring and yet wasn’t invited (at least among players whose team isn’t sending a defenseman or goalie).

But that’s not even the most amazing part.

The most amazing part, the most mystifying aspect, the most ridiculous thing about this whole snub… is that it’s not the first time. In fact, he’s never been selected to the All-Star Game. Not once. Not a single time in eight seasons in the NHL, over the course of which he’s put up 541 points in 541 games. Only eight players have put up more points since Backstrom’s rookie season, and every single one of them has been an All Star multiple times. Only ten other players have scored at least a point per game in the last eight seasons… All Stars all.

How he’s been overlooked, not just this year but every year, is downright insane.


There are plenty who would make the argument that most players would rather have the time off than have to participate in the game, and it’s a valid point (although the guys who do take part never seem to mind it all that much). It’s a meaningless exhibition game in the middle of a long season, and the Caps have more important things on which to focus once the All-Star Game is in the books.

There’s also a chance that some if not all of them actually asked not to be included for whatever reason; it’s rarely made public when that happens, but it’s not unheard of. Plus it’s hard (albeit not impossible) to single out players who made the cut and yet maybe shouldn’t be included, particularly given the fact that the League requires one representative from each team.

…and frankly, given the way the All-Star goalies have been dropping like flies of late, Holtby in particular would be safer taking a job as the drummer for Spinal Tap.

But there is something to being chosen for the game. It’s the League’s way of singling out their “top” stars (like Nick Foligno!), of putting them on display for the fans; it’s a means of bestowing a bit of respect on what each player has accomplished over the course of the season. Sure, it’s a silly game that means nothing – but it does mean something, all the same.

So… who’s your biggest snub?

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