Oh dear, Abby
Avs' Aebischer, Hejduk head list of All-Star Game snubs
Posted: Friday January 23, 2004 4:53PM; Updated: Friday January 23, 2004 4:55PM
When the NHL All-Stars converge in the Twin Cities in two weeks, David Aebischer will be at his home in the Cherry Creek section of Denver watching on television.
Aebischer was among the more glaring omissions when the NHL's department of hockey operations announced the 15 reserves for each conference Thursday.
"It was never one of my goals for this year," Aebischer said. "Sure, it would be nice to make it, but that's the way it is."
Aebischer is having a spectacular season in his first year as a starter replacing the retired Patrick Roy, much like Marty Turco prospered last year in his inaugural campaign as a No. 1 netminder for the Stars after Ed Belfour was jettisoned.
As luck would have it, it may be Turco who kept Aebischer off the All-Star roster by getting selected as a starter. Though he's played well over the past six weeks, Turco struggled early in the 2003-04 season and probably doesn't deserve the starting nod. His ability to bounce back to his amazing 2002-03 form over the past 20 games is worthy of a second straight All-Star appearance, sure, but not the starting nod.
The NHL named Minnesota's Dwayne Roloson and Nashville's Tomas Vokoun the two Western Conference reserve goalies. While both are deserving of the honor, neither should've been picked ahead of Aebischer. Both Roloson and Vokoun are having excellent seasons for teams with many more holes in their lineup than the loaded Avalanche, but Aebischer's impressive debut season as a starter puts him up there with Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo and Jose Theodore for Vezina Trophy consideration.
Roloson and Vokoun may also garner some support for the award given to the league's best goaltender, but they're in the second tier of netminders with Belfour, Dan Cloutier, Robert Esche, John Grahame, Curtis Joseph, Miikka Kiprusoff, Patrick Lalime, Evgeni Nabokov, Chris Osgood, Andrew Raycroft, Vesa Toskala, Turco and Kevin Weekes.
Aebischer is 21-9-6 (tied for first in wins with Vokoun and Ed Belfour) with a 2.04 goals-against average (11th) and a .928 save percentage (seventh). Roloson is 11-10-7 (tied for 20th in wins) with a 1.85 GAA (fourth) and a .935 save percentage (fourth), outstanding secondary numbers but a bit lackluster for an All-Star in the win-loss category. And Vokoun is 21-17-5 (tied for first in wins) with a 2.42 GAA (30th) and a .914 save percentage (25th), solid in wins but a bit suspect in the other categories in this golden age of goaltending.
The mellow and constantly grinning Aebischer took the news of his All-Star snub in stride when he found out after Thursday's 1-1 tie in Atlanta.
"You get three days off, so that's a good thing, too," Aebischer said. "Of course, I would've loved to go, there's no question about that, but it's no big deal. I'll just rest and relax a little bit for the first two days and then get ready for the next game we have."
Aebischer has been one of the best stories this season, playing brilliantly after many thought he would be the Avalanche's weak link going into the season. Among the names tossed about as potential upgrades that Colorado could acquire via trade were Martin Biron, Sean Burke, Roman Cechmanek, Joseph, Nikolai Khabibulin and Olaf Kolzig, in addition to unrestricted free agents Osgood and Felix Potvin. Aebischer has outperformed them all.
Roloson may have been the beneficiary of a bit of home cooking since the game will be played at the Xcel Energy Center. It's understandable that the NHL wanted to have at least one Wild player on the West team, but why then was Filip Kuba named as a reserve defenseman? Kuba is having a perfectly fine season with five goals and 12 assists, but he has a minus-9 rating on a team that has underachieved. Meanwhile, Detroit's Mathieu Schneider is having one of the best years of his career, with eight goals, 24 assists and a plus-17 rating, while outplaying teammate, All-Star starter and three-time defending Norris Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom.
Aebischer's teammate Milan Hejduk was among the snubbed for the second straight year. Last Jan. 18, I wrote: "Milan Hejduk must be wondering what else he needed to do to impress the selection committee for the 2003 All-Star Game. Would they have preferred if he tossed in a triple Lutz?"
The same pretty much holds true one year later, only this season Hejduk is the reigning Rocket Richard Trophy winner in addition to being ranked fourth in goals with 24.
"I'm used to it," Hejduk told the Rocky Mountain News. "That's OK. I'd like to stay home with my kids I didn't make it last year, either."
Hejduk's wife, Zlatuse, gave birth to twin boys earlier this month, so he'll enjoy the chance to bond with his little guys rather than skate with the stars in Minnesota.
"I think Hedgy deserved it way before me," Aebischer said. "With the system you have, I think it costs players like Milan a spot when they should be on. But that's the way it goes."
"It's unfortunate because they both deserve to be there," Avalanche captain Joe Sakic said after being named to his 11th All-Star Game. "I think they both have been outstanding. But with 30 teams [and the league trying to get players from most teams] you are going to have guys that should be there not there."
"I'm surprised a lot of the guys didn't make it," Avalanche head coach Tony Granato said, mentioning Adam Foote in addition to Aebischer and Hejduk. "But it's not an easy team to make and we already had three representatives, so I'm sure that played into it. If they were on different teams and they were having the years they are having, I'm sure they'd be on it. I'm sure they would love to be on it, but in the big picture I know what they are worried about and that's helping our team win."
Other players who are having good seasons and could have a gripe about not going include Zdeno Chara, Pavol Demitra, Kris Draper, Patrik Elias, Foote, Peter Forsberg, Sergei Gonchar, Grahame, Brett Hull, Ed Jovanovski, Ken Klee, Slava Kozlov, Bryan McCabe, Derek Morris, Ladislav Nagy, Mattias Ohlund, Brian Rafalski, Mark Recchi, Mike Ribeiro, Marc Savard, Schneider, Jason Spezza, Weekes, Doug Weight, Marek Zidlicky and Sergei Zubov.
The NHL doesn't mandate at least one player from each team being in the All-Star Game like Major League Baseball does, but it likes to try to have one representative from each club in either the Midseason Classic itself, or the three-year-old YoungStars Game.
The Hurricanes, Penguins and Sabres were the only three Eastern Conference teams without an All-Star, while the Blackhawks, Mighty Ducks and Oilers didn't get anyone on the Western Conference team. That means these six teams are almost certain to place players on the YoungStars Game roster, which will be announced Saturday night during the Hockey Night in Canada telecast.
The best bets are Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury, Konstantin Koltsov and Ryan Malone; Carolina's Eric Staal; Buffalo's Ales Kotalik and Derek Roy; Edmonton's Ales Hemsky and Raffi Torres; Chicago's Tuomo Ruutu; and Anaheim's Joffrey Lupul.
Someone deserving is always going to be left off when a finite number of selections has to be made. It's just unfortunate that in this instance it was a player as deserving as Aebischer.
Jon A. Dolezar covers the NHL for SI.com.