By JAY BOEHMERSenior Hockey Insider — firstname.lastname@example.org _______
When the list of players selected for the NHL All-Star game was released, there was a multitude of Flyers who seemed like they might take a spot.
In the end, only one of them made the cut.
Claude Giroux, who wasn’t even on the fan ballot, is the lone Flyer who will be representing the city of Philadelphia at the 2011 NHL All-Star weekend in Raleigh, North Carolina.
“Obviously it is pretty exciting and should be a good experience,” Giroux said. “I never thought I’d be able to accomplish this, but it is exciting. Hopefully I can perform well.”
Giroux, who learned of the selection on the eve of his 23rd birthday, is experiencing the best season of his short career – matching his career high 16 goals with half the season yet to play.
The Ontario native currently ranks third on the team in points behind Mike Richards and Danny Briere – whose four point night in Buffalo helped him leap frog Giroux.
While Giroux’s selection is no surprise – he’s emerging as an elite talent in the NHL, and his flashy style of play is perfect for the fun and excitement of an All-Star game – the surprise is that he was the only Flyer selected.
Danny Briere is on pace for over 40 goals, and while his point totals may not match some of the career numbers he put up in Buffalo, he is still one of the league’s elite goal scorers – ranking 6th in the league in that category.
Briere is the biggest surprise snub of the Flyers roster, but plenty of others would have been up for consideration as well.
Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Kimmo Timonen, and Chris Pronger were all on the fan ballot, and received strong support there.
Pronger’s injury has obviously kept him out of the running, but Timonen – who has been plagued throughout his career by under-appreciation – is one of the Flyers’ top defenseman on both sides of the puck.
Richards leads the team in points and Carter is among the team’s leading scorers with 16 goals.
But neither was selected in the end.
Some may see this as a slap in the face, but the players know this is simply a sign of their immense depth. The team is not led by a single player – you’ll find no Sidney Crosby or Alexander Ovechkin here. Instead, the Flyers roll three lines of nine forwards who are all called upon to produce offense and score.
On any given night, it could be Scott Hartnell, Ville Leino, James van Riemsdyk, or Nikolay Zherdev who carries the offense. There’s no need for “stars” in Philadelphia, and to select one over any of the others would be a difficult decision.
Claude Giroux may be just one piece in this impressive corps of forwards, but his selection makes sense given the nature of an All-Star game. It’s a show, a carnival. A weekend of theatrics. And with few others who can dazzle and entertain with the puck the way Giroux does, he certainly seems like the right choice.
Giroux will be joining Peter Laviolette in Raleigh, as Laviolette was selected to co-coach one of the teams alongside Vancouver’s Alain Vigneault, by virtue of their teams’ leading their respective conferences – Blackhawks coach Joe Quenneville will be behind the bench for the other team in honor of Chicago’s Stanley Cup victory.