Don't get me wrong here. Eric Staal is having a fantastic season. He's put up 46 points, including 22 goals so far this season, and that's through 45 games. He's a point per game player, basically, on a team without much of a dominate supporting case. That's not meant to be a knock on the Hurricanes, but put it this way: he doesn't have Evgeni Malkin or Martin St. Louis to play with. Fair enough?
It's a fantastic gesture by the NHL's All-Stars to collectively vote the hometown guy in as a captain of one of the All-Stars teams this year, but it's a bit of a curious move from a hockey standpoint. Let's look at some of the other potential candidates that could have taken that spot.
First, the obvious choice would have been Sidney Crosby. He's the poster boy of the league and for good reason: he's the best player in the league. He's injured though, of course, and likely won't be participating in the game even if he's healthy by January 30th. The players wouldn't want to vote in a guy that's not going to play for clear reasons.
Then there's the league's other poster boy, Alex Ovechkin. His name really hasn't been mentioned publicly at all in debates about who would win these captaincies, so I guess it's not really surprising that he didn't get a nod. He's having a relatively terrible season anyway -- not even in the top 30 in goals. But despite all that, he's just one point behind Staal on the year.
What about Jonathan Toews or Steven Stamkos? The former is the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner while the latter is quickly proving that he's Crosby's equal in terms of offensive production and flat-out awesomeness. No. 91 currently leads the NHL in goals and he's just four points behind Crosby.
I guess this is the real point here: There are plenty of All-Stars that could've been named a captain, and a lot of them are probably better qualified in terms of the years they're having than Staal. It's pretty clear though that the NHL would love to see Staal as the captain in his home town simply for marketing purposes.
You just know that thousands of Carolina fans are going to be buying those red and white All-Star No. 12 jerseys with STAAL across the back and the 'C' adorned on the chest, and the NHL is going to need those hometown jersey sales more than ever this year. Consider that we won't know the teams of most players until two days before the game, and that it takes more than two days to stock store racks around the league with jerseys.
The question, then, is how much input the NHL brass had on the vote. Not to say there were cahoots involved, here, and it's not to say that it's not possible that the players could just vote the hometown guy in because they all like and respect the hometown guy, but it's worth questioning, right?
Do we just call Daniel Alfredsson a lock to captain one of the teams simply because the game is in Ottawa?