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The most baffling NHL All-Stars of the past decade

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Not everyone who makes it to the All-Star Game is actually a star.

2015 Honda NHL All-Star Game Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

There will be a lot of star power on hand for the 2018 NHL All-Star Game this weekend. Sidney Crosby, Patrick Kane, Alex Ovechkin, Erik Karlsson, Henrik Lundqvist ... if your favorite superstar is having a good season, they’re probably going to be in Tampa for the next few days.

But given the nature of the All-Star Game, a low-stakes midseason event that requires a participant from each team, there are always some unexpected names that sneak onto the rosters.

That’s part of the fun of the weekend: It’s not just a chance for the biggest names in hockey to have some fun, but for some less heralded players to receive their due amid breakout seasons. A year or two ago, nobody would’ve expected guys like Josh Bailey and Connor Hellebuyck to be NHL All-Stars in 2018. They’ve earned those honors, though.

It’s also a chance for a guy like John Scott to have the experience of his life. Most of the hockey world is surely familiar with what happened by now — an online campaign to get Scott voted into the 2016 All-Star Game miraculously worked — but it’s still remarkable to see his name listed on the same roster as a bunch of all-time greats.

Nobody can match Scott’s remarkable tale, which is being made into a movie and forced the NHL to change its ASG voting rules, but there have still been a number of NHL All-Stars over the last 10 years who might surprise you. This year, Brian Boyle is writing his own amazing story that includes an All-Star appearance.

The All-Star Game is mainly for, well, stars, but sometimes other guys manage to get their moment in the limelight. Here’s a look at the players most likely to make you think, “Wait, that guy was an All-Star?!” from the past 10 years.

Frans Nielsen, Red Wings (2017)

You can usually tell if a team’s season isn’t going well when its lone All-Star has just 26 points in 49 games. The Red Wings needed to send someone to the weekend in Los Angeles, and Nielsen somehow got the nod over Henrik Zetterberg, who had seven more points at the time.

Incredibly, Zetterberg has never played in an NHL All-Star Game because he was injured in 2007 and 2008 when he made the team back-to-back years, so it’s not like the league was simply trying to shake it up. With that said, Nielsen clearly enjoyed his experience.

“A real proud moment,” Nielsen said at the time, via The Detroit News. “For sure one day, when I retire, it’ll be one of the highlights.” He would finish his All-Star season with just 41 points in 79 games.

Leo Komarov, Maple Leafs (2016)

Things were going quite well for Komarov leading up to his first and only NHL All-Star appearance two years ago. The forward had broken out for a struggling Leafs team with 31 points in 48 games to beat out bigger names like James van Riemsdyk and Dion Phaneuf for Toronto’s lone spot.

“I don’t think he believed me when I told him,” van Riemsdyk said of informing Komarov of his honor at the time.

But it’s after the break that Komarov couldn’t hold up his end of the bargain as an All-Star. Limited by injuries, he recorded just five points and a brutal minus-17 rating over 19 appearances as the Leafs plummeted to the bottom of the standings. He’d finish his year with 36 points in 67 games.

Zemgus Girgensons, Sabres (2015)

Girgensons, a 24-year-old who has just eight points in 44 games for Buffalo this season, can thank the fine people of Latvia for his All-Star Game trip three years ago. At the time, the NHL hilariously announced that its top six All-Star vote getters were five members of the Chicago Blackhawks ... and Girgensons.

“It’s a little bit embarrassing and funny at the same time,” Girgensons told the AP. “It came out of nowhere. I know people know me back home, but I didn’t think it was going to go that far. That’s like crazy far.”

Girgensons topped all vote getters that year with over 1.5 million. He had recorded just 22 points in 47 games leading up to the weekend, so it’s not like he deserved to go purely on merit. But the Sabres were a terrible team in need of an All-Star, and the Latvian fans made that choice for the NHL by getting him into the game.

This was an incredible story, almost the precursor to Scott’s, but this is one that could repeat itself. The current voting rules prevent someone like Scott, who had spent time in the AHL that season, from getting in, but an NHL role player like Girgensons could happen again.

Mike Komisarek, Canadiens (2009)

There aren’t many recent NHL players who have had weirder careers than Komisarek, the No. 7 overall pick in the 2001 NHL draft. He failed to establish himself until 2006, but finished No. 17 in Norris Trophy voting in 2008 and earned his lone career All-Star appearance in 2009. Just a few years after that, he was already out of the league.

Komisarek mainly made the All-Star Game because Canadiens fans stuffed the ballot box as Montreal was hosting that year. Four members of the Habs ended up in the Eastern Conference’s starting lineup, which meant that Alex Ovechkin, in the midst of his second straight MVP season, didn’t make the team.

“It’s dumb,” Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said back then while everyone nodded in agreement.

Komisarek still made history, becoming the only player to record a penalty in an All-Star Game since 2000. He finished his All-Star season with two goals and nine assists in 66 games.

Rick DiPietro, Islanders (2008)

In DiPietro’s career leading up to his first career All-Star appearance, he posted a .907 save percentage in 249 games with the Islanders. Not great for a No. 1 overall pick on a massive contract, but at least serviceable given his workload. You can see how, given his pedigree and New York’s lack of top scorers, he managed to squeeze onto an All-Star roster.

Still, what happened immediately afterwards is remarkable to think about.

Here are DiPietro’s career NHL numbers after the 2008 NHL All-Star Game: 69 games, .884 save percentage, 3.20 goals allowed average. He’d start more than six games in a season just once due to injuries and ineffectiveness. He’s been out of the league since 2013.

Even in the context of DiPietro’s massively disappointing career, it’s incredible how things began spiraling out of control right after his first All-Star Game.