As the Phoenix Coyotes struggle to find consistency in the winter months, fans and experts are toiling to find a skater to represent the Desert Dogs in the 2011 NHL All Star Game. So far, their efforts have been to no avail.
The Coyotes are unique in that they field a competitive club, yet lack greatly in star power. While names like Ed Jovanovski and Ray Whitney are recognizable to hockey fans, they hardly resemble names like Sidney Crosby or Jonathan Toews. Not since 2002, at least.
Phoenix's recent funk makes it even more difficult to find that potential All-Star. While knowing you have a bunch of players capable of contributing at any time is nice, they lack that Crosby-type player who can take over a game on a nightly basis.
So would could serve as a representative for the Coyotes in Raleigh? The answer might surprise you.
As it stands right now, six players have been selected to go to Raleigh for the All-Star Game: Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith from the Chicago Blackhawks & Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, and Marc Andre-Fleury from the Pittsburgh Penguins. The selection of these six leaves 36 of the 42 slots open.
Now the NHL, unlike Major League Baseball, does not require every team to be represented in the All-Star Game, as evident by the fact that the first six were from just two clubs. That means only one Coyote is likely to go, if they're lucky.
Here's how the voting broke down for Phoenix:
- Paul Bissonnette: 18,784 votes
- Shane Doan: 14,371 votes
- Ed Jovanovski: 18,783 votes
- Ilya Bryzgalov: 20,951 votes
Now that's impressive. Not only does it show the complete nonsense that fan voting is, but it left my choice to represent the Coyotes completely off (more on that later). Bissonnette over Doan? Scratch that, a vote for Bissonnette over anyone in the NHL, other than Chicago's John Scott, should be considered a crime, punishable by a cross-check from Chris Pronger.
My other favorite is Marty Turco with more votes than Bryzgalov. Seriously? Turco has looked, quite literally, like a fish out of water with the Blackhawks. Bryzgalov at least put together one of the better streaks from a goaltender this season in November, even if his performance has been lackluster of late.
So who gets my vote to represent Phoenix in Raleigh? Keith Yandle. No, that's not a typo. I know Scottie Upshall leads the team in goals. Yes, Shane Doan is probably the only name on the roster that an NHL fan from Sheboygan, Wisconsin will recognize. My vote is for Yandle.
Nobody on this team has elevated his game this season quite like Keith Yandle has. He has shown flashes of becoming an elite blueliner in the near future. Don't believe me? You want numbers? Everyone loves statistics.
Yandle's 30 points lead the team, with only Ray Whitney's 27 even coming close to him. His 24 assists are also at least five more than anyone on the team. Yandle is also one of just five players to play in all 39 games for the Yotes this season.
It's probably safe to say that Ed Jovanovski is considered the No. 1 defenseman on the team. He wears the 'A', he's the biggest name on the blue line, and he's the grizzled veteran. Yandles numbers put him to shame. Jovanovski has just 13 points, nowhere near Yandle. Sure, he's a plus-5 while Yandle is a minus-2, but on a team that's been struggling offensively lately, I wouldn't expect many to be above even.
At the end of the day, the vote I cast for Yandle really has no bearing on anything having to do with the All-Star Game. His name still isn't anywhere near on par with the big d-men in the league. Besides, if a Coyote does go it will most likely be Doan, and rightfully so. He's the leader of the team and has played well.
But on a team that has struggled to find an identity and a consistent guy on the stat sheet, Yandle sticks out. His 30 points are sixth among defensemen in the entire league. His time will come.
If there will be a Coyote in Raleigh at the end of the month, we will know January 11th. That's when the other 36 All-Stars will be named. Stay tuned folks.