Thursday, September 11, 2008

Worst All-Star Ever

The worst All-Star selection ever, no I don't mean selection to the mid-season game where 40 guys are picked. Lots of players have been put on those teams on the basis of half a good season which basically amounted to their career highlight, (1982 Leaf D-Man Bob Manno). I'm talking the First and Second league-wide All-Stars selected after each season since 1930-31.

At a quick glance it seems the first ten or so years of post season all-star teams are littered with non-descript, middling defensmen. Ivan "Ching" Johnson of the Rangers made four straight teams including a First Team in '32 while racking up 13 points in 47 games. Habs Sylvio Mantha was a second teamer in '31 and '31 with 11 and 10 points respectively. Cy Wentworth and Art Coulter, (see what I mean about non-descript) made up the 1934-35 Second team D-Line with 13 and 12 points each in 48 games. I know, I know...different era. Eddie Shore and King Clancy were about the only two even remotely offensive defenders and were pretty much a lock for each years post season stars. About the only real ommission would have to be the '35 team not including rookie Leaf, Flash Hollet who had 10 goals and 26 points. He was second in defense scoring to only Shore, I suppose there was a thinking that the 'rooks' had to earn their stripes. Hollet would go on to set the record for defenseman goals ten years later with 20.

The '40's offer some more defense All-Star selections on the weak side. Guys like Jack Stewart, Butch Bouchard and Ken Reardon garnering spots while never scoring more than 16 points. Perhaps their greatest asset was size, all pushing 6ft and at least 180 lbs, when most forwards were much smaller than that. There really were no other choices for defense all-stars other than the big bulls that did their job effectively.

1949-50 has two poor selections starting with Leaf Gus Mortson as a First Team defender with three goals and 17 points in 67 games. Bill Gadsby and his 35 points apparently wasn't enough to take a spot on even the second squad. Ranger left winger, Tony Leswick and his 44 points took a second spot behind Ted Lindsay while Terrible Ted's team mate Sid Abel and his 34 goals and 69 points was shut out.

1953-54 perhaps saw the worst numbers for a First and Second team centre. Montreal's Ken Mosdell somehow 'earned' a First team nod with 46 points in 67 games and Leafs Teeder Kennedy was second with 38 (!) points in 67 matches. In fact there really wasn't much to pick in the way of centres in an era dominated by Wingers Howe, Richard, Lindsay, Geoffrion.

Most of these examples could not really be labelled "worst all-star ever", just all-stars with not the greatest numbers from fairly weak crops of positions. We have to jump all the way to 1973-74 to get truely egregious selection.

Now I don't really like dumping on one-eyed, dead guys but....the Flyers Barry Ashbee as a second team selection that year was brutal. Ashbee, 34 and in his fourth season had just tallied his lowest points in a year with 17 in 69 games, all be it with a nice +54 plus/minus rating. In the second round of the Flyers run to the Cup he was hit in the eye by a deflected puck and never played again....he would be dead in three years form lukemia as well. Like I said, dont want to throw him under the bus, but come on....That season defensemen who were more deserving;
rookie Denis Potvin with 54 pts, Guy LaPointe 53 pts, Carol Vadnais 59 pts, Dick Redmond 59 pts and even Ashbee's team mate Tom Bladon with 34 pts.

Along those lines, Jim Schoenfeld's 79-80 second team nod was a bit of a slight to the very under-rated Red Wing, Reed Larson who had 22 goals and 66 points. Larson was in a run of scoring at least goals in five straight years, and never did garner a post season all-star. Also deserving that year Barry Beck, Ron Greschner and Doug Wilson each having at least 58 points.

That brings us to my selection of worst all-star ever....Mr. Brian Engblom of the Habs. He was second teamer that year over 3 (three!) point-a-game defenseman; John Van Boxmeer, Craig Hartsburg and Randy Carlyle. Sure, sure he was an all-round defender, he did things that didn't show up on the stat sheet....that's great, I'm really proud of him. In my mind, an all-star DOES things that show up on the stat sheet. That's the same bogus thinking that won Rod Langway consecutive Norris Trophy's soon thereafter. I hate "stay-at-home" defensemen, I wish they would heed the advice of their nickname, we don't need you.

Now, as for Rod Langway who went with Engblom to Washington the next season, how he won those Norris's over Coffey, Bourque, Potvin or Mark Howe is beyond me. Great, he had long reach and was born in Taiwan....was it his well kept moustache? We'll never know.
I'l give him an all-star spot each of those years, but the year after his last Norris, 84-85, he snagged another second team slot with a measley 4 goals and 26 pts. At least in the two previous years he was ripping it up with point totals in the low 30's. Puh-lease....you're telling me he was more deserving than Potvin's 68 points or Scott Stevens 65.

On the same lines, Brad McCrimmon really pulled a heist when he got second team honours in 87-88. He joined the deserving Bourque, Stevens and Gary Suter. Where was Coffey that year, in his first season with the Pens, playing only 46 games due to injury. He still scored 67 points, a 117 full season pace. You may say, 'he only played 46 games though', tough titties...in 1967-68 a gentleman named Robert Gordon Orr was a first teamer AND Norris trophy winner while scoring 31 points in, you guessed it 46 games played.

To conclude, I'd love to pick Barry Ashbee as the worst all-star ever, but my conscience wont let me....sorry Brian Engblom.

5 comments:

Bruce said...

shit, remind me to jump up in the play next time i'm on the ice with you.

Nitzy said...

Oh young Bruce...you're far from stay-at-home. You're more like a hit-the-road d-man....whatever that means.

Robert L said...

C'mon Nitzy...if your going to write on old time hockey, you should do a little more research and find an appreciation for what defenseman were prior to the days of Bobby Orr and Doug Harvey.

Once upon a time, there was great appreciation for what a defensive defenseman was.

I challenge you to counter your post, with the choices you would have made instead.

For those of us hockey bloggers like Joe Pelletier and myself, who are looking to set hockey history in an honest and intriguing light, you are doing the game and fans a great diservice.

Nitzy said...

Robert, I agree, I may have been too hard on the old-timers. However I do admit in the middle of the second paragraph that it was a 'different era' for stats, and next paragraph I give praise to Jack Stewart, Butch Bouchard and Kenny Reardon.

My whole rant about 'stay at home' d-men was fairly tongue in cheek, and I implore you to prove that either Barry Ashbee or Brian Engblom were worthy selections in those years.

Robert L said...

On Ashbee and Engblom being unworthy in those seasons, you'll no argument from me. They were simply above average at best. The names you mention in all cases seem statistically superior at first glance.

Potvin's rookie season suffers from the perception that he was on a weak team. Lapointe's number that season, if I recall correctly, dipped from prior totals, so he was out of the running.

Awards and all star nods have a long history of being quite bogus in hindsight. Raycroft over Ryder for the Calder in 2004, Gus Bodnar over goalie Bill Durnan for the same in 1944, the Rocket not winning the Hart for his 50 in 50 season, are all quite dubious in hindsight.

Thanks for informing that it was tongue in cheek. My bad - my first visit here. I'll get used to it in time. Keep up the good stuff. You have an interesting site!

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