Hi, I’m Brian. First, let me start by saying I am thrilled to be part of the Sweetest Hockey On Earth team! I will be bringing you coverage of the back-to-back Calder Cup champion Hershey Bears from a local (and rink-side) perspective. Please take a moment to go to the About Us page to read more about me.
As for the 2011 AHL All-Star game, the Captains for this season’s game have already been named. Heading up the Eastern Conference will be Mark Wotton and from the West it will be Alexandre Giroux. They both are not only veterans of the league, but between the two of them, they have been named to several All-Star teams. More interesting to you Hershey fans, is that both of these team captains are former Calder-Cup winning Bears players!
Voting for the remaining 2011 All-Star roster is currently underway and is set to close Sunday. Direct from the AHL site:
Fans will have the opportunity to vote for the most deserving AHL players by visiting theahl.com or facebook.com/theahl and completing the official Reebok AHL All-Star Fan Ballot. The players receiving the most votes by position will earn berths in the starting lineups of the Eastern Conference and Western Conference AHL All-Star teams at the 2011 AHL All-Star Classic presented by Capital BlueCross, to be held Jan. 30-31 at Giant Center in Hershey, Pa. A committee of AHL coaches will select the remaining All-Stars, and all 30 clubs will be represented on the final rosters.
We have some important decisions to make in voting for forwards, defensemen and goalies. Unlike the NHL, the AHL places many more people on the ballot. In this case, there are 14 forwards, 10 defensemen and 3 goalies from Hershey. The million-dollar question is, “Who do I vote for?” As far as forwards go, Andrew Gordon, Keith Aucoin and Mathieu Perreault are all solid choices. Gordon is among the top of many stats like goals, points and +/- rating. In fact, he had been leading the league in the plus/minus category until his most recent recall to Washington. Aucoin has missed several games due to an injury, so he is not showing up high in the statistics as he usually does. Perreault, like Aucoin, has missed a number of games, but in Perreault’s case, it has been because of call-ups to the Capitals. Even so, in the 18 games that he has played he is averaging an outstanding 1.39 points per game, which is a better average than anyone on the list of points leaders. He is a playmaker and has proven so in more games than not. Perry certainly deserves the honor of being voted in by us Bears fans even if he is unable to play. I will also throw in a nod to Brian Willsie. Willsie hasn’t seemed to garner as much attention, but he is putting up noteworthy stats. For example, he is +15, tied for 3rd in power play goals and he is tied for the league lead in “first goals”.
Moving back to the blue line, we have a number of defensive All-Stars candidates. Lawrence Nycholat and Brian Fahey are putting together seasons worthy of consideration. Nycholat is among the league leaders in assists and plus/minus ratings. Back on the Bears roster for a second time, his veteran leadership and production on the ice is proving to be a valuable asset to the team. He is currently skating with a +15 rating. Like some other players, Fahey (14 points in 26 games) isn’t overly flashy, but he is a guy you can count on in the defensive end. The games that he has missed have been because of recalls to the Capitals. Other considerations are Sean Collins (8 points and leading the league with a +18 rating) and Zach Miskovic (9 points and a +8 rating). Due to an injury and missing most of the season so far, Patrick McNeil is absent the ballot. Too bad there isn’t a write-in option.
Lastly, we will address the men manning the pipes. On the ballot are Semyon Varlamov, Braden Holtby and Dany Sabourin. Varly’s eligibility comes from his playing time during his conditioning stint. Let’s face it, even if voted in he’s not going to play, so we should focus on Holtby and Sabourin. I think that the numbers favor Holtby slightly more than Sabourin. Holtby’s GAA is minuscule 1.66 while Sabourin is 2.68. Holtby gets the edge in the save percentage category with an outstanding 0.940 while Sabourin is carrying a 0.898. Holtby also has 4 shutouts in 15 games played. In the end, if you are choosing a goalie from Hershey I think the clear choice Holtby. (Side note: I was happy to see that Sabourin finally got a couple wins at Giant Center. Maybe he finally got that monkey off his back.)
And those are what I consider to be the top choices from the Hershey Bears for the 2011 AHL All-Star team. Sure, I know that there are many more guys on the team and ballot, but you can only choose one for each position. Coming up in the weeks leading up to the All-Star game, look for more posts by yours truly covering the happenings around the game. I look forward to adding some additional local flavor to the blog. Until next time – GO BEARS!!
P.S. This would also be a perfectly acceptable ballot.
SHOE’s All-Star Campaign Posters created by Ian Oland
(Feel free to steal, print out, and re-post!)
Vote Holtby (click to enlarge)
Vote Gordon (click to enlarge)
Vote Pinner (click to enlarge)