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Henry Orth The Hockey Writers

Published on Monday, January 15, 2018





The Phil is Gone: The Ultimate All-Star Snub

Phil Kessel is a Stanley Cup Champion. However, an NHL All-Star he is not. Despite leading the Pittsburgh Penguins in points, goals, assists, and the NHL in power-play points, the national treasure that is Philip Joseph Kessel won’t see the ice at the 2018 All-Star Game in Tampa. It would appear that nice guys finish last.

Pittsburgh’s favorite hot-dog dining, top-shelf sniping son is a nice guy. He tries hard and loves the game, or so it reads on his now-famous Twitter bio. Although everyone knows you’re not allowed to lie on the internet, it’s clear that the Kessel’s Cinderella story has captivated the City of Pittsburgh and the NHL.

NHL preseason schedule

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

With Kessel poised to have the most productive regular season of his career, the legend of “Phil the Thrill” continues to grow as the points pile on and as the Penguins continue their quest to become the first back to back to back Stanley Cup Champions in 35 years, what seems like an impossible dream could become a reality, due largely to Kessel’s power play prowess.

The Kessel Enigma

Kessel’s impressive point production, along with his undeniable charm, is what makes his All-Star snub all the more mysterious which, coincidentally, has left some fans of the “Coolest Game on Earth” wondering if Russian collusion is to blame for this icy anomaly?

Wait just a Moscow minute! Are you saying even the mighty Evengi Malkin has been left off of the All-Star lineup? Well, if we can’t blame the Motherland then who is at fault for the Penguins’ most productive player receiving the All-Star cold shoulder? Here is a little hint: it starts with F and rhymes with CANS.

RELATED: Phil Kessel – Biography of an NHL Star

Freakin’ Fan-Sanity aside, if “Phil the Thrill” and Mr.” Malka-Mania” won’t be a part of the Penguins’ 2018 All-Star delegation, who will?

The answer: Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang. As the face of the NHL for over a decade, and arguably the league’s most polarizing player, it’s no surprise that “Sid the Kid” will once again be representing the Penguins at this year’s All-Star Game especially considering the “High School Popularity Contest” fan voting format for electing All-Stars. With Sid’s continued and spectacular success in mind, he is likely the closest thing to a shoe-in that the annual gathering of All-Stars will ever see. However, Kris Letang is not.

A Miss With Kris

Nothing against Letang; he’s usually the sole bright spot on a Penguins defense that’s about as intimating as Matt Duchene dropping the gloves. However, this hasn’t been his year, not by a long shot, and I’m talking the Buffalo Sabres’ chances of making the playoffs sort of long shot.

In fact, Letang has looked like a ghost of his former self most of the year, plagued by injury, inconsistent play, and a +/- rating that has often resided in the double-digit deep end. It’s the sad and pitiful sort of place where fantasy ratings sink like lead and Norris Trophy dreams go to die.

A drop in production and a decline in speed and stamina is often expected and even excusable when a player returns from an injury. However, turnovers, especially those that occur in the kind of bulk that is only seen on the shelves at Costco, is not.

Kris Letang - Pittsburgh Penguins


Enough lamenting. The truth is, in any other season Letang would be a welcome and worthy addition to the All-Star squad. However, this season is anything but ordinary and the fact that he will have the chance to win a questionably-styled Honda Mini-Van disguised as a pickup truck as MVP while Kessel sits back in Pittsburgh eating hot-dogs is simply inexcusable.

The People’s Champ

Kessel might not be a 2018 NHL All-Star but that nice guy who tries hard and loves the game is the undisputed people’s All-Star! An ambassador for the every man, Kessel is a hero to hockey and hot-dog fans alike. The most meme-able man in hockey is also a two-time Stanley Cup champion and if  Kessel’s game stays as hot as a brat on the BBQ, “Phil the Thrill” will be eating hot-dogs out of another Stanley Cup in June. All-Star selection 2018 be damned, the Phil may be gone but he’s not forgotten!


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