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Off the Ice: NHL All-Star snub is slap to face of Radim Vrbata

Most of the time, I can see the logic behind the selection
of the NHL All-Stars. Naturally, the East Coast and
Canadian teams get a few more guys than those on the West
Coast because they tend to draw more viewers (and
revenue), and I understand that. I don’t like it, but
sports is a business and, unfortunately, that can affect
some decisions.

But this year, the NHL got one decision wrong when they
snubbed Phoenix Coyotes forward Radim Vrbata.

The Czech forward has quietly been moving up the stat
sheets all season and scored his 20th goal Tuesday in New
York. That goal tied him for seventh in the NHL, putting
only five All-Star forwards in front of him.

I’ll accept the argument that Vrbata has only posted 34
points in total this season. He’s been more of a goal
machine than an assist machine, especially given that he’s
been paired with Ray Whitney, but people don’t watch the
All-Star game to see players dishing the puck — they want
goals and few have been better in that department than
Vrby.

Vrbata is a very accurate shooter. In 119 shots, Vrbata
has netted 20 goals. That’s a little less than a goal
every five shots. Not only that, his patented forehand-to-
backhand penalty shot is practically unstoppable.

In a game that’s designed to celebrate the top players of
the season, it’s a slap in the face to leave Vrbata at
home.

The Coyotes do have one player, defenseman Keith Yandle,
who will be making his second consecutive appearance in
the game, but, frankly, he has not been the best Coyotes
player this season. Not a knock against Yands, because I
feel he’s been a much better all-around player this
season, but Vrbata has earned it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still tune in and watch the
scoring display that the All-Star Game has turned into;
I’ll be happy to see Yandle there. But the game won’t be
complete when I think about Vrbata, sitting on his couch,
watching a game he should be playing and nursing a
freshly-slapped cheek, courtesy of the NHL.