Better With Popcorn

Snub? Hartnell continues case to be All-Star Sub

Last week, many were outraged when the results of the fan voting portion of the All-Star team was announced.

With this year’s game being held in Ottawa, it was clearly evident that fans of the hometown team stuffed the ballet box when four of the six starters turned out to be Senators.

For fans of the Philadelphia Flyers, it was surprising that their star player Claude Giroux hadn’t been given the honor of being an All-Star starter.

Now, one week later and there is another Flyers player on the outside looking in.

Scott Hartnell has been an integral part of the team this season. After getting off to a slow start, Hartnell found his stride when he was placed on the top line with Jaromir Jagr and Giroux.

At the time, the move was met with skepticism.

Giroux and Jagr are by and far the best skill players on the team. With all the talent on the Flyers roster, it seemed like there had to be a better candidate than the sometimes hotheaded, uncoordinated, and slow-footed Hartnell.

Instead of hampering the line with his lumbering style of play, Hartnell has amplified it by bringing a solid net presence that has allowed the group to take advantage of rebounds as well as goaltender screens.

With Hartnell camped out in front, it draws defensive attention away from Giroux and Jagr.

In addition, Hartnell’s physical play is an asset when digging pucks out of the corners and establishing the fore-check. Not to mention that he isn’t afraid to stand up to a player who gets a little too friendly with his line mates.

During Thursday night’s game against the New York Islanders, Hartnell expressed his disappointment with not being selected to the team. Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette even stated that he was the best power forward in the league this season.

Against the Islanders, Hartnell demonstrated what Laviolette was talking about.

During a Flyers power play in the first period, Jagr and Giroux were moving the puck along the perimeter of the offensive zone. While Giroux handled the puck at the top of the faceoff circle, Hartnell began a drive towards the net.

Giroux recognized what was occurring and sent a lead pass to the front of the goalmouth where Hartnell masterfully deflected the puck to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead.

In the second period, Hartnell helped the Flyers pull ahead by two when his aggressive fore-check forced Islanders goaltender Evgeni Nabokov to attempt a clear that Timonen intercepted. After wrapping the puck around the boards, Wayne Simmonds threw the puck on goal and caught Nabokov off guard.

Hartnell now has the most goals on the team with 19 and has a total of 38 points, in addition to ten multi-point games this season.

It is shaping up to be a career year for Hartnell. Considering that he has never been named to an All-Star team, this year was as good as any to be part of the team.

There has been some speculation as to why he didn’t make the team, none of it which makes his absence any better:

His gritty style isn’t pretty enough for an All-Star game.

Each team needs a representative and the Flyers already have four All-Stars.

He wouldn’t be producing the way he is without Giroux.

Regardless of all of that, it doesn’t change the fact that Hartnell has played like an All-Star and deserves to be on the team.

To speak to the last point, it’s important to note that while Giroux is capable of excelling with any one he plays with, Jagr was not having the same kind of success.

Prior to Hartnell joining the line, Jagr hadn’t scored a goal. After one game with Hartnell, Jagr went onto a scoring tear that saw the 39-year old super star score five goals in two games, including two separate two-goal games.

The relationship between the top line is mutually beneficial, regardless of how sloppy Hartnell may play at times.

As Laviolette has said, you never wish injury upon any one, but if there does happen to be an All-Star that is unable to play in the game, Hartnell should be the one to take his place.


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