All-Star teams fall along club and country lines
GATINEAU, Que -- Battle lines have been drawn for Sunday's 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game.
It's Team Chara, with all the Bruins, Leafs and Slovaks, versus Team Alfredsson, which has all the Senators, Canucks and Swedes.
"That's the way it should be," Alfredsson said. "It'll be a good game. There is a little bit of rivalry involved here. It should be a little bit more intense maybe more than normal. It is an All-Star Game and nobody wants to get hurt, but I know Zdeno and he doesn't want to lose. And, I'm pretty competitive myself."
Chara, who won the ceremonial puck flip for the right to pick first, went off the board and selected Pavel Datsyuk with the No. 1 pick of the 2012 Molson Canadian NHL All-Star Player Fantasy Draft. Chara's reason was simple: he doesn't want to play against Datsyuk on Sunday.
"I think it's pretty obvious that he's an unbelievable player," Chara said. "I really admire the way he plays the game, the way he acts on and off the ice. It was my individual goal to get him first, and I was happy that I could have done it."
Favoritism and allegiances ruled the rest of the draft.
As promised, Alfredsson picked teammate Erik Karlsson, who babysits for Alfredsson's kids, with his first pick in the draft. After Chara picked his goalie, Tim Thomas, Alfredsson went and grabbed Jason Spezza, his longtime Ottawa teammate.
Chara, though, opted to wait a round before selecting one of his countrymen (Marian Hossa in the fourth round). He couldn't pass up the opportunity to select the red-hot Evgeni Malkin, who leads the NHL with 58 points.
Putting Malkin with Datsyuk on the same line is certainly an enticing option for Claude Julien, the Bruins coach who will make Sunday's bench decisions for Team Chara.
"That's going to be more for the coaches, but that's one of the scenarios you can have," Chara said. "But, if you even separate those two, they can totally make a line. You can't go wrong in the All-Star Game. You have so many talented and great players that you're going to have a good team no matter what."
Chara said he wasn't going to mess with Alfredsson picking all the Senators, so he left Milan Michalek on the board. Alfredsson waited until Round 12 to select the final Senator in the draft.
Alfredsson also said he didn't think Chara was going to select any Canucks due to the bitter rivalry between Boston and Vancouver, so after selecting Daniel Sedin in the ninth round, he played his cards right by getting defensemen Dan Girardi and Keith Yandle as well as Michalek before picking Henrik Sedin in the 13th round.
"At that point you don't want to cause any controversy, so you don't want to separate brothers," Chara said when asked if he thought about taking Henrik Sedin after Daniel was picked. "If I had a brother I wouldn't want to be separated from him. I respected that and I moved on."
Similarly, Alfredsson said he had no interest in picking any Toronto or Boston players. He had to consider both the Battle of Ontario and Chara's desires.
Chara, whose assistant captain was Leafs winger Joffrey Lupul, snagged Phil Kessel in the eighth round and Dion Phaneuf in the 13th round. He made Tyler Seguin sweat it out before picking him in the 18th round.
"I think he knew I would pick him; I just had to make some picks first," Chara said. "I wouldn't let him sneak away from me."
Giving the home crowd further reason to cheer for Team Alfredsson (as if they didn't already have enough with all four Senators on the same team), Alfredsson was happy to select Claude Giroux and Logan Couture. Giroux's family lives in Ottawa and Couture played his junior hockey with the Ottawa 67s of the Ontario Hockey League.
"I'm really happy with our team," Alfredsson said. "I'm pretty confident now we're going to have the crowd behind us."
Alfredsson, though, did admit it would have been nice to get either Datsyuk or Malkin. His draft strategy got in his way.
Chara had no regrets.
"It's fair enough to have the team guys together, especially for Ottawa fans," Chara said. "When they can have their home team players on the same team, I think it makes it very special for them. Obviously I didn't want to interfere with that. I respect that. I'm sure the other side understood that my goal was to try to keep my countrymen and teammates together as well. I'm glad it worked out for both sides."