Shea Weber might not have made it to the NHL All-Star game without Ryan Suter.
The Nashville Predators’ captain will be going to the league’s showcase of its top individual talent without his blue line partner, though.
Weber was the only Predator among the 36 players named by the league office Tuesday to join the six previously selected in fan voting to take part in this year’s All-Star Game, Jan. 30 at Raleigh, N.C.
In so doing, he joined Kimmo Timonen as the only players in franchise history picked for the contest more than once. Timonen was tabbed three times (2000, 2004 and 2007) but missed one of those games with an injury.
Weber (his previous appearance was in 2009), Suter and goalie Pekka Rinne were the only Nashville players on the fan-voting ballot.
“It’s exciting, obviously, but I was a little upset that the other two didn’t get to go,” Weber said. “They deserved to go as well. They’ve both had great years. If they were in the lineup all year, I think there’d be no doubt, but I still think they were deserving of it. It’s just tough.”
Suter and Rinne each missed time during the first half of the season due to injury.
Weber, on the other hand, was one of only six Predators who appeared in each of the first 41 games.
“That was probably the determining factor,” coach Barry Trotz said. “That’s really where the league tried to inquire and the league felt [Suter] missed too much time so he didn’t make it. I’m pretty sure he’s going to make it in the next few years — he’s that good.
“Shea definitely is worthy and — in my mind — [Suter] and [Rinne] are as well. That will be my unofficial All-Star team because I just think that they’re top people at their positions and right up there with the best in the league.
Weber entered Tuesday’s game against the Minnesota Wild as Nashville’s leading scorer with 24 points (seven goals, 17 assists). Only three other defensemen among the league’s 29 other teams were the top point producers on their respective teams.
Very few of Weber’s points have come, however, without Suter in the lineup.
Suter missed 11 games in October and November. In those 11, Weber had just one goal and one assist and a minus-9 rating. Only once did he have a plus rating, and four times he was a minus-2.
In 30 games with Suter alongside, therefore, Weber had 22 points and a plus-13 rating. He carried a five-game point streak into the contest with the Wild during which the pair combined for 14 points (two goals, 12 assists) and a plus-19 rating (plus-10 for Weber, plus-9 for Suter).
The Predators’ record without Suter is 4-6-1. With him, the record is 18-7-5.
“Nashville has two guys who can play in any situation,” Minnesota coach Todd Richards, a former assistant at Milwaukee when Weber and Suter played there, said. “They’re mobile. They handle the puck well. They’re very good all-around defensemen.”
In being chosen to play in the game, Weber gets another chance to try to prove he has the hardest shot in the league.
He ripped a 103.4 mile per hour shot two years ago in the Super Skills Competition, the day prior to the game. It was the third-hardest ever recorded during All-Star festivities but second that year to Zdeno Chara’s record-setting 105.4.
“I’m going to try my best,” he said. “Obviously I came close the last time, so we’ll see what happens this time.”
Of course, he now also faces one more selection process.
In a tribute to playground protocol throughout the world, two captains (yet to be named) will select players one-by-one until there are two teams, each with 12 forwards, six defensemen and three goalies.
“Hopefully, [I won’t be] the last pick,” he said. “As long as I don’t go last.”
Regardless of how that turns out, he’s going alone.