Perhaps no one has his finger on the NHL pulse better than the Phoenix Coyotes' tweeting machine, Paul Bissonnette, who figures that if the current trend toward all-star participation continues, he is just a handful of withdrawals away from qualifying for the game himself.
Bissonnette has one goal in 16 games this season. Sorry, nice thought. Not going to happen. But Bissonnette's point remains valid. Not every player is champing at the bit to go to the all-star game, even if it is just a lark and bears little resemblance to hockey at the NHL level.
However, there are exceptions and one of them happens to be Corey Perry, the NHL's reigning most valuable player. Perry is from Peterborough, Ont., played his junior hockey in London, Ont., and has family in Ottawa with season tickets to the Senators, so his inclusion in the game represents a chance to go home and visit the people that matter in his life. If it had been somewhere other than Ottawa, Perry's interest level might not have run as high and Anaheim Ducks teammate Teemu Selanne, who asked that Perry attend in his place, might have needed to find another volunteer.
"I have four or five days there to relax and hang out," Perry said. "It's going to be nice to see everybody. It's going to be fun."
Perry can thank the current Senators general manager, Bryan Murray, for making him a Duck in 2003, when Murray was running the show in Anaheim. Murray had interest in Perry and was able to moving into the first round of the entry draft that year by flipping two high second-rounders to the Dallas Stars, enabling him to select Perry 28th overall. This came just nine picks after they'd landed Ryan Getzlaf with the 19th overall choice, a draft that essentially sealed Anaheim's future for a decade and contributed greatly to its 2007 Stanley Cup win.
Perry had a comparatively slow start to the season, but caught fire in January, with eight goals in his past 10 games, moving him back into the top 10 among NHL goal scorers. Even though it took Selanne's intervention to make his all-star selection happen, Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau figures Perry earned his nod.
"How many 20 goals scorers are there in the league?" Boudreau said. "They need 25 forwards to fill the roster, so I believe he's in that area. He deserves to go.
"I know if it were me and the all-star game was in Toronto, I know how I'd take it – it would be a pretty special time. Being from Peterborough, it's two hours away – and he's probably not going to get a chance to be that close in an all-star game again, because I don't think Peterborough is going to get an NHL franchise any time soon. I'll go on the record with that."
Here's something else you can put on the record: Perry usually heats up at some point every season, and will need to again if he hopes to duplicate last year's 50-goal campaign.
But he acknowledges how difficult that can be in this day and age, given the demands of the 82-game schedule.
"It's a long season, and it's a grind," Perry said. "You have bumps and bruises, you're not feeling 100 per cent all the time – and people don't know that, but it's true. This game is a streaky game. It's like baseball. A hitter can find his groove and hit 10 home runs in a month – and then not hit another one for a month.
"Goal scoring is all about confidence. You might have some peaks and valleys, which you try to avoid, but for the most part it's all going to even out in the end."
As for whether he receives any extra attention on the ice because he won MVP last year, Perry surprisingly said he hasn't noticed much of a difference. According to Perry, teams have routinely been checking him and linemates Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan for years now.
"Obviously, there's a little more attention, but we got used to that the last couple of years, playing as a line. We'd see the top defensive pairing most nights, or the checking line. You'd see all the best players in this league play against you. Things don't change. It's been the same way. You just keep playing hockey."