Did Blackhawks' Seth Jones deserve All-Star nod?

It hasn't been the best of seasons for Seth Jones.

The Blackhawks' defenseman, who is in the first year of an eight-year contract that carries a $9.5 million cap hit, had just 2 goals and 9 assists in 27 games entering Friday's contest against Arizona at the United Center. He also carries a team-worst rating of minus-26.

Despite the underwhelming numbers, the NHL named Jones to the Central Division all-star team on Thursday. It will be the veteran's fourth appearance.

"It's pretty cool," Jones said. "It's always an honor to represent the team you're on."

Jones understands a big reason he was selected is the league's rule that one player from each team must be represented. One could make the argument that Jonathan Toews deserved to be the Hawks' representative as he has 9 goals, 11 assists and a 64.2 faceoff win percentage.

"A lot of guys get left off," Jones said. "Before this rule, the whole starting lineup was Hawks, including (Corey) Crawford in net for the West. So you could have situations still like that. Say Colorado, you could easily have (Mikko) Rantanen, (Nathan) MacKinnon and (Cale) Makar."

Makar (9 goals, 26 assists) was chosen off the Avalanche. Rantanen (26G, 22A) and MacKinnon (9G, 27A) were left out, but could be added by a fan vote, which will conclude Jan. 17. It will be interesting to see if Toews or Patrick Kane (7G, 20A) garner enough support as well. Each division will add two skaters and one goalie via the fans.

Jones came to the Hawks via trade last year when Stan Bowman was still the general manager. The 28-year-old is considered by some to be one of the league's best D-men, but he hasn't been that shutdown guy this season.

So what's wrong?

Coach Luke Richardson said Thursday some of it may have to do with the strain Jones is under on almost every shift. While Jones' average time on ice (24:41) isn't appalling - remember, Duncan Keith routinely averaged 25.5-26.5 minutes a game - it's the intensity of those minutes that are the problem.

Richardson said Jones is "pushing that envelope a little bit" when it comes to joining the rush offensively.

"Then we turn the puck over and now he's scrambling back, and now he's tired," Richardson said. "If he does that for 27, 28 minutes a game, that's a lot. So I think that affects his game. ...

"He can't be the savior for everybody on this team. He's just got to play his position, play it well and we've got to our job around him."

Jones, whose 2.7 shots-per-game average is his highest since 2017-18 when he averaged 3.2, is particularly irked with his offensive numbers. Two goals just isn't going to cut it.

"I've been shooting a little bit more this year, but it just hasn't seemed to go in all the time," Jones said.

Richardson doesn't want the lack of success to affect Jones' decision making. If anything, the Hawks' coach wants his big D-man to rip it even more.

"I talked to him yesterday and just said, 'Hey, it's looking up. You scored last game, you had some good shots. We'd like you to shoot more,'" Richardson said. "He goes, 'Yeah, I know.'

"When you're gun shy, you're gun shy. I guess you just can't pull that trigger. You never think it's the perfect time.

"I said, 'The perfect time is probably now. Just shoot the puck when you see a hole or you see a stick at the net for a deflection.' (Because) we have guys that do well at the net - (Jonathan) Toews and (Taylor) Raddysh on the power play and other guys who go to the net. So use them and get the puck there and just simplify the game."

Jones is looking forward to reconnecting with some friends and acquaintances during all-star week, then plans to make his way to Ft. Lauderdale. The game is at Sunrise, Florida on Feb. 4.

As for if Jones is truly deserving to go? That's obviously debatable.

But Richardson, not surprisingly, sees the merit in the decision.

"I mean his stats aren't great, but our team stats aren't great," Richardson said. "So not a lot of people are going to have great individual stats because we haven't done well, especially over the last two months.

"He's had some really good games this year. ... Hockey people see he's an outstanding skater. When he's on his game, he's a top defenseman in this league and I think he deserves that."

By the numbers

<b>Central Division all stars</b>Position, player, team G A Pts. +/-

F Jason Robertson, Dallas 26 29 55 +21

F Kirill Kapizov, Minn. 22 25 47 0

F Clayton Keller, Ariz. 14 22 36 -11

F Vladimir Tarasenko, St.L 10 19 29 -13

D Josh Morrissey, Winn. 7 36 43 +12

D Cale Makar, Colo. 9 26 35 +1

D Seth Jones, HAWKS 2 7 9 -26

Goalie: Juuse Sarros, Nashville (14-10-5, .918 save pct., 2.77 GAA)

Note: All stats through Thursday's games

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