Rethinking the NHL Allstar selection process

January 11th, 2009 by Fantana Leave a reply »

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The NHL released the All-Star rosters for the Eastern and Western Conferences this week and I find myself scratching my head at some of the selections. Now, I understand that the NHL strives to select at least one player from every team and I’m personally not opposed to that. Being a loyal Ottawa Senators fan (yes, it does actually hurt to type that), I can appreciate that in a year where the Sens found a way to lose an NHL-record 70 games, at least we had a familiar face in Brad Marsh representing our team in the All-Star game. Having said that, I think it’s time that the All-Star voting system be given a facelift. It’s time to musk up!

Suggestion #1
If there is going to be a minimum number of players selected from a team, why don’t Gary and the rest of the NHL place a CAP on the maximum number of players that can be selected from one team? Let’s refer to this as some kind of a ceiling where no more than 3 players can represent one team and no more than 2 of those players can be in the starting lineup. I realize that this idea can punish teams like Detroit and San Jose for having depth in their lineups, but when a team like Montreal have 4 players starting an All-Star game, it reduces the quality of the game and ultimately leaves some of the NHL’s true stars out of the fun. This way, fans of the game get their say, rather than fans who stuffed the ballot boxes for their favourite team. I’m sure Washington Capitals fans can appreciate this feeling, considering Alexei Kovalev and Mike Komisarek are starting the All-Star game while Mike Green and Niklas Backstrom will be listening to sweet baby-making music at Tino’s.

Suggestion #2
To avoid the flawed voting system that Montreal fans did such a fine job exposing this year, why not change the voting system? I’m tempted to suggest that perhaps moving forward, the NHL should exclude any All-Star votes from the host city but I don’t think Montreal fans will appreciate that one. Instead, I will revert back to an insult I first picked up at the playground – It takes one to know one. Next year, let’s have NHL players and coaches select the All-Star rosters. Their picks can’t possibly be any worse than some of this year’s picks… or can they? When was the last time you heard someone complain about the winner of the Lester Pearson award?

Critique of the NHL’s Picks in the West:
What has Keith Tkachuk done this year to merit All-Star consideration? He has 14 goals and 27 points, which ties him for 92nd in league scoring going into Friday night’s game against Vancouver. Wow. He’s also doing his best Mike Weir impression because he’s -11 this year. On second thought, maybe not. I can’t remember the last time Mike Weir was 11 under in a PGA tournament. Anyway, I digress. Yes, St. Louis is dead-last in the Western Conference but Tkachuk is on pace to record the worst +/- total of his career. Hardly worthy of All-Star status if you ask me. Brad Boyes has 34 points this year for St. Louis and is much more worthy of an All-Star appearance than Tkachuk, despite the -22 rating.

Also, why was Mike Modano picked to the All-Star game? Mike Ribeiro would’ve been a better pick and would have the added intrigue of being booed by Montreal fans. Who wouldn’t like that? Loui Erikson is on pace to score 40+ goals in his sophomore season, but somehow doesn’t make it to the big show. If you ask me, anyone that scores as much as Erikson does is a guy who clearly loves lamp! He didn’t even make it to the little show (Rookies v.s. Sophomores game). For shame.

Roberto Luongo is a world-class goalie and is definitely an All-Star when he’s healthy. But since he’s week-to-week, why was he named an All-Star? He’s only played 19 games this season. Kiprusoff and Nabokov have more wins than that but somehow weren’t picked. Steve Mason is actually making Columbus Blue Jacket fans think they’ll see some post-season action this year. He also leads all goalies in save percentage, goals against average and now shutouts with 6. Do those stats not count for anything? After defeating Washington on Friday night (in Washington too), Columbus sits 10th in the Western Conference and only 1 point behind Minnesota for 8th place. The irony with Mason is that his strong play in Columbus is strikingly similar to the strong play Montreal received from Carey Price last season. Weren’t Canadians fans outraged when Price wasn’t picked for the All-Star game last year? Hmmm… it makes you wonder how many Montrealers voted for Mason this year. While we’re talking about goaltending, Giguere shouldn’t even be at the All-Star game this year. He looks like he’s playing goal with a jazz flute because you have to scroll to page 2 on NHL.com’s G.A.A leader’s page to find his name.

I also really like Dustin Brown and I think he’ll have a great NHL career but for the purposes of an All-Star game and skills competition, I’d rather see Anze Kopitar in action.

Critique of the NHL’s Picks in the East:
I actually don’t have any big problems with any of the NHL’s picks in the East. The only problems with the Eastern conference roster are the players starting the game. Bruce Boudreau is right – It’s ridiculous that Ovechkin isn’t starting! He’s flat-out the most exciting player in the game today and it’s insulting that Kovalev is taking his place. I don’t mean to pick on the Montreal Canadians, but I really don’t think that Kovalev should be playing in this year’s All-Star game. Phil Kessel, Nik Backstrom, or even Alex Semin are all far more deserving.

Finally, this year’s All-Star game is all about Montreal and just happens to feature ex-Canadians Sheldon Souray, Mark Streit and potentially even Mike Ribeiro (it could happen, you know!). We might as well continue the homecoming tradition by leaving Thomas Kaberle at home and inviting Mikhail Grabovski instead. I’m sure Sergei Kostitsyn would love that and technically, Grabovski’s suspension would be over in time for the big game.

When your All-Star game is missing star players like Hossa, Zetterberg, Green, Kessel and Nabokov, it’s hardly a showcase of the best talent in the world. Perhaps for next year, the NHL should rename its annual showcase the “Mostly Stars Game”, since not all of the stars will be there. Calling this year’s festivities an All-Star game stings the nostrils and leaves a pungent taste in my mouth.

Your reporter in the field,

Brian Fantana
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