Once upon a time being selected as a National Hockey League All-Star was an extremely prestigious honour bestowed on only the most deserving elite players in the game of hockey. When looking at some of the all-time great players, the number of All-Star game appearances has always been fairly high on the proverbial “resume” or accomplishments. Take Gordie Howe (23), Ray Bourque (19), Wayne Gretzky (18), Mark Messier and Paul Coffey (15) for example. As the 5 all-time leaders in ASG selections they all also sit as some of the greatest players to play the game. Their selections hold weight. Today, as the ASG selections were announced, this seems to be less and less the case.
To be fair, last year’s festivities under a new format created by former players like Rob Blake and Brendan Shannahan was a hit with fans and perhaps the most successful in recent memory. Previously, the NHL All-Star game was never a big hit amongst the fans like say the NBA ASG and its Dunk Competition or the MLB ASG in which the players actually have something on the line. The players showed up to play a lackluster game of hockey in which the scores exceeded double digits, nobody hit and nobody took a hard shift. Last season, pitting the teams against eachother through a draft format and skills competition with some new, more competitive variations was something of a spectacle. The fans loved it, they got the interaction they paid for and the talent was somewhat awe inspiring at moments.
That being said, the credibility of the event at a professional level has seemed to take a turn in the other direction. For the first time one team (the host Senators and their fans) managed to vote 4/6 fan voted stars in to the game from their own club. This means under the new format (every team must be represented) that there was less room after selecting a player from each team to select the other, often more deserving players. A decision the NHL is willing to support in order to build on last season’s successful game. To make matters worse the NHL seems content with bringing the big name players that the fans are looking for at the expense of perhaps yet another deserving player. The stats don’t seem to lie in this case either.
NHL poster boy and current underachiever Alex Ovechkin (who said today he doesn’t wish to participate in the skills competition) is one of a few names that pop out when grazing through the list. Ovechkin’s 33 points are inferior to those of his teammate Nicklas Backstrom and his 42. Backstrom was left off the list (as were 10+ other forwards with better offensive output). Another name to leap off the list is Corey Perry, last season’s MVP. I could have sworn Perry’s teammate, Teemu Selanne (there’s chatter he may have declined), has 6 more points as well as a +/- differential of 15 on Perry. Another peculiar choice includes Logan Couture whom sits 4th in scoring on San Jose as well as early season forces like Jordan Eberle (10th in league scoring), Thomas Vanek and Patrick Sharp who weren’t selected.
It’s a complicated process and the decision making is no doubt difficult in a world revolving around money but do viewers want to see Alex Ovechkin more so than Nicklas Backstrom so much so that they wouldn’t tune in? I doubt it. Select the most deserving players and build the All-Star game around. Fans will watch and it’ll save the league some ridicule.
Who would you have swapped in?
Scott (twitter: @scottcwheeler)
For those who haven’t stumbled upon me elsewhere, I’m excited to be on board and this will hopefully be the first many pieces down the road. You can find me covering the Leafs at WeWantACup or the NHL for OTWinner. Check back in Tuesday’s and Thursday’s for my analysis of the NHL right here at TooManyMenOnTheSite.