Thursday, December 4, 2008

Yes, it really is a bad thing...

Well, he did it again and quite frankly, no one should be surprised by it. I am, of course, referring to Sean Avery's obviously rehearsed insults directed at Dion Phaneuf through the media and the immediate backlash that ensued. No surprise that he did this... it was actually a fairly shrewd move on his part seeing as Phaneuf and Iginla would have destroyed him had he played that night. I happen to think the suspension was merited and could care less if he is ever allowed to return to the ice! I could go on at length about this topic but it has already been beaten into the ground and Tom at HCtB already said it better than I could have (with quite the title I might add).

No, the title of this blog is actually referring to the disaster that is the NHL All-Star balloting and the fact that some people are actually trying to justify the potential of a Canadienne starting lineup. Reading this actually made me quite annoyed so I decided I would pick apart the argument piece by piece...

For starters, from an atmosphere-in-the-arena point of view, can you imagine how loud, how crazy, how overwhelming it will be when the starting lineup is announced and the East is represented entirely by the bleu, blanc et rouge? Montreal fans, who need little to no reason to break into song at any moment, will be bellowing themselves hoarse. It will be a scene to remember, probably one of the top 10 moments in Bell Centre history. This is called an “ends justifying the means” argument.

Wait, aren't the Canadienne fans supposedly the best in the league? If that were truly the case, why would they need a reason to 'bellow themselves hoarse'? Shouldn't the simple fact that they are hosting the game be enough? Good hockey fans shouldn't need for the starting lineup of an All-Star game to be comprised of their favorite team to get excited about attending the game.

Oh, and seeing as the Bell Centre opened in '96, are we really supposed to be all excited about its potential for being one of the 'top 10 moments' in its history? It's only been around for TWELVE years!

Another situation that has been raised is the Rory Fitzpatrick fiasco of a couple years ago, when Canucks fans nearly voted in the journeyman defenseman despite the fact he was a regular healthy scratch in Vancouver. The difference this time is, these six Habs are integral to Montreal’s fortunes. As mentioned, Koivu, Markov and Tanguay deserve to be in the game, period. And you can make a case for the others: Komisarek is a stay-at-home, physical force; Kovalev might not be playing up to his own lofty standards, but he’s still Montreal’s most dangerous forward; and, there’s no doubting Price’s caliber and upside.

So the starting six for every other franchise is immaterial to the team's fortunes? What makes the Montreal sextet more deserving than Boston's starters Lucic, Savard, Kessel, Chara, Ward and Thomas? Hell, four of those six merit inclusion anyways while Ward and Lucic are certainly more deserving than the inconsistent twins, Kovalev and Price! So why shouldn't Bruins be the AS game starters? They have better stats than the Montreal starters (31-48-79 +42 compared to 25-50-75 +20; 1.88GAA, .940% vs 2.40GAA, .920%) and are on a better team!

Good things are ahead for them and, by extension, the Canadiens. Besides, it’s not like Kovalev is bumping Crosby right out of the game; he’s just bumping him out of the starting lineup. And, finally…c’mon, folks, it’s the All-Star Game. Like the All-Star Game in every other sport, it doesn’t really matter and nobody cares too much. Go out, have fun, put on a good show for the fans and, for heaven’s sake, don’t get hurt. As a player, that’s all you really have to do.

No, Crosby will still get to play in the game... there is no doubt about that. Same goes for Malkin and Ovechkin. However, the league will have to use three spots that should have gone to more deserving players who may not get a second opportunity. Assuming the roster is filled out with the top scorers for each position, that would leave a number of more deserving candidates out in the cold. As it stands now, this will be the AS-roster with the TRUE starters in bold...

D - Markov, Komisarek, Streit, Hainsey, Green, Kuba
F - Koivu, Kovalev, Tanguay, Crosby, Malkin, Ovechkin, Gagne, Savard, Semin, Richards, Carter, Parise
G - Price, Thomas, Lundqvist

Of the six Canadiennes, only one merits starting... the other five honestly don't even merit inclusion! Komisarek (1-0-1) knocks out the more deserving Girardi (3-12-15, 6th in D scoring), Rozsival (2-12-14, T8th) or Wideman (6-7-13, T10th).

The starting trio of Kovalev (5-13-18, T31st in F scoring), Koivu (7-14-21, T18th) and Tanguay (8-9-17, T37th) knock out three more deserving players, including Vanek (18-5-23, T12th), Zherdev (9-15-24, 11th), Kessel (13-7-20, T23rd) and/or Backstrom (6-17-23, T12th).

Price (8th in GAA, 7th in %) locks out Auld (3rd GAA, 5th %) or Anderson (4th GAA, 1st %) from getting onto the roster.

I selected these nine players for a reason... all have had far superior production than the Canadiennes starters to this point in the season and none have ever played in the All-Star Game. For those people who say the game is pointless and means nothing, tell that to the players! Tell that to Tim Thomas and Marc Savard who saw last year's addition to the roster as a career-making moment... these two players had been criticized for their style and play throughout their entire career. To finally attain the honor of making the AS roster meant they had truly arrived... they were considered among the best in their profession and no one could take that away from them. If you think that first AS bid means nothing to the players, then you are a fool. It especially holds true for any player who has had to go through adversity to get to this stage in their career.

You think Phil Kessel wouldn't be thrilled to make the game? It would prove that you CAN overcome testicular cancer and develop into a three-zone player and get recognized for your efforts. You think Tim Thomas wouldn't consider the AS start (which he deserves) as the greatest possible salve for all the garbage he had to deal with throughout his well-travelled career? Some of these players may never get another chance at being an All-Star... being considered one of the elite. So you talk to those players and then tell me the game is meaningless and that it is a good thing the Montreal sextet gets to play when more deserving candidates are left out in the cold. Truly pathetic.

Oh, and for those Canadiennes fans complaining about the inroads Crosby has made in the voting, did you ever think that it was your own doing? All fans around the league have been annoyed by your actions and are responding by trying to oust your unworthy candidates by pushing the more deserving players. As for Whitney and Gonchar being the highest non-Montreal vote-getters for D-men, the same rule applies... had Montreal not stuffed the ballot (electronically or not), Pitt fans would not have done so either. Canadienne fans have no right to complain about something they caused in the first place...


Tom said...

Great points all around. It's particularly egregious that Vanek, who is currently leading the league in goals, is on the list of possible snubs due to this farce of a selection process.

Something else to consider is how this will affect Hall of Fame selections. ASG appearances always factor into the process.

One other factor to take into consideration -- is there still a rule that every team must be represented? If so, that means that 14 other teams + 6 Habs starters = 20 players. No other team gets more than one, which means either Crosby or Malkin misses it... either Ovechkin or Semin... and so forth.

One solution I just thought of: maybe the league can let the 6 Habs start the game and skate only the first shift, and then be replaced by guys who were actually selected by the official vote. And of course any Hab who is also a legit All-Star can stay. I'd feel ok about that.

Rian Murray said...

Man, I hate fan ballotting. It's such bullshit. I was always a fan of letting the players and coaches pick the team. It's just more fair. Let the people that know the game pick the team. Oh yeah, and go back to Campbell Conference vs. Wales Conference. I miss the old school version of the AS game.

Plus, let's put it this way: if the All-Star game was held at the Boston Garden in 1995, do you think the league would've let the AS starting lineup be all Bruins: Mariusz Czerkawski, Adam Oates, Cam Neely, Ray Bourque, Don Sweeney and Blaine Lacher? Note: Blaine Lacher didn't really start to suck until 95-96. No way they would've let that happen.

Sure Montreal is a hockey Mecca, but if Bettman's really trying to promote the game, he'd put a stop to this. Because we all know that no matter what, every Montreal fan will watch this game anyway. But maybe Tony Bag-o-Donuts from Raliegh will only watch the game if Eric Staal is playing. And those are the fans we need to reel in.

Nice arguments by the way. All more than valid.

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