Letting fans decide who should start in the All-Star game in any sport has its shortcomings, and the NHL is no exception.
Not four players from the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins or the leaders of the West, such as the Vancouver Canucks or the Chicago Blackhawks—but the mediocre Ottawa Senators, who currently are sixth in the East and will surely be in a dogfight just to make the playoffs.
It’s no coincidence that Ottawa is hosting the All-Star game and, as a result, put an aggressive marketing campaign together throughout the seven-week voting period.
Even the Ottawa City Council got involved, as Mayor Jim Watson held an election rally outside of City Hall to help give potential voters one last push.
The message on Watson’s website read the following:
"For all that our Ottawa Senators do for our community, wouldn't it be great to have Daniel [Alfredsson] and his teammates in the starting line up at the 2012 All Star game in Ottawa!"
Sure, but wouldn’t it be even better if Alfredsson and his teammates were actually Stanley Cup contenders?
Of course, if the Stanley Cup were also decided by fan balloting, the Senators would have a dynasty with the way they encouraged their fans to vote.
Perhaps what the city of Ottawa doesn’t realize is that, by pushing four of their own players into the starting lineup, two of which don’t even deserve to be in the game at all, they’ve defeated the entire purpose of letting the fans make the decisions.
The All-Star game is meant to showcase the players that are having the very best seasons in an exhibition match for all the fans to see.
It’s not just for the fans in the host city. If that were the case, the NHL may as well just let the All-Stars from the other 29 teams face off against the entire Senators roster.
Of course, no one in Ottawa would want that because it wouldn’t be a fair matchup, and they’d rather watch a game full of stars as opposed to their own third- and fourth-liners.
Well, here’s a news flash. The fans from the other 29 cities would like to see a fair voting process, and they’d rather watch a game full of the best players of the 2011-12 season, as opposed to watching two players that aren’t even in the top 60 in points (Alfredsson and Michalek) take the roster spots of a pair of more deserving players.
But these are the problems that always have and always will face the NHL and the other major sports leagues when they let the fans have a say.
In the past, the fans have voted injured players to the All-Star game.
This season, the voting was ruled by the teams that actually cared enough to promote the voting process and the fanbases that cared enough to sit around and vote 30 times per email address.
At the end of the day, when the sole purpose of the All-Star game is the fans, you can’t take them out of the selection process completely.
However, the NHL might want to think about scaling back the amount of times that one person is allowed to vote and limiting the amount of players per team that wind up on the ballot in order to avoid this type of embarrassment again.
After all, when the top 15 vote-getting forwards and seven of the top eight vote-getting defensemen come from just six teams, it’s pretty obvious that something needs to be altered in the process.
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