NHL All-Star Game Needs Fixing

Mike BoultbeeContributor IJanuary 23, 2009

Pardon me if I do not care enough to watch this weekend's NHL All-Star Game. But given how ridiculous the starting lineups look, can you blame me?

Thanks to the brilliant idea to let fans vote for the ASG starters, and the lack of restrictions on just how many times fans are permitted to vote, the game that ought to be showcasing the best of the NHL is, in fact, will only be doing so for 13 per cent of the league when the puck drops on Sunday.

This is, of course, because fans voted in starters from just four teams: the Anaheim Ducks, Chicago Blackhawks, Pittsburgh Penguins, and of course, the hometown Montreal Canadiens. While Chicago and Montreal are having solid seasons, both sitting in fourth in their respective conferences, Anaheim and Pittsburgh are on the playoff bubble, ranked eighth and 10th, respectively.

On the other end of the spectrum, the three elite teams of the league that have stood head and shoulders above the rest—San Jose, Detroit, and Boston—got nothing. Nada. Bupkis.

Does it not seem weird that the three teams that are consensus Cup contenders at the break get the starting lineup shaft in favour of teams that may not even make the playoffs?

Now, the selections of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are understandable, given that they are Nos. 1 and 2 in scoring so far this season. But what is truly appalling is that instead of Capitals dynamo Alex Ovechkin, currently third in scoring, joining them on the starting line, their unit will be rounded out by Montreal winger Alex Kovalev, currently 71st in scoring. And, to add insult to injury, Kovalev has been named the Eastern captain!

If this is the kind of glory that being 71st gets you, then perhaps I should have stuck with aspirations of an alpine skiing career after all.

As fun as it is to blame all of us this on Habs fans (and it IS justified- Mike Komisarek starting on defense? Really?!?), the West looks equally skewed.

While the resurgence of the Chicago Blackhawks has been the feel good story of the hockey year, and their style of hockey has won over my heart, I am not enthralled by the fact that Jonathan Toews is taking a roster spot away from Pavel Datsyuk or Joe Thornton, who are putting up better numbers on better teams.

To add to this, as much as Ryan Getzlaf is worthy of an all-star spot, I cannot figure out for the life of me how Scott Niedermayer—114th in scoring and -3 on an eighth place team—would be picked ahead of Niklas Lidstrom, winner of so many Norris trophies that they may as well rename it after him, or for that matter, Sharks blueliner Dan Boyle.

Both are on better teams and putting up better offensive and defensive numbers.

Annoying as fan voting is, however, another thing that ought to head straight for the NHL rubbish bin is the feel-good mantra of "every team gets a representative." Let us face reality and admit that some teams are simply better than others.

Do teams like the Islanders and Leafs really have anyone worthy of being in Montreal, or are they just denying a better player on a better team a chance to play?

Look at Tomas Kaberle's stats this year, and I think you will find the answer.

The All-Star Game is a fun spectacle to watch, but not what the name promises. So long as fan voting allows rosters to be stacked with players from a few teams, denying better players from better teams a starting spot, and so long as All-Star parity prevents good players from losing out because they wanted the worst team in the league to be represented, I cannot call it an "All-Star Game" in the truest sense of the word.

But, if this is a sign of things to come in other sports, maybe you should look for me at Whistler in 2010.