Aside from a few of the normal players who won't be there, there has also been a bit of a controversy involving the new online fan balloting.
This year's online ballot has a new wrinkle, where the results update in real time on the NHL website. This is unprecedented in major professional sports, at least that I am aware of, and definitely should appeal to fans who want to know how their favorite stars are doing. However, let's take a look at the current voting results, specifically in the Eastern Conference.
I can't say it's all too surprising, but the top two vote-getters at forward in the East are Sydney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Since they currently are the top two scorers in the NHL, it is hard to complain too much. However, the next three top forwards and the top two defensemen and the top goaltender all play for the Canadiens.
It leads you to believe that perhaps the NHL needs to put in some safeguards for future balloting. After the NHL balloting was made to be a mockery by the infamous "Vote for Rory" incident a few years back, it is once again giving a black eye to the sport. Take a look at the top 7 forwards for the East:
- Sydney Crosby, PIT 798,227
- Evgeni Malkin, PIT 719,578
- Alexei Kovalev, MON 631,233
- Saku Koivu, MON 631.108
- Alex Tanguay, MON 620,674
- Alex Ovechkin, WAS 301,590
- Marc Savard, BOS 183,340
I think it's painfully obvious that there is something skewing the system. When five forwards distance themselves from the pack the way it currently stands, it appears that something is amiss. When Alex Ovechkin, is over 300,000 votes behind Alex Tanguay, it is a problem.
Now, yes, the fans have the right to vote in whoever they want to start the game. But, when an individual or group of individuals trumps the process to garner votes for their favorite team, it makes you wonder why the NHL doesn't scrap the fan balloting all together.
After all, it is the NHL All-Star Game. Fans of all teams are expected to tune in to watch the game. I'm sure the local fans in Montreal will be happy, if the current polling results stand. Not only will they have a local forward (whichever one would triumph over the current battle for the number three spot between Tanguay, Kovalev and Koivu), but as of now, they'd also have the starting pair of defensemen and goaltender (Carey Price).
You would think the big injustice would be that Andrei Markov and Mike Komisarekare leading the way. However, if you look deeper, the fact that Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney, neither of which have played a single game this season, are number three and four in the ballot results respectively.
Perhaps its time to rid ourselves of the online balloting process, and go back to the old process of restricting it to voting only at NHL games. Even better yet, perhaps its time to scrap the whole fan balloting all together, and let the NHL itself decide who should play in the game. Ultimately, it wouldn't change things all that much, as guys like Crosby and Malkin would still make the team. But, would a guy like Alexei Kovalev? I think not.
I've never been a huge "All-Star Game" fan, whatever sport it is. Unfortunately, it never really is a true showcase for the sport. You don't see all the aspects of the game, whether it's a big check in the corner of an NHL game, or a player giving a hard slide into second base to break up a double play, this is the kind of hard-nosed play you won't see in an All-Star game.
However, if you are going to have the fans vote for starters, then it should be all the fans who have somewhat of an equal say and not one small block of voters controlling the results and essentially making everyone else's votes almost null and pointless.
After all, the NHL would like for fans beyond those of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Montreal Canadiens to tune into the game. Or better yet, to think that guys like Thomas Vanek of the Buffalo Sabres, Marc Savard of the Boston Bruinsor Zach Parise of the New Jersey Devils all had a fair chance to be a starter in the All-Star game.
Unfortunately, as of right now, it appears unlikely that those not wearing sweaters in Pittsburgh or Montreal didn't get a fair shake to be a starter. You should still see all three players in Montreal, but it would have been nice if they had a fair chance to become a starter.