Written by: Matthew Ruskan (@MRuskun)
Edited by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)
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Direct democracy sucks. You want proof? Look at the NHL All-Star game. A fan vote is used to select all the players, with a requirement of one player per team.
Now don’t get me wrong, I think the All-Star game is a great concept. The skills competition is fantastic and I love watching it. But take a look at the players selected to the game this year.
Now, Zemgus Girgensons, lets start there. Girgensons is the lone representative from the Buffalo Sabres, who wouldn’t know what a win, or a goal for that matter, looked like if it hit them in the face. Girgensons was one of the top six vote receivers for the All-Star game. Wow. Must be a top class player, right? Wrong.
This season, Girgensons has 13 goals (61st in the NHL), 9 assists (265th in the league) and 22 total points so far on the season (168th in the NHL). He is also a -9 in plus-minus, which ranks Girgensons as 715th in the NHL. Yet, he is one of the top 6 All-Stars?
This is not a slight to Girgensons, who, at 21, is a young player on a terrible team. But, this does make a point about the way the All-Star players are chosen. Girgensons, to the best of my knowledge, is the only Latvian player currently at the NHL level, and the whole country poured their support behind him. Much kudos to Latvia for doing so, but this does not mean that the very promising young player deserves to be an All-Star right now.
I could do the same analysis on several other players selected, Justin Faulk and Patrik Elias to name just two. Elias even recognized the fact saying, “I have mixed feelings. I obviously don’t deserve to go. There are a lot of guys in the NHL that should be there.” The fact of the matter is these are not the All-Stars of the NHL.
Where are goalies like Henrik Lundqvist or Ben Bishop, two of the top net-minders in the NHL this season? What about Nicklas Backstrom (perhaps my favorite player in the league), who ranks 13th in points this year? Since Backstrom entered the league in 2007-08, he’s tied with Daniel Sedin for ninth in scoring with 535 points in 536 contests. Only Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, Martin St. Louis, Henrik Sedin, Joe Thornton, Ryan Getzlaf, and Patrick Kane have done better than him since he made his debut, yet he has never been selected to the All-Star game.
Quite frankly, the NHL needs to get their act together. This is not an acceptable way to continue. I would suggest looking at the NFL Pro-Bowl model, where it is a fan vote combined with other sources to provide the selections. Whatever the solution is, something has to change.
Now, let me take a sledgehammer to the swim team rule. Welcome to professional sports, where every team gets a member on the All-Star team just for participating? You know what, lets just say everyone wins the Stanley Cup, why bother with playoffs?
This is not a youth swim league! Everyone does not need participation ribbons (though those were the only ones that I received when I swam, so I’m not complaining)!
Since when do we need to coddle professional athletes? If the NHL was serious about creating a true All-Star game, they would scrap this one player per team rule and pick the best of the best.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am going to sit back this weekend and thoroughly enjoy the All-Star weekend, with a slight twinge of pain because I am so close yet so far from actually being there. But at the same time, I’m going to watch the skills competition and think “imagine how much better this would be if it really was the most skilled players in the NHL”.
But for right now, I can only imagine.