Leave it to the NHL to make pointless All-Star games even worse.
It's probably not worth going off on a big rant here, because it is the All-Star game after all, a meaningless game that no one really cares about but the NHL is going to market like it matters, but the fact of the matter is, whoever the NHL operations department consists of that selected this team sure fell way short of putting together a compelling list of players.
Certainly there are those that deserve to be part of the festivities. The faces of the league, Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin are going to be there. Not to mention, the league unveiled the uniforms
for the All-Star Game Tuesday and while they aren't exactly like the Winter Classic Jerseys worn by the Capitals and Penguins - they sure do bear some striking similarities.
Other players deserve to be there too, like Martin St. Louis, the Sedin Twins in Vancouver and even though he is the hometown guy, Eric Staal is having a nice season.
They even went so far as to get it right and recognize some unheralded players having
fine seasons - like Louis Erikson in Dallas, Ryan Kesler in Vancouver, Anze Kopitar in Los Angeles and Patrick Sharp in Chicago.
But, to litter the roster with undeserving players, and players who don't have a lot of cache in the name recognition department only makes for a more uninteresting matchup.
It's bad enough that the ballot box stuffers in Pittsburgh and Chicago got Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury and Jonathan Toews into the All-Star game this season when they aren't having All-Star seasons, but that's forgiveable, because hey, it's fans. They don't know what the heck they're talking about, but they drive the product by constantly spending money to see it, so they should get to see who they want, regardless of how biased their voting might be.
But, for the NHL people to include players like Patrick Elias (nine goals and a minus-11), Phil Kessel (62nd in the league in scoring and a minus-15), Ales Hemsky (124th in the NHL in scoring), Erik Karlsson (minus-11 and 15th in scoring among deensemen)and Cam Ward(17th in the NHL in goals against) is puzzling.
I'm not even sure guys like David Backes, Patrick Kane, Brent Burns, Mike Green, Marc Staal, Jonas Hiller or Henrik Lundqvist belonged.
Not when the following players were snubbed:
Nicklas Backstrom (WAS) and Martin Havlat (MIN) - highest scoring players in the NHL (38 each - ranks in top 20) not selected while at least seven forwards with fewer points made it.
Paul Stastny - only the best player on an overachieving Colorado Avalanche team whose numbers are identical to Jarome Iginla, who made the team.
Dany Heatley, Ryan Getzlaf, Mike Richards and Teemu Selanne - four players having solid years with a little name recognition that would have spiced up the lineup. Instead, the league felt Backes, Elias, Hemsky, and Kessel were better choices.
Danny Briere - Only eight players in the NHL have at least 20 goals this season. Seven of them are all stars. Briere is the only one who isn't, and it's because the league has an agenda with him - more on that in a story for tomorrow.
Lubomir Visnovsky - raise your hand if you thought the Ducks were a contender this year. Visnovsky has been excellent with 33 points and a plus-6.
Jon-Michael Liles and Brian Rafalski - two U.S. defenseman getting no love - but with 30 points each and strong defensive numbers, they have to be better choices than either Burns or Karlsson - not to mention would have at least been recognizable to NBC viewers in the States.
How can anyone not be impressed with Ryan Whitney on a bad Edmonton team? His stats - 2-25-27, plus-13. Another American left out.
Oh, and the guy that sort of replaced Whitney in Pittsburgh - Alex Gologoski. He's 7-16-23 plus-20. O.K. We get it. It's Canada's game. Now, pick the most deserving players, please?
Wait, more U.S. snubs?
How about Jonathan Quick (2.18 GAA, .920 SvPct.)? He's got to be a better choice than Ward, Carey Price and Jonas Hiller based on his stats, no?
But, quick isn't the biggest goalie snub.
How about Pekka Rinne in Nashville? The Finn has super numbers (2.16, .926).
Or Ondrej Pavelec, who is singlehandedly turning the Atlanta Thrashers into a playoff team? His 2.33, .930 is better than Roberto Luongo - who I can also make a case for ahead of Ward and Hiller.
In total, of the 42 players playing in front of a national TV audience in the United States, only six are American.
That's not to say the NHL should have used that as a starting point - because if Americans didn't deserve to go, then they shouldn't be there just because they are American.
But if they did deserve to go, that should carry some weight.
So should name recognition.
Or being one of the best goal-scorers in the game.
Of course, none of this matters in the NHL, where everything is done bass-ackwards. Hope they're ready for bad ratings in the U.S. (with the exception of Pittsburgh and Chicago).
(NOTE: Not every team needed to be represented among the 42 players in the All-Star game. Also, I'm not a big fan of plus-minus rating, but I used that in lieu of advanced statistics because, after all, this game is for a casual audience.)