In only the second year of the new format for the NHL All Star Game voting, it has already run its course. It was easy to see the fan voting would lead to stuffing the electronic tally box for the first six to be voted into the game. Yes, there are many more deserving players that will get into the game outside of the top six, but this is now aligning with other major sporting leagues that have given the fans the control. The player draft and other aspects of the NHL All Star game have appeal, but this voting process needs tweaked. It shouldn’t take someone with a PHD
to figure out a better online voting system.
A week from voting closing the top six players are Phil Kessel, Daniel Alfredsson, Sidney Crosby, Erik Karlsson, Dion Phaneuf, and James Reimer. Two of those six players, Alfredsson and Karlsson, play in the host city for the game, Ottawa. As you may imagine there have been multiple campaigns for write-in candidates, to get ex-Senators as the starters, and to get the hometown players in the top six. The impact of these top six on the game is not meteoric and some may say it is just an All Star game that doesn't deserve a blog post like this. The other school of thought is that this should be a recognition of production on the ice. For that crowd, let's examine the top six closer.
Phil Kessel has been near the total point and goal scoring lead since the beginning of the season, currently trailing in both categories by two. Alfredsson has 26 total points including three power play goals. Sidney Crosby has quite the impact when he returned after almost a year long absence, but has missed the last eight games. Karlsson was the Senators' All Star representative last year, but now leads all defensemen in points with 33. Phaneuf has been solid averaging over 25 minutes per game registering three goals on the power play. Reimer has started 15 games, winning seven, and has registered a 2.94 goals against average.
The arguments for Kessel, Karlsson, and Phaneuf are fairly solid. There are other blue liners that could be ahead of Phaneuf, such as Brian Campbell or Ryan Suter. However, it is easier to put up an argument for Phaneuf's candidacy than that of Alfredsson, Crosby, and Reimer. The deserving defensemen stand a good chance of making it on the team.
With Alfredsson there is an emotional sentiment since he has played so long in Ottawa and most know his career is coming to an end. Unfortunately, the Senators have not been consistent this year and Alfredsson's productivity is not what it once was. Alfredsson has almost one and a half times the votes of the league's current leading point scorer, Claude Giroux. Steven Stamkos and Marian Gaborik, currently tied for most goals in the league, are 19th and 28th, respectively. They have 22 goals, four behind Alfredsson's total point tally.
Sidney Crosby is hated by a lot of fan bases on the exterior, yet continues to get votes and is used in many marketing materials. Another Senator, Jason Spezza, could surpass Crosby for third in the forward ranks by the time voting ends on January 4th. Crosby scored in his first game back against the Islanders and many joked that he would catch the points leader by the new year. Now no one is sure when he will play again and Penguins' broadcasts state he has an undisclosed injury.
Reimer was unavailable for most of the year and has played somewhat inconsistently. The goaltender with the most wins, Jimmy Howard, is a write-in candidate. Brian Elliot started the year as a back up and sits second in goals against average and is tied for the most shut outs on the year with four. He is no where to be found on the voting tally. Tim Thomas, who leads the league in goals against average, is currently second in votes and may catch Reimer.
With that said, I will toss the naivety aside and realize that the NHL wants the fans to be involved. They have placed much effort into interacting with fans through social media and at arenas. Fan voting is here to stay, but perhaps a few provisions could be put in place.
- Injuries - If a player has not played 75% of the games available when All Star Game voting begins, he will not be placed on the ballot. Also, if a player is out with an injury that is indefinite or the timetable would not allow for a return, he will not be allowed in the top six. This could be determined by the team's medical staff and is especially vital in a climate that allows teams to diagnose concussions better.
- Legacy - If there must be a place for a sentimental choice, install a legacy position when the remainder of the roster is named. It can only be a player from the host city's team and does not have to be used each season. The player must have played at least ten years and 75% of said years on the host city's team.
- Goaltenders - Remove them from the top six voting. Goalies just get bombarded at this game and understandably may not go all out. They do not want to be injured while facing many shots in a recreational game. This is more about the forwards and defensemen. However, the top performers in net should still be given the recognition and allowed to have the fun time before the stretch run and the trade deadline. Do not let the fans determine which players get selected.