Monday, November 17, 2008

All-Star Farce

The NHL, The Habs And Their Fans

I wasn't sure if I'd be chiming in on this topic again. I mean, come on, it's pretty uninspiring. Could I be more ambivalent about anything in hockey as I am about all-star voting?

This year, it's turned in to nonsense – with Canadiens fans artificially voting for players with voting code on their PCs. It's always been a bit of a nonsense exercise anyway, this voting, where the same few players get voted in year after year. Crosby, Ovechkin, Malkin, Brodeur, etc. Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Lidstrom, etc.

At first, I have to say I was appalled by the Montreal plebs stuffed the ballot boxes without end. But with the NHL response, and that of people who in my mind go too far the other way, I have to say I am more amused than anything right now. How can I not have a chuckle. If it ticks off Philly fans like this guy:
"Guess that means Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Mike Richards, Thomas Vanek and Henrik Lundqvist will have to battle it out for “reserve’’ duty in the Eastern Conference."

How could I not laugh? Threw in Richards, eh? As much as Mike Richards is loved by Philly and Benoit Brunet, he is hated by me. I'll be happy if Koivu gets his spot.

Of course, it's embarrassing to Montreal and Canadiens fans. But so are flags on cars, Thunderstix, towel waving and the like. For a city where victory riots are accepted as faits accomplis, I hardly think a little creative computer-programming is much of a black mark in the eyes of the rest of the league. You want embarrassing, look at this:

Frankly the voting debacle's more embarrassing for the league – who have yet again shown their standard level of foresight and risk analysis expertise in forgetting automation (Anybody still confident Bettman and the boys are ready for the inevitable massive drop in revenue coming?). This must be the first time anyone has actually taken one of their slogans to heart ("Vote Now. Vote Often") – they should be forgiven for not being used to anyone paying attention to what they say or their website.

Positives do emerge
Apart from a good laugh at the conservatives calling for a return to the good old days where computer voting didn't mess up the accepted order (and the pre-anointed claimed their new sweaters year upon year), I thought of a few legitimate reasons to be positive about 6 Canadiens on the team.

There are certain positives to emerge from the voting scandal. First and foremost is that Koivu deserves to be on the team. He is one of the top 4 centres in the East and is one of the longest serving captains in the league – with the second-longest tenure as Canadiens captain. Since the game is meant to be part of our 100th season celebrations, he should (and it looks like he will) be there.

The second positive element is that there probably won't be room for as many also rans as the Habs get voted in, the real top players make it through naming (Malkin, Semin, Crosby, Ovechkin, Chara, etc.). If they don't pick up their game, freeloader perennially-named players like Lecavalier, Staal and St. Louis will miss out.

Third, Kovalev deserves to go to the skills competition (if not the game just at the moment). I've always been disappointed when the hardest shooter, fastest skater or best puckhandler weren't included in the more entertaining portion of the event. Maybe they can do the Kovalev pylon drill as a competition?

Fourthly, it will give fans like the guy who said this on a comments thread...
I've been voting regularly (50+ times a day) and will continue to do so, however the auto-voting bot is useless (and pretty stupid).

... a chance to see the outside world from here until January (provided he sees the light in auto-voting).

I suppose the final positive to come from this will be the inevitable overhaul that the NHl brings to the system. As with Rory Fitzpatrick, this embarrassment will force them to do something other than hand out 2 game suspensions.

Komisarek not in that league
Of course, there are negatives too. Komisarek chiefly among them.

Komisarek wouldn't make the starting 6 of our team if I had a vote, let alone the Eastern conference. After clawing his way to number 2 on the team and falling back to number 3 towards the end of the season, this all-star possibility currently sits behind 4 other players on my vote card for ice time.

That's why I'll admit it is embarrassing that fans are voting for him anyway. There is blindness to faults. But this will hurt those who purport that Montreal fans know their hockey. People voting for Komisarek as an all-star (even Price for that matter), clearly do not know anything beyond the bleu, blanc, rouge.

It's also unfortunate that the Canadiens (whose centennial season is actually next year) won't get more than their mandatory single representative in 2010. Computer programming laggards everywhere from Sunrise to Voorhees will make sure of it.

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