Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Three Star Search

Ooh they're seething in the press gallery these days. The Montreal Canadiens have teamed with Bell to usurp one of the cherished duties of the Montreal media. The three stars are to be chosen from now by the fans.

Mike Boone says he prefers the old system. Dave Stubbs isn’t quite so straight-ahead, but adds more than a tinge of lament to his article on tradition lost today.

At least Stubbs was civil. Mike Boone, as he often does, repeatedly refers to Canadiens fans as a group encompassing a significant number of “goobers” and “knuckle draggers”. At least he didn’t try to hide his elitism.

I am not altogether opposed to Boone’s position. And, I admit to being elitist enough myself to think that a fan vote in answer to the very inadequate question: “Who do you think will win the three star poll?” will undoubtedly turn up some strange vote leaders.

And the votes are bound to be very strange indeed because the question being asked isn’t the only absurdity. The system is flawed at this stage. The three stars are decided by total votes. Fans are only voting for a single player, so a unanimous choice is bound to be accompanied by some interesting third stars. Unaware, Bell seems, of the advances in online technology that allow for multiple selections.

Then there’s the game-winning goalscorer clause. The Canadiens “reserves the right to award the first star of the game to a player scoring the game-winning goal with less than minute to play in regulation time, in overtime or in a shootout.” A shootout goal? Great. Nothing like automatic selections to stir the pot a bit.

So Boone may well have a point.

But really what’s been lost?

Stubbs notes how this tradition has evolved and tells at length the road it has taken pass from media to fans. Boone again is less the diplomat. He suggests the choice has been stripped from expert hands (given to people who don't know o=hockey as well as he and his brethren). The media he says provide:

Understanding of hockey (people who do, media, people who don’t, fans)
Guaranteed expertise
Guaranteed objectivity

I’ll pause to let you recover your breath.

I think the explosion in blogging and everything else in the Habs new media world might have helped the lesson on media limits to be learned. And, if the fan vote makes the three star voting an irrelevant appendix to the game. I would suggest this continues an established tradition, rather than establishing a new one.

Let’s take last season as a mere glimpse into the guaranteed hockey expertise and objectivity employed by the former three star selectors.

The Molson Cup standing are based on home games only, keep that in mind. Keep in mind also, these results, strange as they may be, all came from media selection, no fan input.

First over the season was Jaroslav Halak, who played in 22 different home games. His statistics at home included 14-6-2, 2.32 GAA and 0.917 Save %. Not shabby. For this he garnered no less than 15 star selections, missing out seven times only.

Carey Price is even more informative. He placed second in Molson Cup standing (we know). He starred in 20 games for the Habs last season in Montreal pulling an unlikely 14 star selections from the hat to go with 6 games in which he missed. His stats were 6-10-3, 2.76 GAA and a 0.904 Save%.

We had Brian Gionta down for 12 game pucks in the regular season to go with 42 domes in 61 games played. He was not in our opinion the 4th best player on the team last season behind both goalies, no less. But then maybe that’s our elitism talking.

It strikes me that maybe their guaranteed objectivity comes only after making sure they select a goalie first. Oh, and they they abide by the OT scorer rule too. Heaven forbid hockey knowledge ever acknowledges a defensive player.

Carey Price will win anyway

Besides, what’s all the fuss about anyway?

Between the ineptly worded question, the formula, the expertise and the objectivity, I think we all know the goalie fetish in Montreal will win all. Last season’s back and forth in the three stars battle of I’m right/you’re wrong choices isn’t evaporated yet. And voters have already proven that a whiff of 0.910 is enough to bring in the votes.

He nearly won last year. With starts and the inevitable increase in wins, he’s bound to pull in votes. The fans have picked the goalie. The press have picked the goalie. Both or either will continue to do so. So let's not pretend this change matters more than it does. If you still long for definitive picks based on individual preferences and whims, then you'll always have our Domes and Game Pucks to satiate your appetite.

As for the press, they actually gain. Now in addition to locker room drivel they will have fan delusion to discuss after games. It’s actually set to be a boon to show their objectivity and expertise. Maybe they’ll see that when they’ve simmered down a bit.

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