Earlier this week the NHL announced the starting captains for the new playground-style All-Star game. The six captains, voted in by the fans, only represent two teams.
The Pittsburgh Penguins had four captains voted in; Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury and Kris Letang. The Blackhawks had Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith voted into the starting six.
OK, let's deal with the first issue. Only two teams are represented in the top six, and the Penguins represent more than half of those six.
What are they representing? I'll let Puck Daddy handle that:
In case you've spaced on this: The 2011 NHL All-Star Game is an entirely different animal. Six players were named to a fantasy pool today, and will join 36 others players hand-picked by NHL Hockey Operations on Jan. 11. Two captains and four alternate captains will be selected by the pool of players, and they will draft two teams to compete in the game in Raleigh on Jan. 30.
Alright, this is where it gets cool, kind of. Now the NHL will select the rest of the participants who will be "All-Stars." That's right, everyone who voted for players other than those in the top six the top six (and I'm assuming that would be every fan other than Penguin and Blackhawk fans) will see their work get thrown out the window.
So let's take Steven Stamkos, the top vote-getter who didn't make cut. He's not guaranteed a spot in the game. At the end of it all 22 more forwards will make the team, 10 more defenseman and three more goaltenders.
Here is the list of the 22 top vote-getting forwards, aside from Crosby, Malkin and Towes.
You probably see where I'm going with this, if the picture didn't tune you in. Sean Avery is the 12th-highest forward voted into the game by the fans. But those 172,869 votes will be thrown out the window as the NHL decides who they think is deserving of the honor to be an All-Star.
I will bet my bottom dollar that Sean Avery isn't on that list, even though if this were last year (and these voting results were the same) he would have made the team. To me that's pretty ridiculous. Especially since I can almost promise you that a Sedin twin (either Henrik or Daniel) will make the game, even though Avery out-voted both of them combined.
This will deter votes, something else that Puck Daddy touched on.
These players are not starters, mind you, as they would have been in the past. They're just the first six players in the pool. No one knew what the hell they were voting for, so the fans met the revamped format with apathy.
Consider this: For the 2009 All-Star Game in Montreal, Crosby received an NHL record 1,713,021 votes while Malkin received 1,585,936. Fleury was second among goaltenders with 1,486,079 votes.
(You want to make the argument that those were totals inflated by computer programs that hacked the voting site and robo-voted for the Penguins and Canadiens? Go ahead. Point is that fans didn't care enough in 2010-11 to even figure out how to cheat the system.)
It's his final comment that's alarming to me. The fact that in 2007 before Ovechkin or Crosby truly took over the league (although they were still big) they outvoted themselves this year. And when Greg says that the NHL fans met the format with apathy, I think he was being a little kind.
In the end, we won't know what the All-Star Game is like (including wether the system is a success or a failure) until afterwards. But as of right night it seems like the entire thing is confusing and the system seems to work against itself. Still, I'll reserve judgement for later.