Recently, the ballot for the 2012 All-Star Game was released. Voting is underway online and everyone is already speculating which players will make the cut and which will fall short. Every season we find numerous snubs on the ballot as well as numerous players that really have no right being involved in the discussion.
While we find several players to dispute each and every season, the 2012 ballot struck a new chord and screamed of one consistent trait in how the list of players was assembled - laziness. With such a poor attempt at putting together a balanced ballot, why not scrap the whole concept and start somewhere new?
For starters, I don't envy whichever employee, or employees, of the NHL that has the task of putting together the ballot for the All-Star Game. Unless you include absolutely every player, some fan out there will attack your integrity, claim the ballot is rigged, or get upset about why their favorite guy was left off. That being said, it's clear the amount of effort that went into this year's ballot was either done by employees that clearly don't follow hockey or by those that didn't care to give their best crack at assembling a solid list.
Now, before this turns into just another rant you could find anywhere on the Internet, I'll use some statistics/facts to support my argument before offering up a solution.
Sidney Crosby. Can anyone reasonably explain why Sidney Crosby, a player that's yet to take the ice in an NHL game this season, is doing on the All-Star ballot? I understand he is the main face of the modern NHL, but let's get serious. The All-Star Game, as I understand it, is supposed to reward the best performers through the season's first half not just be a list of recognizable players. If it's not and supposed to be a place for the games most recognized players, then by all means, include a guy that hasn't played so far in 2011-12.
The inclusion of Crosby is a bit irritating but understandable given that most view him as the main representative of the game in the modern era. If it was the only glaring issue, I probably wouldn't be writing this post. Unfortunately, we're just getting started.
Jeff Carter. Last season with Philadelphia, Jeff Carter scored 36 goals. When he moved to Columbus, he was supposed to help Rick Nash and bring new life to the club's offense. As of the date of this article, Carter has three points, all of which are assists through six games. He has missed the bulk of the early going with a fractured right foot yet still finds his name right there in the middle of the 2012 All-Star ballot.
Jaroslav Halak. As a fan of the St. Louis Blues, this one made me scratch my head the most. Jaroslav Halak currently has a 2-6-1 record with a 2.78 GAA - clearly All-Star Game material. Even more ironic is that fact that to date, Halak has been clearly bested by his backup, Brian Elliott, by a sizable margin. What makes Halak's inclusion all the more sweet (and mind-numbing) is the fact two goaltenders, Corey Crawford and Jimmy Howard, were somehow left off this year's list.
As I mentioned before, I can understand a few errors and omissions of the minor variety, but in the modern era of technology there really is no reason glaring mistakes like these should be made. Honestly, it appears as if the group that put this ballot together assembled the list over the summer and made their best guess which players might excel and which might not. Guys that have struggled or, more importantly, not played more than a handful of games this year should have easily been removed and replaced with a hot hand. Even if the cutoff for changes was a week prior to the ballot being released, guys like Crosby, Halak and Carter could have been omitted.
If the inclusion of Carter and Halak was to give every team their share of representatives, why not select the surging Brian Elliott in St. Louis and Vinny Prospal in Columbus.
My question is this - can't we do better? I'm not an individual that really makes too much of the All-Star Game, but I'd like to see players there that deserve to be there. Considering the act of voting is entirely digital, and has been for now the sixth straight year, there are no excuses that the information had to be turned in early in order to get paper ballots printed, shipped and placed in stadiums around the country. Instead, the only excuse for the ballots featuring skaters that haven't played or skaters that have most obviously stumbled is laziness.
If I can select this group of 2011-12 duds, why can't I pick anyone I want?
Where other columnists around the web might rant and conclude without a solution, I'm under the belief that complaining without offering a solution really won't get anyone, anywhere. Through Twitter, numerous followers have seen my comments on Halak being included and suggested an idea I've also come to warm to - empty ballots, or, essentially a ballot where you fill in the blank.
The All-Star Game is a popularity contest whether we like it or not. Despite my feelings that the best players of that given season should get the nod, that's not how these things work. If that's the understanding, let's not even try to create a shortened list that's bound to have ridiculous omissions and even more ridiculous inclusions. Instead, offer an empty ballot with six empty spaces. When you click on a given position, such as goaltender, a list pops out with all the goaltenders from around the NHL. Include the starters, the backups and any noteworthy players that might be on the IR.
In other words, leave no one out. Digitally pencil in (or drag & drop, I'm not picky) and there you go. Want to vote for your team's enforcer? Go for it! Want to see Jaromir Jagr paired up on a line made entirely of Pittsburgh Penguins just to see what might have been? It's only a click away.
Spice it up with some images, stats and the like and there you go - a ballot no one can complain about as anyone can vote for any player their heart desires. Then again, maybe discussions, arguments and attention was the NHL's secret marketing objective all along with this overall poor effort.
Offer your opinion, Puck Drunk Love readership! What would you like to see future ballots look like? Does the current system work? If not, how would you change it?
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I like the blank slate idea. If that doesn't fly, then just sort the leaders by points and GAA and plug those names in. Has to be a better solution than CROSBY POPULAR PUT NAME ON BALLOT DERP DERP.
I'd also like to see a minimum of games played to be considered for the All-Star Game. It might seem silly, but if the league adds a 10 or 12 game minimum, it could end the AHL call-up crowds and injured player camps.
@icetheoffice Good idea. That's probably the silliest aspect of the current ballot, having guys with no playing time in the current season being eligible.