When the All-Star game voting started, it was pretty obvious that the fan voting aspect was going to be a bigger joke than normal. When the first results that were released by the NHL, just two weeks after the polls opened, they showed that the fans of the Canadiens had hijacked the Eastern roster and the Red Wings fans had hijacked the Western roster.
Luckily for fans of every team not based in Montreal or Detroit, the rosters evened out a little by the time it was all over, but the message was sent early this year: fans are too partisan to be allowed to vote for who gets to play in the All-Star game.
But the thing about the NHL that makes this all the more laughable is that they already knew this.
Remember the grassroots campaign to get Rory Fitzpatrick into the All-Star game?
Fitzpatrick, the very definition of both 'fringe defenseman' and 'journeyman NHLer', got as high as second in the Western Conference voting in 2007 as a write-in candidate. He finished third overall and was not invited to the game, inviting conspiracy theories from fans all over the internet about how voting was changed to keep Fitzpatrick out.
Now, I wouldn't argue that the NHL did anything improper to keep Fitzpatrick out of their precious All-Star game, but I would argue that it did point out that the NHL realized that having fans for the team is a flawed proposition.
Last year the NHL, in taking yet another page out of commissioner Gary Bettman's old NBA playbook, decided to put in a competition just like the Slam Dunk contest: no rules, creativity encouraged, and you don't even have to score a goal to win (the rules required that the move 'end in a shot on goal').
This year they made another tweak to the so-called competition. The fans got to vote on the winner.
And the fans did exactly what you'd think they'd do in a situation like this. They got it completely wrong.
Alex Ovechkin, who is extremely talented, charismatic and exciting to watch, even when he's not trying to win some gimmicky contest, took home over 40% of the vote.
I have no problem with that. I have a problem with this: his winning attempt sucked.
This wasn't anything tricky. It wasn't exciting. It didn't make anyone say wow. It was a guy with a hat and glasses on taking a weak shot and then poking in the garbage. Kids on my son's mite hockey team have better moves than that one.
Maybe next time Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf pulls off the "behind the back to skate to stick to wraparound Michigan move" for a goal he should do it with an "I'm with Stupid" t-shirt and one of those arrow-through-the-head jobbies on he'll have a better chance of winning.
Once again the NHL has let the fans wreck part of their signature event. The time has come to admit that the fans really shouldn't be voting to decide who gets to play in the All-Star game and they shouldn't be picking the winners of the skills competitions.
Seriously, is Mike Komisarek and his one goal, four assists and plus-6 really worthy of being an All-Star, let alone a starter?
It's time for the players to decide who goes to the players' showcase event. Let them pick the starters and let those who are in attendance vote for the winner of the Breakaway Challenge.
Either that or just re-name it the NHL Popularity Contest. While we're at it, let's just let fans vote on the winners of all the skills competitions. Sorry, Zdeno, but your record-breaking 105.4 MPH slapshot was good, but we decided that Shea Weber's attempt was prettier, so he wins. Sorry.
Oh, and remember to Vote For Rory again next year.