NHL all-star voting begins...
...and the Bettman ballots arrive
The NHL opens the fan voting portion of the 2007 all-star game today on NHL.com, and for the first time, the process will be conducted entirely online. Voting is going to run until Jan. 2, while the game itself will be played in Dallas on Jan. 24 — a Wednesday of all things.
It'll be the first all-star game in three years when it finally does roll around, given that consecutive years with a lockout and the Olympics wiped out the past two, so it's no surprise there will be a ton of newcomers playing in the game. Of the 100 players named to the ballots, 37 have never played in an all-star game.
If you're looking for interesting and/or quirky names available for selection, there are a few. In the East, you get your pick of the injured (Henrik Tallinder, Wade Redden, Maxim Afinogenov, Mats Sundin), underperforming (Henrik Lundqvist, Alexei Zhitnik, Patrik Elias, Daniel Alfredsson, Peter Forsberg, Miroslav Satan), unknown (Brian Campbell, Alexei Zhitnik) or just plain washed up (Alexei Zhitnik). In the West, how about two (!) Coyotes, two Blues, two Blue Jackets and five Canucks?
All-star territory, it isn't always.
As per usual, the biggest problem with the ballots is that they neglect entirely players who have rocketed into all-star territory so far this season — Slava Kozlov, Thomas Vanek, Milan Michalek, Andrei Markov, Matt Carle, Vesa Toskala — and hit you heavy with players who made headlines five-to-ten years ago (Doug Weight's current zero-goal, all-star-inspiring turn comes to mind).
Jonathan Cheechoo, for instance, wouldn't have made last year's ballot during his Rocket Richard season (if there was a ballot), but gosh be darned if he's not on there the next decade — 60-point pace or not. It's almost as if the fellows upstairs haven't watched Weight et al. play a game since his 90-point season with the Oilers in 2001.
How else does he get on there?
But if you're going for an all-geriatric team, I'm game (hey, we already have the Young Stars — or at least we did, briefly, prelockout... I remember only because Brooks Orpik stole someone's invitation and Ossi Vaananen was nearly killed by a geezer-driven Buick). We can even keep it in Florida every year so members of the Panthers don't have to doddle far from Jacques Martin's old folks home.
How about Dom Hasek and Ed Belfour in goal, and Chris Chelios, Teppo Numminen, Glen Wesley and Luke Richardson on a gum-smacking blueline. Upfront, Gary Roberts leads the way at age 40, with Scott Mellanby, Joe Nieuwendyk, Mark Recchi, Jim Dowd (yes, he's still in the league), Brendan Shanahan, Dallas Drake, Tim Taylor and John LeClair joining the fun.
The best part? This entire crew was around when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, and so far this year have combined for 31 goals — 13 of which are Shanahan's, which leaves 18 among the other 11.
It'd be the anti-all-star game, with fewer goals, a slower pace, less hitting, and more groin pulls than Andy Grabia's hall closet on a long weekend.
I'd watch that.