Friday, November 12, 2010

The NHL All Star Game Ballot -- We Whine So You Won't Have To

So, the NHL released its “ballot” and voting process for this season's All-Star Game. Fans can pick three forwards, two defensemen, and a goaltender in an all-digital voting process. They will have the opportunity to select from among 100 players on the ballot or to write in the name of their selection, if that player is not on the ballot. Fans will, according to the league, have the opportunity to vote as often as they like online, via mobile device, or on Facebook. As the league put it in their release…

"The 2011 NHL All-Star Fan Balloting site will feature interactive English and French ballots. Each player ballot includes video highlights and real-time player statistics. Fans will be permitted to select as few as one player -- a balloted player or write-in -- per online ballot. The ballot will be optimized for iPad users.

"Mobile users in the U.S. and Canada will be able to cast their votes via text message using any mobile device and wireless carrier. To vote via text message using any wireless carrier, fans should text their favorite player's last name to the shortcode 81812. Message and data rates may apply.

"Fans in North America have the additional option of a mobile ballot available on iPhone, Android and all Blackberry devices, using any wireless carrier."

Well, we can all breathe a sigh of relief that they have all the toys covered. But what about that ballot? It includes 53 forwards, which we have taken the time to rank by points (it’s as good as any other method for these purposes; click for a larger image):

Uh, notice any player conspicuous by his absence, Caps fans? We’ll give you a hint… among forwards (the balloting pool for this exercise) he’s fourth in overall scoring. Need another hint? He’s second in goals. Tied for 25th in assists. Still having trouble? OK, he’s tied for seventh in plus-minus, tied for fourth in power play goals, and is tied for third in takeaways.

No, it’s not Marion Gaborik. His no goals and two assists in four games is present and accounted for (ok, he did have 42 goals last year, so there is that carryover thing).

It’s not Shane Doan, either. His one goal, three assists, and minus-5 are there for your voting pleasure.

Nope, not John Tavares. He brings that big honkin’ minus-12 to the ballot.

OK, we get why guys like Doan and Tavares are on the ballot. Fans pay the freight, and they should – in our opinion – get to pick the game rosters. Doan is a heart and soul guy who has give his all for the game for 15 seasons, and Tavares is one of those new generation kids that folks might want to see.

We get why Phil Kessel is on the ballot. He’s a Maple Leaf (one of four on the ballot; Washington has three…go figure).

We get why Johan Franzen is on the ballot. He’s a Red Wing.

We even get why Ales Hemsky is on the ballot. Shoot, someone from Edmonton had to be there.

And we get why certain guys who are having fine seasons might get left off like Colorado’s Chris Stewart (10-7-17 so far) or even a Patrick Sharp (whose statistical profile last season looked a lot like Brooks Laich’s, although he does have that Cup, which does count for something). Or even a Loui Ericksson (not exactly a household name, but he did have 71 points last season and is 9-7-16 with a plus-12 so far this season).  They haven't yet had a big year or built a reputation or a following to suggest a slam dunk ballot spot.

And we certainly get that leaving a player off the ballot does not eliminate him from participating in the game.

But how is it that a 40-goal scorer from last season isn’t on the ballot? Of the top 15 goals scorers among forwards from last season, two are not on the ballot. One is Vancouver’s Alexandre Burrows, who missed the first ten games of the season with a shoulder injury and is 1-1-5, plus-3 in five games so far.

The other is this guy…

…the one who is fourth in overall scoring among forwards, second in goals, tied for 25th in assists, tied for seventh in plus-minus, tied for fourth in power play goals, and tied for third in takeaways. And he had 40 goals last year (and has averaged 35 a year for the last four years), which seems to have been forgotten in this ballot engineering.

If it’s entertainment the league wants, Alexander Semin is entertaining, not to mention productive. And even if you accommodate universal eligibility – making sure every team is represented – how is it he is not among the top 53 forwards in the league? It can’t be a pure numbers thing – Anaheim has four forwards on the ballot, Detroit has three, as does Philadelphia and San Jose. But we can see how R.J. Umberger gets a spot on the ballot.

Must be a “playing the game the right way” thing. Or maybe it's an "Alexander" (or "Alexandre") thing.  Or maybe it’s just as Chris Botta tweeted

“Getting worked up about #NHL All-Star ballot snubs implies the folks in charge know what they're doing. Don't bother.”

Well, we feel better for the rant, anyway.  We hope you do, too.

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