At 9 a.m. today, fans can scurry to their electronic devices and vote for the “Last Man In” for the 2020 NHL All-Star Game.
This is the chance to give one lucky player the opportunity to play for their respective division come Jan. 24-25. Normally, the All-Star Game is designed to honor the best players around the league for their play during the season.
Unfortunately, the current format — where one member from each team gets in — has made it so the All-Star Game is a glorified participation trophy that provides no entertainment and shuns those who actually deserve a spot in the game.
Such as guys who have never made an All-Star Game.
Such as guys like Vegas Golden Knights forward Max Pacioretty.
When this “Last Man In” voting opens at 9 a.m., Pacioretty will be the Golden Knights’ representative in that glorified voting contest. Other notable names include Drew Doughty, Quinn Hughes, and Johnny Gaudreau.
There’s another debate for another time on if Marc-Andre Fleury should have been the Golden Knights’ representative when the rosters were announced Monday. Fleury will be going to the All-Star Game for a fifth time and will represent the Golden Knights for the third consecutive season.
Which goaltender is the second best behind Arizona’s Darcy Kuemper? It’s Fleury, and that’s where the debate ends. Should Kuemper not be healthy in time for the game (week-to-week, lower-body as of Dec. 20), the NHL will need to select another goaltender to back up Fleury; I’d presume the choice is Calgary Flames goalie David Rittich (17-10-4, 2.78 GAA).
Here are some questions that have gone unanswered: Why is the Pacific Division carrying a roster featuring seven forwards, two goalies, and one defenseman?
Why is the Pacific Division’s lone defenseman last year’s Norris Trophy winner, Mark Giordano, who has 19 points in 42 games this season?
Why do the Flames get two representatives (including Matthew Tkachuk), but the division-leading Golden Knights have one, and have to rely on fan votes just to get a second?
Why is the NHL turning the All-Star Game into a glorified participation trophy?
You can keep the 3-on-3 format. That aspect is actually exciting. But if you’re going 3-on-3, the best players from the Pacific Division should be playing.
Is the NHL trying to tell us that Logan Couture, Anze Kopitar and Jakob Silfverberg are legitimate All-Stars and Pacioretty, or even Mark Stone, aren’t?
Pacioretty’s 41 points are the most he’s ever had in his career through 43 games. He’s nearing a point-per-game basis for the first time in his NHL career. He is the third leading scorer (tied with Elias Pettersson) in the Pacific Division by the two should-be locks, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers. Stone is right behind them with 40 points.
It’s not realistic for the NBA to carry players on terrible teams in its All-Star Game. The Pro Bowl has no choice because it needs to carry 53 players for its two-hand touch affair. We know who the stars are in Major League Baseball (barring the five relief pitchers we’ve never heard of before) and those who have great seasons are awarded accordingly.
But inclusivity has to be a thing in the NHL for some weird reason, and as a result, Pacioretty might not make the All-Star team based on fan voting — which has been the bane of All-Star Games since the dawn of time. And even if Pacioretty gets in, the Pacific Division is still going to have to throw out a team that features eight forwards, two goalies, and one single defenseman.
Would it be too late for Gerard Gallant to rescind his All-Star Game coaching selection? Let Travis Green or Rick Tocchet have the honor.
You can have the 3-on-3 in the All-Star Game. That tournament format can be done, if executed properly. How you execute it properly is getting the best players from each division on that roster.
If the best forwards from the Pacific Division happen to come from three or four teams, so be it. The Pacific Division has a chance to be more entertaining if McDavid, Draisaitl, Pacioretty and Stone are your top four, rather than forcing Kopitar to play 3-on-3 defenseman.
The key word is ‘entertaining.’ If you’re going to make this entertaining, put the best players out there. No disrespect to Anthony Duclair or Tyler Bertuzzi, but given the Ottawa Senators and Detroit Red Wings being pushed to the cellar of NHL purgatory, I’d rather have Brad Marchand and Aleksander Barkov take their place.
The Pacific Division is, without question, the worst team out of the four. Why would Fleury want to get lit up for 10 goals against the Central Division when there’s only one true defenseman? Why would Gallant want to coach that?
There’s a reason why Alex Ovechkin is sitting out for the second year in a row, and it’s not because he wants to be ready for the second half of the season.
Pacioretty has been the best skater on the Golden Knights for the majority of this season. The Golden Knights are the best team in the Pacific Division. The best team in the division should get more leeway than one representative in a game. Instead, because we need to reward every team for being good sports, the NHL is robbing those who are actually deserving, and is robbing fans of actually seeing the best talent on the ice.
So, when voting opens, go vote to your heart’s content. Vote until you can’t vote anymore (you only get 10 per day) and put Pacioretty in the game. Or vote Doughty in because we need Tkachuk and Doughty on the same team for the memes.
But the fact that it’s come to fan voting to get Pacioretty into an All-Star Game shows why it’s hard to care about the event, which should be a fun time in St. Louis.
Alas, we’ll all be putting more effort into caring about vacation plans during the bye week.