Thursday, January 11, 2007

Rory Fitzpatrick, The All-Star: Methinks Not

The spectacle of hockey is coming up soon and all shall rejoice for the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs! Oh wait, no, that's the best of hockey. The spectacle of hockey is the NHL All Star Weekend! What's that? It's not on the weekend anymore you say? Ludicrous! No competing with the NBA All Star Game? What's to compete with anyway? Well on January 24th, a Wednesday no less, the 2007 NHL All Star Game will in fact be played, live from Dallas, Texas.

There was a large campaign this year to vote in one Rory Fitzpatrick, an everyman of the NHL, who has 1 point all season and is generally a useless player, on the Vancouver Canucks. This started as a joke from a website but became a battle cry for those wanting to both represent anyone they choose in the game and messing with the incredibly flawed voting system the NHL used this year. Voting was completely electronic (hey if it half-ass works for the U.S. government, why not right?) but it was also unconditional; vote as much as you want, whenever you want, online, anonymous if you like. Hell, forwards weren't even chosen by position, just 3 forwards, 2 defensemen, and 1 goalie per conference (East VS. West) and one write-in allowed per conference. Now Fitzpatrick got a lot of press for the craziness and was fairly embarassed by it. What's even funnier is how Wayne Gretzky and Don Cherry got up in arms over this stupidity, as if the All Star game really means that much.

Well the other day, the NHL announced who would be starting for the All Star game rosters. Again, Rory didn't make it, he was 3rd in defensive voting and only the first 2 make it, how sad. Before anyone cries "rigged" at the NHL, let's take a look at who got chosen to start the first All Star game for the NHL in 3 years:

  1. Joe Sakic - Unequivocally one of the best in the game, probably the best captain there is right now. Burnaby Joe still makes magic on the ice for the Avalanche each night and makes his 12th All Star appearance. Kudos on this one.
  2. Joe Thornton - The man who was overpressured in Boston was traded to San Jose and immediately won himself the Art Ross trophy for most points last season. The trade still stings for Boston and yet another Joe is quite deserving of starting the game.
  3. Jonathan Cheechoo - Here's where I have issue. Cheechoo made big noise last year for using Thornton to get the Rocket Richard trophy for most goals. Yes he did an excellent job but this year has only 13 goals and 14 assists. That's hardly what you call an All Star starter and San Jose fans stuffed the ballot well here.
  1. Niklas Lidstrom - In my mind, the best defenseman in the NHL. How else do you explain a Detroit team that averages around 20 shots allowed a game, that's phenomenal. Oh and he's great in the offensive zone too.
  2. Scott Niedermayer - Another no brainer, I'm no fan of his but he still deserves this spot. Incredibly consistent and hard to play against.
  1. Roberto Luongo - My issues with him aside, Luongo is still not quite good enough to start this game. Why? The West is home to some of the best goalies in the league. This year, Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Dominik Hasek have made career resurgances that have been far more impressive. Do they have better teams? Yes, but Luongo's numbers don't even rival Vezina-winner Kiprusoff, except in wins.
  1. Sidney Crosby - No brainer, at 19 years old he leads the entire NHL with over 60 points. That's just nuts and he could do what Gretzky couldn't, winning the Art Ross trophy before hitting 20.
  2. Alexander Ovechkin - Yet another no brainer. These two will dominate for years to come. Like Pavel Bure combined with a power forward, Ovechkin has to be seen to be believed.
  3. Daniel Briere - This is a fairly sketchy pick here. I like Briere because many of the Sabres are strong players, but I don't know if he's a starter or not. He's certainly made himself worthy of that $5 million contract, but my money would have gone to Rod Brind'Amour, who at his age after winning the cup is playing ridiculously good hockey. Either him, or Hossa or Shanahan.
  1. Sheldon Souray - Here's where the East can't compete much with the West. That's no fault of Souray's, who leads all defensemen with 14 goals at the halfway mark, very impressive. He might not be great in his own end but there are few offensive defensemen doing what he is doing.
  2. Brian Campbell - Some may be skeptical of this one. Campbell is an excellent defensemen, though, and shines on a Sabres team full of some good D. My pick here, however, would either have gone to Bouwmeester or Tomas Kaberle. Either way, Campbell should get in.
  1. Ryan Miller - As much as I like Miller as a goalie, I can't agree at all with this pick. Miller should be in the game, but not the starter. There's no way he can supplant Martin Brodeur at this time, if he ever will. Brodeur is hands down the best the East has in goalies and Miller must bow down to that fact.
Some interesting picks, and the rest will be revealed next week. I'll be chiming in on those as well, hoping against hope that at least one of my Panthers is chosen. The All Star game may be a bit superfluous and I may enjoy the Skills Competition the night before more than I do the actual game, but at least it's an excuse to let some injured players heal for an extra week. Plus, at least the NHL All Star game doesnt decide who gets home ice advantage in the Stanley Cup Finals.

See you at the red line, All Stars.

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