You know there will be plenty of debate as to whether or not all these players deserve to be in the starting lineup for their respective conference All-Star teams, but the voting is done and the verdict is in. The National Hockey League made the announcement this afternoon as unveiled by Montréal Canadiens legend Jean Beliveau (see the video below) and in print by NHL.com writer Adam Kimelman.
video courtesy: NHL Productions
Here are your starters for the upcoming 2009 NHL All-Star Game in Montréal. The total number of votes for each player is listed.
Eastern Conference All-Stars
Sidney Crosby, C; Pittsburgh - 1,713,021
Evgeni Malkin, C; Pittsburgh - 1,585,936
Alexei Kovalev, RW; Montréal - 1,343,301
Andrei Markov, D; Montréal - 1,443,091
Mike Komisarek, D; Montréal - 1,373,628
Carey Price, G; Montréal - 1,515,885
Western Conference All-Stars
Patrick Kane, RW; Chicago - 917,551
Jonathan Toews, C; Chicago - 809,599
Ryan Getzlaf, C; Anaheim - 716,569
Brian Campbell, D; Chicago - 784,476
Scott Niedermayer, D; Anaheim - 637,316
Jean-Sebastien Giguere, G; Anaheim - 617,241
Only four NHL teams are represented by the two starting lineups, namely the Anaheim Ducks, Chicago Blackhawks, Montréal Canadiens and Pittsburgh Penguins.
Can somebody explain to me how Washington Capitals forward Alexander Ovechkin isn't in the starting lineup here? I know that statistics alone doesn't automatically warrant you such a spot on the All-Star team, but entering tonight, this player is second in the NHL in points (52) and goals (26). That's a pretty strong case right there. Yet Canadiens fans stuffed the ballot box to vote in the enigmatic Alexei Kovalev, a forward who has just 9 goals and 19 assists for 28 points in 38 games. Those 28 points places him 75th in the league in point scoring. And that makes him worthy of a starting spot on the Eastern Conference All-Star team?
I know that people will say that just because Ovechkin is a superstar, he doesn't deserve to get the automatic nod. Well guess what, there's a glaring difference to what impact Ovechkin has on the Capitals even this year compared to what Kovalev has been for the Canadiens. At times, Kovalev has even struggled to produce, just like he did for the New York Rangers in his career. Not that there is anything personally against Kovalev, but this player doesn't deserve to be starting instead of someone like Ovechkin. Here's what is even more disturbing. Ovechkin finished 20th overall in the Eastern Conference in the voting. It just doesn't make sense.
Here's what makes even less sense. Forget about him being in the starting lineup, how is Mike Komisarek even in the All-Star Game, period? You think the ballot box stuffing was obvious with Kovalev, this was about as much the case as you seeing an oncoming freight train down a busy railroad line in the northeast corridor. Komisarek has just two points (that is right, TWO) for the whole season and missed a chunk of it due to a shoulder injury suffered from a fight with Boston Bruins forward Milan Lucic in November. That's good for 200th among NHL defensemen in points. Yet he's an All-Star starter. Way to go, Montréal fans.
How does Jonathan Toews crack the starting lineup? He only has 29 points on the season, just one more than Kovalev. I know that he is the one half of the exciting young dynamic duo (with Patrick Kane) for the resurgent Chicago Blackhawks. Don't get me wrong, he's an exciting player to watch if you're a Blackhawks fan. We've seen that NHL.com commercial where Ed Olczyk's pretending he's re-living Toews' highlight goal from last season with a livecall of his own. Okay, that's been drilled into our brains enough. But does that make us believe we should give him a starting job? Maybe Pavel Datsyuk, a highly productive forward for the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings should've been voted in? Just a thought.
I understand that the starting lineup isn't all that meaningful in hockey. We see line changes occur roughly once every 30 to 90 seconds over the course of a game, so it's not like we'll see the other All-Stars get quality ice time in what is just a showcase event.
Normally I don't get real opinionated here, but in looking at the starting lineups and seeing just four teams represented, it has me scratching my head. Ovechkin in all likelihood will be selected as an All-Star reserve, but the fact of the matter is, the All-Star voting is nothing more than a popularity contest. It cannot be more blatantly obvious Montréal fans stuffed the ballot box to try to get all their players to start for the East squad if they had it their way. Yet the NHL had encouraged fans to vote as often as they liked. Did that backfire? It's hard to say as there are many different opinions out there about what people think of the final vote totals and who is starting.
But the bottom line is, we'll get to see the second NHL All-Star Game in Montréal in the last 16 years, the first one at the Bell Centre as this is an historic Centennial year for the Canadiens franchise. Hopefully any dissatisfaction over the starting lineups doesn't hang over the event like a dark cloud. It is doubtful it will. Once the game is played, it won't matter much. But for right now, it does make people wonder why certain players were voted in.
The NHL will announce the All-Star reserves for the Western Conference on January 7th and for the Eastern Conference the following day on January 8th.