You have to give John Scott a lot of credit for doing the right thing here. He sees the fact that he leads all players in all-star voting as the joke that it is and even he wants to see it stop. “I think it’s more of a joke than anything,” Scott told Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic. “I don’t want my name in the headlines for this reason. I definitely don’t want to be voted to the All-Star Game. It would be cool, but I definitely don’t deserve it to this point.”
Then, just to prove he has a sense of humor, he added: “You never know. There’s still time left. I could turn it on.”
It appears the fans of the Arizona Coyotes can’t fill an arena to save their lives, but they sure know how to stuff an online ballot box. That’s because Scott, who has as many career points (11) as NHL scoring leader Patrick Kane had in the first eight games of this season, currently leads all players in voting for the All-Star Game. As was the case with Rory Fitzpatrick and Zemgus Girgensons and Mike Komisarek in past seasons, fans have taken it upon themselves to thumb their noses at the NHL and force a player into the game who shouldn’t be there.
It’s a joke. And that’s fine because the All-Star Game is a joke. And the NHL is learning that if you keep presenting an All-Star Game that is a joke for long enough that’s how people start treating it. And the blame for that lies squarely with the league’s players, who show up for it when they feel like it and put in a token effort during the game. It’s unwatchable hockey that is devoid of any kind of competitive fire and it turns into what is supposed to be an entertaining spectacle into a snoozer. But it’s a revenue generator and schmooze fest for sponsors, so the NHL sees some value in it. But it’s beyond me why anyone would ever buy a ticket or even turn on their television sets to watch this garbage.
Care to take a guess how many goals are scored on average in the All-Star Game? Well, the last six of them have produced an average of 21.7 goals per game, in a league where a five-goal game is a triumph. These six games have come since Lockout, Part II, when the league shut the game down for a season and emerged with a collective bargaining agreement that was supposed to usher in a new era of partnership between the owners and players.
Well, in this case, the players have not kept up their end of the bargain. The league has tried to make the game competitive, using a North America vs. The World format and rosters picked by the players in a fantasy draft. This year, it will try a four-team 3-on-3 tournament with a winner-take-all prize of $1 million. But the league has never been able to get the players to take the game seriously. It’s had to enact a rule that suspends the player for the next regular season game if he doesn’t show up after high-profile players took a pass on the event. It has only been able to watch as the players take to the ice for the game with no intention of competing, perfectly content to allow players on opposing teams skate around them and besiege the goaltenders who have been unlucky enough to be selected for the game.
It’s a big party for them, which is fine. It’s perfectly OK to blow a little steam off midway through the season, particularly when the players who haven’t been chosen are usually off sunning themselves on a beach somewhere. We get that. But once the puck drops for the game, the players might want to just pretend for a couple of hours that they actually care.
If Scott is voted into the game, he will get to play. So will players such as Rob Scuderi, Zac Rinaldo and Chris Thorburn, whose names are starting to pop up among the leaders. And that would be hilarious. Perhaps the league could even satisfy all the pro-fighting zealots by adding a fighting component to the skills competition. But the league might actually be onto something this time. Fill the game with guys like this and you might get a game where they actually care about winning.
The league is, of course, looking rather dumb in all of this. But that’s what you get when your game is a complete joke and you open up these things to fan voting. And then you allow up to 10 votes from the same email account per day. Wonder whose idea that was. Yeah, let’s allow people to vote for whomever they want for the All-Star Game 10 times a day per account. That should make for a legitimate vote.
The NHL could probably put a stop to this nonsense by simply not allowing fans to vote for candidates who are not on the list of suitable players for the All-Star Game. It could also not give the paying fans garbage. But that would take a buy-in from the players that may never come.